Psychometrics: What is it and what is it for

Psychometrics will help you gain insight on a person's cognitive abilities and behavioral tendencies. Learn more in this article!


Christine Chartrand

VP Consulting Services

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


When you hear the word “psychometrics”, whats the first thing that comes to mind?

You may have already looked it up online in the dictionary, in which case, the following would have popped-up: “The branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits”.

In simpler terms, the purpose of psychometrics and is to gain insight on a person’s cognitive abilities, as well as personality and behavioral tendencies.

Although the term “psychometrics” might be intimidating to some, one must go beyond this scientific term and see the benefits it can bring. In order to demystify the process of psychometric testing, here are a few things to consider.

There is no failure, only feedback

Apart from aptitude tests that typically have right or wrong responses to their questions (i.e. numerical, verbal and spatial), other psychometrics like personality assessments do not, in the general sense, have a right or wrong answer.

In fact, it is the time for your candidate or employee to be completely honest and answer questions spontaneously without preparation or over-analyzing.

The natural reflexes reflect who someone is, and one must not put someone at fault for being themselves. The point to retain as you are analyzing the psychometric test results is: there are no good or bad profiles. If a psychometric test yields results of a personality that are not suited for a position, this does not mean a person has botched the questionnaire, it simply means that their natural tendencies are best suited somewhere else.

An effective psychometric test will produce a report that is easy to understand for the manager or HR professional, and provide feedback that can allow you to help the person develop and self-actualize. Although some view completing a psychometric assessment as a scary and intimidating process, where their weaknesses will be highlighted in big bold letters on a report, you can reassure them it is really all about discovering where their true potential lies.

I know what you’re thinking, how can we avoid the chances of someone “cheating” or falsely answering the questions in order to be seen in a better light? The fact of the matter is, you cannot be in full control of how candidates will respond or if they will overestimate themselves.

Although many psychometrics have social desirability scores in order to help detect one’s tendency to want to be viewed more favorably by others, this is more of an indicator to help you dig deeper and ask more questions. What you can do is allow yourself to trust that a person will answer truthfully because these tests, especially personality assessments, don’t really give someone a sense of right or wrong, and if you don’t know what’s considered “right”, you are less likely to cheat the system.

Making use of a psychometric test should not end once the candidate is recruited. Organizations can use the feedback in these reports to help understand, motivate, delegate and coach the employee the best way possible, and use their strengths in the right roles. Don’t just put a psychometric report in a drawer once the selection process is over. This is valuable information you can use long-term.

Looking beyond what is in front of you with psychometrics

If you are an HR professional, chances are you have a pretty good idea of how to inquire and ask the right questions to allow a candidates true self to emerge. However, sometimes the driving force for someone’s performance is more deep seeded and difficult to uncover in the few hours you have together. And sometimes appearances can be deceiving, applicants inflate their skills and competencies in order to be seen in a better light, or the opposite, are so reserved in the interview process that recruiters automatically perceive them as a no-go.

Candidates may unknowingly hide a key strength that may be sought after for a position and thus hinder their capacity to find a suitable job without even realizing it. Authenticity may not be as easy to spot and therefore incorporating a psychometric test within your recruitment process can enlighten or back-up your already expert judgment.

Has this already happened to you? You and your colleague finish interviewing a candidate for position ABC and decide to debrief together. You believe the candidate to be competent and perfect for the job, you want to hire him. Your colleague, on the other hand, thinks he is a far cry from what she is looking for and is against your decision. Who is right? Was one of your judgments based on a feeling, a hunch, or did he really deliver in the interview?

Preferences are difficult to argue, but there is a solution; a psychometric test may be just the thing you both need to get clarity. Call it a common denominator if you will. Something that brings objectivity to the table and can help you build your case. A “blue print” of a candidate’s natural reflexes (abilities that come natural to him), his motivations and strengths, right at your fingertips, and at times, not as obvious as you might have thought.

Creating awareness

Psychometrics can be an interesting way to create a sense of awareness within your organization: self-awareness and the awareness of how others are built and motivated. It is not about “fixing” someone but seeing their natural potential, even if different from your own, and learning to appreciate it. It’s about approaching someone the way they want and/or need to be approached, and aligning their strengths with tasks and responsibilities that can benefit from them.

Boosting self-awareness can also help individuals in their career paths or life in general. It may explain why someone feels as though they are swimming against the current in certain situations. Being aware of the differences that exist among peers and that there is “no one size fits all” approach is important whether you are a manager, HR professional or in any setting for that matter.

Many organizations are using psychometrics today in their selection process in order to get a better idea of how a person is built and whether or not their strengths and natural reflexes are a good fit for the position or organizational culture.

Curious to find out what psychometrics is REALLY all about? Have someone on your team try the Atman test today and find out their true potential through their inner strengths!

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