In theory, psychometrics (valid and reliable assessments using quantitative, data-driven outputs and results) have the potential to make employee selection as objective and scientific as possible. The quantitative and objective element of employee selection is a vital pre-requisite to personnel selection in a highly litigious and accountable business culture. Given the current high level of unemployment and job-seeking competition, psychometric testing may become even more popular as a tool to help deal fairly with the vastly increased number of applications that companies receive for their vacancies. Some may argue that psychometric testing takes the “human element” out of the “art” of the interviewing and selection process, and that this is a retrograde step, as not all elements of good employee selection may be quantifiable or even “testable”.
Essentially, in an occupational/organisational context, a psychometric test is a method of assessing a person's personality or ability in a structured and uniform way that allows for direct comparisons with other people who have also taken the test. As good as they are, critics argue that psychometric tests would not be able to detect the magical “x factor” that an employer may want from a prospective candidate, and as such they remain limited. While such tests can be good at spotting candidates' potential skills and interests, they are often mistakenly thought to be tests of psychological flaws or personality failings.
However, the reality is that in a workplace context, the isolation of such "psychopathology" is not the purpose of such tests. Occupational psychometrics are mostly tests of abilities and skills; tests of personality traits; or tests of interests and vocational preference. Some tests are designed to be used by employers to aid them in the recruitment process, while other psychometric tests are designed to help individuals discover their own skills and thereby aid their career decisions. It is worth mentioning that the discipline of quantitative psychometrics has benefited other fields, with psychometric tests regularly being used in the professional fields of healthcare, medicine, psychiatry, forensics, law-enforcement, probation work and criminology.
The types of assessment used most often fall into two main areas:
Benefits of psychometric testing
Before embarking on the endeavour to locate a suitable psychometric test, it is worthwhile checking if the benefits of such testing will be relevant to the company or organisation using the test. In short, the benefits of using psychometric tests to assess people are that they give results which are:
(a) objective and not influenced by personal feelings, prejudice, or opinions;
(b) systematic and routine, that adhere to a proposed plan;
(c) reliable and trusted, being consistent in their administration and outputs;
(d) valid on many levels such as measuring the skills or attributes that they claim to measure; and
(e) consistent across different administrations/deployments and with different groups of individual test-takers.
Ideally, both the individual testing organisation and the test-takers benefit from the equality and fairness of treatment for all test-takers. All test-takers are assessed against each other, ideally under controlled or timed conditions when possible (e.g. .mass testing), regardless of gender, culture, diversity of background, age, gender and sexuality.
The most common benefits of testing are, put simply: