How Do Psychometric Tests Get Used In Business?

Psychometric assessment is used very extensively by all kinds of companies and organisations, including many in the public sector and a lot of charities. Various psychometric tests and questionnaires are also used in education, clinical practice and legal services, but it is in businesses and organisations that they are perhaps most prominent and people are most likely to encounter them.

A very widespread use of both ability (or 'aptitude') tests and personality questionnaires is in recruitment and selection. This can be true of almost any kind at any level of job from apprenticeships to directors. Of course, the particular aptitudes required and the level at which they are pitched will very from test to test; one test might look at the ability to do simple calculations, another at a talent for understanding the logic and nuances behind complex written information. Not only will test levels and content vary but so will the groups against which a candidate's score is compared. This benchmarking or 'norming' will again reflect the content of the job, established through careful analysis. Candidates doing the same test might be compared against graduates, non-graduates, managers and professionals in finance, marketing, or a wider composite group, to list just some possibilities. The key thing is that the comparison group should be a good match for the candidates applying.

A group of people sit around a table while one of them is standing and pointing at a flip chart.

Personality questionnaires, like The Quest Profiler® from eras, also feature prominently in selection. Again, a thorough analysis and understanding of the job is important to appreciate what aspects of personality are specifically required to do it. Is the job one about strategic thinking or reacting to short-term demands? Is it about caution or risk-taking? Working with others or working alone? As well as simple, specific behaviours, the reports generated from such questionnaires can make wider predictions. The Quest Profiler can shine a light on a candidate's preferred style of leadership, what role they like to play in a team, how they handle conflict, what kind of working environment they most prefer and more. Reports can also generate relevant interview questions to explore key areas of a candidate's performance at work in more detail.

Another major use of personality questionnaires in business is in helping to develop people already working for an organisation. The questionnaire can reveal those things the employee finds easy and comfortable and those where they might need further development or help from colleagues. It can also reveal untapped, even undiscovered, potential. Thus, the needs of the organisation can be balanced against the preferences of the individual to decide the best way forward. It is no surprise that personality profiling is also used extensively in career counselling.

In addition to providing detailed information about individuals, personality questionnaire information from several people who work together can be combined to give a sense of how a team operates. Do the people in that team talk to one another a lot? Do they spend a lot of time planning? Do they reach decisions quickly? What about the individuals within the team - will they work together harmoniously, or will there be frequent tensions? The eras Team Report is an example of how different people's personality questionnaires can be integrated to provide greater insight into how they work together.

When it comes to developing employees, another popular psychometric technique is 360 degree assessment. With this approach, a whole group of people comment and give ratings about their perception of how someone performs at work. These people could include that individual's manager, the colleagues that they work with every day, those who report into them and maybe others, like regular clients. Of course, the individual also has an opportunity to comment on how they feel they perform and what might be their strengths and areas where they could do with help to develop further. This can be a very revealing and powerful approach, perhaps a little scary at first, but very rich in the detailed information it reveals about how someone is perceived by others who know them well.

Psychometrics can also take the form of other kinds of questionnaire used in the workplace. They can help to analyse a job, for example, and match those requirements to the profiles of various candidates, thereby helping select the ones who might be most suited to do it. Surveys which look at employees' opinions and attitudes are also very popular and can shine a light on what an organisation's staff really think about working there. Some organisations might be reluctant to find this out but, in the end, it is surely important to know, even if the findings are not always completely flattering.

It is clear that psychometric techniques have a wide range of uses in the workplace and the tradition of validating the instruments used through job analysis and sometimes larger studies reassures us that they are effective at doing what is ultimately most important; getting the right people into the right jobs and then helping them to make the most of those jobs.

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