The term “psycho” derives from the Greek meaning “mind” and the term “metric” means to measure.  Thus, “Psychometric”, in broad terms, means to measure a quality of the mind.  In modern psychology that now means measuring a myriad of psychological constructs, ranging from clinical measures of anxiety and depression, to assessing behavioural problems, to measuring intelligence, skills or personality traits for organisational psychology.

Psychometric testing is a large field within the broader profession of psychology and is used in clinical, education, research and organisational settings.  There are literally hundreds of good quality psychometric tests used across these professional areas.

A good quality psychometric test must meet two standards – reliability and validity. Reliability means a test will give very similar results for the same candidate each time they complete it.  For example, if a candidate scored in the average range for an intelligence test and then completed a different version of the same test, then they should again score in the average range.  A good test must be reliable and if it isn’t then there is no point using it because it yields unreliable data.

Validity refers to a test measuring what it purports to measure. For example, a measure of general intelligence should measure that and not some other quality, such as processing speed or selective attention. Another form of validity is “predictive validity”. This tells you how well a certain measure can predict future behaviour.

The best example of predictive validity in organisational psychology is a test of general intelligence. Decades of research have repeatedly shown that general intelligence is the single most effective predictor of individual performance at work. Of course there are many kinds of talent, many kinds of mental ability and many other aspects of personality and character that influences a person’s chances of success and happiness. But there is ample evidence that general intelligence is the single most valid predictor of productive work behaviours and training performance.

The short answer is, it helps you make better recruitment decisions and can potentially save you thousands of dollars by preventing you from making a poor hiring decision.

Psychometric testing is a simple, valid and reliable way to identify talent. Psychometric testing provides an accurate and unbiased insight into a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.  The testing data, when administered and interpreted properly, and integrated within an effective recruitment and induction framework, can give you confidence that you will make a good hiring decision, and more importantly, prevent you from hiring the wrong person.

Psychometric testing data gives you a deeper and richer level of information about a candidate that compliments all the other of data you have, such as, resume, interview(s) and reference checks.  Psychometric testing is typically the most objective data you will get about a candidate.

“Convergence of data” is the ideal outcome from the recruitment process.  This is when all the data we have about a candidate is consistent. When that happens, we can be confident that we have a reliable assessment of the candidate and thus can have realistic expectations about their future performance.

Psychometric tests also give employers a standardised and equitable way to compare candidates for a role and in turn, candidates can be reassured that the recruitment process is fair and they are being treated like all other candidates.

Organisational Psychologists have spent decades researching and creating psychometric assessments that are valid and can reliably predict whether a candidate will be successful or not in a job.

There is now a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates a person’s results on a valid and reliable psychometric assessment can strongly predict a number of different work-related factors, including:

  • How well they will learn new tasks, solve complex problems and perform on the job;
  • How someone naturally prefers to behave at work; how someone will behave most of the time. (It’s not possible to predict specific instances of behaviour but we can predict how someone will behave most of the time);
  • Safety behaviours and how likely someone will accept personal responsibility for safety at work and avoid risky behaviour.

Hundreds of independent research studies have demonstrated that intelligence tests are better predictors of future career success than letters of recommendation, interviews and educational credentials.

In relation to personality profiles, the Five-Factor Model of Personality, or sometimes referred to as the “Big Five”, is based on the trait approach and is the most investigated and validated model of personality currently available. It has the strongest predictive validity of all the personality profiles in the market, including other profiles such as the MBTI and DISC.

It is fundamental that psychometric tests are administered and interpreted correctly. Testing is more than emailing an anonymous link to a candidate and then having the results emailed to the hiring manager.

At Fermion, we have developed a testing methodology that delivers reliable results. From speaking to all candidates before the testing, to the precise nature of the verbal and written instructions, and finally, the context-dependent interpretation of the data with the client.  All these factors ensure the results from the tests and assessments are reliable and valid.

In addition to this, there are measures built into quality psychometric tests and assessments that increase reliability of the results.  These measures include verification testing and validity scales.  Verification testing is used for aptitude and skills testing and is where the candidate is told they may be required to complete a different version of the same test later to confirm their initial results. Validity scales are used for behavioural and personality questionnaires and these cover positive-impression-management or self-enhancing, consistency scales and self-critical scales. These measures, combined with proper verbal and written instructions, ensure the reliability of the data.

In general terms, personality is a set or repertoire of behaviours that is usually consistent across time and situations. There is variability but for most day-to-day situations and contexts, excluding highly stressful, novel or significant power differences, our personality is stable and predictable.  It’s not possible to predict specific instances of behaviour but knowing a person’s personality can help predict how they will behave most of the time in normal, physically and psychologically safe, conditions.

What personality profile, amongst the numerous products on the market, is the best or most accurate, particularly in the recruitment and staff selection context? After just a 30-minute survey of the internet and viewing known test provider websites, I was able to identify 36 different personality or behavioural assessments!

With so many profiles available, how can a user of personality profiles decide upon the best and most accurate profile? What does the science and research, not the marketing, say about personality profiles?

