What psychometrics is all about and how to understand it

What psychometrics is all about and how to understand it

With the nineteenth-century advances in psychology, researchers started conducting data-based studies, to probe and measure human intelligence, abilities, and aspects of personality. That’s when the foundations of psychometric research were actually laid.

Since then, research scientists in this field — called psychometricians — have been adding more and more valid instruments (such as questionnaires and tests) to the arsenal of tools; thus, making the science of psychometrics more profound and accurate. 

Today, many hiring professionals and managers conduct psychometric tests when assessing applicants for a job opening. Τhat is, in addition to reviewing the candidates’ resumes — and, often, LinkedIn profiles. Through questionnaires and customized norm-referenced tests, they can gain a sense of who they are, and what drives them. 
Ιndeed, psychometrics can offer a way to gauge potential employees’ skills, before hiring them. But, what is psychometrics, and what does it consist of?

What is psychometrics?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychometrics is:

“The branch of psychology concerned with the quantification and measurement of mental attributes, behavior, performance, and the like, as well as with the design, analysis, and improvement of the tests, questionnaires, and other instruments used in such measurement.”

In other words, the science of psychometrics aims to assess people’s cognitive capacity, as well as emotional and mental processes, through a systematic procedure that greatly depends on data, analysis and statistics. Psychometricians are dedicated to creating new measures and psychological tests — and their scoring mechanism — using data-analytic models; always validating their newfound measures, and overall psychological approach.

Today, many employers turn to psychometrics tests, not only to use as screening tools in their pre-hiring process; but also, to match their existing employees to job roles that suit them best, based on their personality and skills. In this respect, psychometric tests help evaluate different aspects of an employee’s life cycle within a company; such as recruitment, performance, learning, development, cultural fit etc.

What do psychometric tests measure?

There are several different types of psychometric tests that hiring managers use to assess a candidate’s skills, attitude, and ability to tackle the demands of the job position on offer. In this context, when screening for potential employees, they usually conduct psychometric tests revolving around three main areas:

  • Cognitive tests
  • Aptitude tests
  • Personality tests

These are described next.

Types of Psychometric Tests 

1. Cognitive tests

The most widely-known type of cognitive assessments are probably Intelligence Quotient or IQ tests. Nonetheless, there are many other psychometric tests that evaluate one’s verbal abilities, as well as mathematical and reasoning capabilities. 

Cognitive tests help hiring managers measure each applicant’s ability to comprehend tasks related to a job position; and carry them through effectively. More specifically, these assessments measure an applicant’s proficiency in certain areas of knowledge; along with the required skill set. They measure what they have achieved, so far, in the desired areas; also, what they’ve learned through formal education, training or instruction.

2. Aptitude tests

Aptitude tests shed light on an applicant’s ability to cope with future job requirements. For example, they measure if they can acquire — and apply — a new skill, their ability to manage people, to make decisions, etc. Put differently, aptitude tests help employers know whether or not the candidate will be able to fulfill the job duties, before being hired.

3. Personality tests

By using personality tests, hiring managers can measure aspects of a prospective employee’s personality and how it can affect their performance. This especially stands when using vocation-specific tests. More often than not, personality tests look at the candidate’s overall attitude, emotional responses, and capacity to adjust; also, their style of interaction, motivations, interests, cultural traits etc. 

Methods and techniques used in psychometrics

As mentioned, psychometrics draws upon statistics — and other scientific methodologies — to test, measure and assess. In fact, experts often use several different methods and techniques in the psychometric evaluation process. Be that as it may, the most widely-used methods fall into one of the following categories:

1. Observational methods

The most simple — yet effective — methods in psychometric evaluation, revolve around observation; that is, to simply watch a person’s behavior in a given environment and under certain circumstances. So far, researchers can use three different observational methods:

  • Controlled observations 
  • Naturalistic or natural observations 
  • Participant observations

In controlled observations, the researcher applies a standardized approach in creating the environment, and deciding when the observation will take place; also, with whom — if they decide to include other participants, besides the person under study. 

In naturalistic observations, on the other hand, the researcher does not apply a standardized procedure; but rather observes the person in their natural surroundings. Here, the researcher records the person’s spontaneous reactions and behaviors. 

Being a variant of the natural observational method, in the participant observation, the researcher joins in; hence, becoming part of the setting, to get deeper insights. 

2. Projective techniques

When applying projective techniques, the researcher typically presents a list of abstract words, objects, images or scenes to the person under study, expecting an immediate response. In essence, the researcher exhorts the respondent to impulsively project their subjective opinions, beliefs, attitudes, and motivations onto the presented words, images, etc. The person’s responses — or even subtle reactions — offer insights into the respondent’s mental and emotional processes. As a result, the researcher can probe into the respondent’s past; and even foresee certain behaviors. 

The Rorschach Inkblot Test and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) are two of the most common projective assessments. 

3. Personality Inventories

In general, personality inventories are self-assessment tools that researchers and hiring managers use to understand a participant’s — or a job candidate’s — personality. Hiring professionals, in particular, use personality inventories to see if a candidate is a good match for a specific job role. While personality tests cannot possibly reveal everything about a candidate, they can disclose important information regarding their prominent personality traits. Overall, personality inventory tests can provide information about:

  • Social traits
  • Motivations
  • Attitudes
  • Strengths and weaknesses

Popular personality assessment tests in the hiring process

Over the years, researchers have developed many personality assessment tests that have proved to be valuable; especially in the hiring process. The most widely-used personality assessment tests include:

How can employers benefit from psychometrics?

Suffice it to say, a person’s values and attitude can affect a company’s culture, in the long run. But, when it comes to hiring, will 45 minutes — that usually an in-person interview lasts, on average — be enough to measure up a person? Probably not. 

For this reason, it becomes imperative for employers and managers to utilize psychometrics to properly assess applicants for job openings. Hiring managers need an accurate psychometric tool to point to desired — and undesired — personality traits for a job. Such a tool will indeed save them the guesswork, and help them make a well-informed decision. 

Other than that, employers can use psychometrics for effective learning and development programs, for their existing employees. This would enable them to identify any gaps between their personalities and their job roles, and train them accordingly.

TL;DR

Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the measurement and assessment of a person’s intelligence, values, motivations, and behaviors. That’s why it’s important to use psychometric tools in the pre-hiring process. 

By using psychometrics, hiring managers can gain a greater understanding of a candidate’s personality, and abilities. What’s more, they can have a better idea of whether — or not — their attitude towards people and situations is desirable; not only for the position offered, but also the company culture.

Going beyond trying to assess a polished resume, psychometrics helps measure, qualify and quantify what’s happening ‘at the backstage’ of a candidate’s psyche. In this respect, it allows managers to ‘predict’ how this candidate’s personality could affect their capacity to effectively manage various work circumstances.

Once considered vague and ambiguous, qualities like attitude, aptitude, mood, motivation, etc., can be scientifically quantified and measured to assess a person’s ability to perform at a specific job, as desired; thanks to psychometrics.

Psychometric testing in the recruitment process

When recruiting is not well-aimed or well-run it’s highly likely to lead to the wrong hire; a person that is not suitable for the specific role or one that is not a fit for the particular company. One way to prevent that and, thus, reduce the cost of employee turnover is to leverage psychometric testing.