The ultimate psychometric assessment guide

Don’t let the title scare you - psychometric assessments aren’t that scary, and can actually be quite fun and interesting to do.


History of the psychometric assessment

It’s not known by many, but psychometric assessments were actually born in Cambridge in the late 1880s. One of the first pioneers of the science was James Cattell who at that point labelled them ‘mental tests’ – the first time the term had been coined.

Cattell was originally forced to house his equipment in the Cavendish Laboratory, in the Department of Physics at Cambridge University. Here he studied things such as an individual’s judgement, memory and attention.

The science grew in popularity during the 20th century and has now become a well-used avenue for testing intelligence, capability and personality traits – particularly for employers looking to hire the most suitable candidate for a role and business.


What is a psychometric assessment?

Let’s start with the basics: just what is a psychometric assessment? From a scientific standpoint, they are a method used to measure an individual’s mental capabilities, their personality and their behaviours.

Now this may seem wishy-washy, but there is a lot of scientific fact behind this, as you’ll see later. The unique insights psychometric assessments provide into an individual is exactly why they are being used more and more by employers and large businesses.

Psychometric assessments look at areas like Verbal Reasoning, Logical Reasoning and Multi-Tasking. The areas are typically chosen because they underpin the day-to-day activities that are asked of individuals when performing a specific job.

“The unique insights psychometric assessments provide into an individual is exactly why they are being used more and more by employers and large businesses.”

There are many different types of psychometric assessment, but broadly speaking, they can be broken down into two types of assessment. Assessments of ‘typical performance’ and assessments of ‘maximum performance’.

Assessments of typical performance are designed to measure the behaviours you tend to adopt in different situations; so there are no right or wrong answers, but they help to form a picture of your own behavioural style, your preferences and typical choices you might make.

Assessments of maximum performance, on the other hand, are designed to determine the best you can do under certain restrictions. This is the most common type of aptitude/ability test. Strict time limits will often be imposed on these tests, as this is an effective way of putting someone under pressure to work quickly and accurately.


Why are psychometric assessments used?

Employers and companies use psychometric assessments during the recruitment process because they provide objective information on whether a candidate’s personality and cognitive abilities match with what is required from a particular job role.

Up until relatively recently, it was thought that judging recent graduates on their performance in knowledge-based tests (e.g. university exams) was almost entirely sufficient to find the best (or at least a good enough!) person for the job. Nowadays, however, with so many eligible candidates coming from universities, employers require new ways of predicting who will be the best fit for a given job. The most effective tool that they have is looking at a candidate’s capabilities in relevant skills: psychometric assessments!

“>Not only do psychometric assessments have a proven ability to predict who is most likely to be best at a job, they can also be used to predict who is most likely to be the best ‘fit’ in that company’s culture”

Psychometric assessments can also be used to help avoid unconscious bias from recruiters and also have the advantage of helping minimise the advantages some candidates have in knowledge-based tests. Somebody might not have the opportunity to go to the best university, but they can still demonstrate their suitability for a job role in these assessments. In this way, such assessments often help level the playing field by looking at raw potential, rather than what somebody already knows.

Not only do psychometric assessments have a proven ability to predict who is most likely to be best at a job, they can also be used to predict who is most likely to be the best ‘fit’ in that company’s culture – who will get on best with the employees already there, who will add the most value to the team, and, importantly, who is most likely to enjoy themselves in the role, and thus be more likely to stay.

They have been proven to improve retention and future job performance, as well as streamline the recruitment process and reduce HR costs.


When are psychometric assessments used?

Psychometric assessments are used alongside traditional interview and application processes to help provide a more rounded overview of an individual. They allow businesses to better understand if someone is perfectly suited for a role.

The term ‘personality test’ is not quite accurate in terms of what the assessment measures, but is so universally used, that most people know what you’re talking about. More on this below…


Where are psychometric assessments used?

    • The majority of tests are completed online for ease. An employer will send over links for a candidate to follow and complete. Some of these are timed, and some are not – it can vary from test to test and between providers.

    • If you are invited to an assessment centre, part of the day may include a range of psychometric assessments. Again these may be online (you will be given a tablet or computer to complete them on) or they could be paper tests.


What are the different types of psychometric assessment?

This is the fun part. There are soooooooooo many types of psychometric assessment; here’s a run-down of just some:

  • Work-related behaviour
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Deductive logical reasoning
  • Inductive logical reasoning
  • Concentration
  • Multi-tasking
  • Diagrammatic reasoning
  • Error checking
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Logical reasoning
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Mechanical reasoning
  • Situational judgement

Quite a few, as you can see – seven of which you can check out in Debut’s Abilities tab on our app. Let’s dig a little deeper into these…


Personality tests

    • Well, as you may have guessed, these test your personality – but to be more specific they measure your dominant personality traits, your preferences in everyday situations and, in the context of employment, will focus on your preferences in the workplace. They usually aren’t timed or sat under exam conditions so as to ensure accuracy and honesty from candidates.

      There are lots of different types, but the main two are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ). It is important to note that there are no right or wrong answers to these tests; they are simply used to determine how you approach work and how you will fit into the culture of a business.

      Some aspects of your personality that may be tested include:

      • Decision making
      • Teamworking ability
      • Approach to leadership
    • They are used to objectively measure your behavioural style, your opinions and what motivates you as an individual. It’s basically used as a cultural indicator as to whether you will fit well within an organisation, and if your strengths mesh well with the job in question.

      The benefits of this include gaining new employees who will fit in quicker, reach their peak performance sooner, and have a ‘higher’ peak performance threshold. In using such tests, a company will also ensure that the new employee is happier in the job, is more likely to enjoy working with those around them, and will see their skills complemented by their colleagues

    • The assessment that we have on our app asks you to complete what is called “shapes – work-related behaviour”. As the name suggests, it measures your preferred behaviours in the workplace. It does not, however, involve any shapes!

      It will ask you to compare a number of sets of three statements, and rate which of the three statements you feel best fits your own preferences in the workplace. Using your responses, it will generate a picture of how you like to work. Companies will then have the opportunity to see your preferred work style, and match that to their own organisational culture.


Aptitude/skills tests

    • These are a little different in that they measure your work-related cognitive abilities. Unlike personality tests, these do have right and wrong answers, and will measure an individual’s various abilities.

      Aptitude assessments can measure a wide variety of different cognitive abilities, or ways of thinking. As tests of maximum performance, they will usually employ quite strict time limits, designed to put you under pressure, and see the best you can do, given the restrictions.

      They measure a mix of an individual’s ability to think abstractly and apply previous knowledge to new scenarios, solving problems and basic verbal and numerical reasoning.

    • They are typically used as a measure of your current ability in a given cognitive area, and thus as a measure of your potential ability in the corresponding business areas; e.g. a test of inductive logical reasoning measures your ability to quickly assess a situation, and figure out what rules are in play, from the specific examples you are given. They are typically used to assess your potential for problem solving – a key skill for a wide variety of job roles, including those in Engineering, IT and Law.

    • This assessment measures your ability to draw logical conclusions from complex numerical information. You will be presented with a number of information sheets, containing numerical information in tables and charts, from which you should base your answers. You will be asked to verify various statements; whether they are true, false, or if you would need more information to answer. This is a useful predictor for any job in which you will be dealing with numerical information. They measure your ability to deal with lots of numbers and empirical evidence quickly and accurately.

    • This measures your understanding of written information and your ability to understand arguments and different forms of communication. You will be presented with a number of information sheets, from which you should base your answers. You will be asked to verify various statements; whether they are true, false, or again if you would need more information to answer. This is a useful predictor for any job in which you will be dealing with verbal information.

    • This assessment measures your ability to reason deductively. You will be presented with a grid with a number of different objects in it. Each object appears only once per row and per column. One cell in this grid shows a question mark. The task is to work out which object should be displayed in the cell marked with the question mark.

    • This form of test explores your ability to recognise patterns and consistencies in data. These are not based on language, but rather diagrams and pictures, and are a good indicator of if someone is good at problem solving.  You will be presented with several objects, of which all but one are governed by a single overarching rule. You must identify this rule and then select the object that does not match that rule.

    • If the job role will involve working through numerous tasks in a systematic way without making mistakes, this test is for you. You will be presented with different elements, to which you need to react in a certain way as fast as possible, and as consistently as possible, for the duration of the test. This is a useful predictor for any job which requires concentration, and/or consistent accuracy in detailed tasks.

    • Fairly self-explanatory, this type of test will measure your ability to manage multiple tasks at once, which is highly important in a number of roles. You will be presented with three different tasks and will be required to work through these simultaneously. These tasks can include responding to a signal under time pressure, focused calculation and focused checking.


What are the benefits of psychometric assessments?

Benefits to candidates:

  • They can reveal unique insights into your personality and dominant work-related behaviours you may not have known.
  • If you are hired after completing a test, you can rest assured you are a perfect fit for a company personality-wise (always a fear).
  • It adds another dimension to your application. If nerves get the better of you in an interview, psychometric tests are a wonderful chance to show who you really are.
  • It removes unconscious bias from the hiring process.
  • It allows you to highlight other skills and abilities, not just academic performance.

Benefits to employers:

  • Companies of any size can implement psychometric testing at any stage of the recruitment process.
  • It allows for even more focused recruitment for in-demand roles, by adding an extra level of testing that goes beyond a CV, cover letter or interview.
  • It makes the hiring process more objective, so you’re not relying on the subjective nature of an interview.
  • It saves recruiters time and money.
  • It protects company culture by ensuring all hires are guaranteed to fit in.

And there you have it – our absolute ultimate guide to psychometric assessments. Hopefully now you’re fully prepped for the future of recruitment – good luck…!

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