What do psychometric tests measure and what are they used for?

If you are a parent, your children take them at school in between examinations to check their progress and predict their results. They sometimes highlight particular strengths and areas that need more teaching.

If you have entered work on a graduate recruitment scheme, you’ve probably taken one during the milk round. And you may well have sat one when you went for your first or subsequent jobs.

Psychometric tests provide an M.O.T of what goes on under the human bonnet. They compare one individual’s performance with other people’s or show what are the relatively strong and weak areas within one person. True psychometric tests look at three basic areas:

  • Abilities: people’s capacity to work with numbers, words, diagrams and systems
  • Attainment: what people actually know about an area
  • Personality: how people are typically likely to act. This covers a huge range of aspects from people’s motivations and values to how they characteristically react to authority and their honesty or integrity.

Mix and match these and you get dedicated tests of areas like trainability, leadership, customer service orientation and how people think – areas that are directly related to particular jobs. Assess lots of people in your company and you can get an organisational profile: how well your teams work; what particular skills you lack; who’s going to fit in.

Tests are used to recruit new staff; identify people with the potential to be promoted and developed; counsel staff who are under-performing; put teams together; coach senior managers; identify stress factors in an organisation; decide on the best organisational structure; create incentive programmes that really motivate – any decision about people individually or people in groups.