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Psychometric Testing for Employees

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 5 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Workers Rights Company Employer Employee

The use of psychometric testing is increasing, particularly in larger organisations that can see the value of investing in these assessments. They are designed to measure mental abilities, behavioural preferences, attitudes and values, sometimes personality; although there are differing views among psychologists as to how personality can be defined, categorised and then, finally, measured. The tests can be done on paper, on a computer or verbally.

Company Expense

Most of the tests are owned and copyrighted by the person or company that created them, for example the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Cattell 16 Personality Factor model, or the Ken Blanchard series of leadership tests, which is why there is a cost associated with them. Although the cost per test may not be that high, many of the tests require the person administering them to be trained in the test delivery and result interpretation, which is why smaller companies often don't use them. Larger companies with HR departments can take the risk of training people and trusting that a number of them will stay with the company.

Companies can use these tests as part of a recruitment process or as part of a development process for existing staff, perhaps as part of a team building exercise. The tests can give both the person taking the test and the person administering it an insight into the make-up of an individual. With staff development this can be a useful tool, showing them things that they can do well and things that they might perhaps need to work on in order to do their job better.

Matching Tests to Competencies

One of the keys to doing this well is to have previously gone through a process to identify and quantify the role-based competencies that are required for the job, i.e. the things that the person will need to do well in order to be good at it. Then a test can be chosen to measure against those competencies. If this is done properly, you won’t get someone who is applying, for example, for a telephone help desk role being rejected because they are not good at maths, when it's not necessary to be good at the job.

One of the problems with the tests is that they can sometimes be leant on too much by management and HR departments. Most of them are intended to be used as a guide for discussion, but job applicants are often asked to take these tests and are then rejected, or taken on to a second stage, on the basis of the test results and nothing else.

There are also concerns surrounding the privacy of these test results and how they might be used later on in a person's career. A vindictive manager could, for example, use them to expose weaknesses in their subordinates, or release details that should remain personal. Some companies will not show the results to the person who has been tested, more usually when using tests for recruitment than staff development, which leaves that person in the dark as to what the test showed and why it resulted in rejection.

Practice Tests

So what can workers and employees do about these tests? It is possible to practice them so that they are less daunting and although the exact tests won’t be found for free on the internet, there are many similar tests that can be taken to help people feel comfortable with the type of questions that are asked.

Fooling the tests is not easy, although some claim that it is, because they often ask the same questions many times in different ways, or ask mirrors of questions, so that one-off incorrect replies can be weeded out. Trained and dedicated actors might be able to fool tests as they can completely inhabit the character they decide to be, and answer the questions accordingly, but even then they may well be found out.

Stand Your Ground

When asked to take a test, ask what it is for, what it measures, and how the results will be used, as no one can force you to take one. You could refuse to take the test unless you are presented with the results. But if this is at a job selection process, this action may mean you are not offered the position, so it is a risk that people have to consider worth taking.

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