The research into personality over the past four decades has overwhelmingly supported a model of personality referred to as the “Five-Factor Model of Personality” or sometimes called the “Big Five”. The field of psychology and the science of personality has consistently supported this model of personality. Indeed, many of the widely used personality profiles (OPQ, HPI & NEO-PI-3) are based on the Five-Factor Model of Personality.  However, the only personality questionnaire and profile that measures the Five-Factor Model is the NEO-PI-3.

Some quotes from scientific journal articles about the Five-Factor Model of Personality are as follows:

Sydney Business School & University of Wollongong reported the following in the International Coaching Psychology Review, September 2012:

“The Big-Five/Five-Factor Model of personality, based on the trait approach, is considered by most authors to be the most investigated and validated model of personality currently available”.

“In the 1980s a consensus began to emerge on a Five-Factor model developed by Costa & McCrae.  Support for the Five-Factor model has been further strengthened by a series of meta-analyses confirming the Big-Five’s predictive validity in terms of behaviours and life outcomes across a wide range of contexts.  The Five-Factor model is now the most widely accepted general model of personality used today”.

“The NEO-PI-R is rapidly becoming one of the most popular measures of normal personality in the research literature.  The psychometric properties, including predictive validity, of this inventory are uniformly favourable as evidenced by empirical reviews”.

An article in the Harvard Business Review, titled, “Most Work Conflicts Aren’t Due to Personality”, 20.5.14:

“If you or others feel you must use personality testing as part of conflict resolution, consider using non-categorical, well-validated personality assessments such as the Hogan Personality Inventory or the NEO Assessment of the “Big Five” Personality dimensions. These tests, which have ample peer-reviewed, and psychometric evidence to support their reliability and validity, better explain variance in behavior than do categorical assessments like the Myers-Briggs, and therefore can better explain why conflicts may have unfolded the way they have. And unlike the Myers-Briggs which provides an “I’m OK, you’re OK”-type report, the Hogan Personality Inventory and the NEO are likely to identify some hard-hitting development themes for almost anyone brave enough to take them, for example telling you that you are set in your ways, likely to anger easily, and take criticism too personally”.

An article in Scientific American titled, “How Accurate Are Personality Tests?”, 11.10.18:

“By contrast, the Big 5 and HEXACO models were shaped by an empirical process and independent peer review that showed people’s scores tended to be consistent, and predictions made using the models are reproducible. Without that, personality tests should be treated with extreme suspicion.”

Therefore, the personality model supported by independent scientific research is the Five-Factor Model of Personality as measured by the NEO-PI-3.  Thus, at Fermion we use the NEO-PI-3, or other profiles that are based on the five-factor model, such as the Employee Personality Profile from Criteria.

Obviously, there is a cost, but it is but a fraction of the cost of hiring the wrong person. For arguments sake, let’s say you hire someone for a $60k position and after three months it is apparent that you made a mistake, and you should never have hired them. That three months cost you $15k in wages, plus the time it took you to recruit them and train them, and that isn’t factoring in opportunity costs. Under that straightforward and simple scenario, that turned out to be a very costly recruitment error.  It isn’t difficult to imagine a far more costly mis-hire for a more senior role or one that took longer to resolve, but you are also left with the dilemma of recruiting again and possibly making the same mistake again.  Psychometric testing can significantly shift the odds in your favour against making a costly hiring mistake.

At Fermion we charge $90 per aptitude or skill test and $170 for a personality profile.  We would recommend one test of general intelligence and one skills-based test, plus a personality profile. That would cost $350 (excl. GST) per candidate. If you assume you tested four candidates for the $60k scenario mentioned above you would spend $1400 to prevent a mis-hire, but to also identify a strong candidate for the role. Thus, in those terms, psychometric testing is true value for money.

The recruitment process is a bit of a dance or a game.  Candidates put their best foot forward and accentuate their positives and minimise their deficits, which is fair enough. Whereas you are trying to read between the lines and get a more honest and realistic assessment of the candidate.

On top of that, you have your biases and ideas about the candidate and how to recruit, you can also have a bad day, be distracted or just off your game and then you can either miss a good candidate or hire a dud.

An effective recruitment method begins with the wording of the job advertisement, is standardised, methodical and structured, albeit with a degree of flexibility. An effective method capitalises on our biases and intuition, uses some form of psychometric testing and profiling, and introduces the candidate to the culture and context of your workplace early in the process. The process needs to be unique to the role and the organisation, as a person doing the same role in a different business may not automatically do well in another business.

Typically, the process of selecting staff relies on interviews and reference checks.  These are necessary, however, it is the timing of those steps, who asks what questions, and when to incorporate psychometric testing, that marks an effective selection process and one that will significantly increase the likelihood that you will hire a good candidate.

If you want to know how to recruit good staff and keep them contact us at Fermion.  We can show you how to never make a mis-hire again. We can show you a method whereby you never have to hire a difficult, toxic, troublemaker again. We can go further and show you how to deal with difficult, toxic, troublemakers that are already working for you or that you inherited.

To arrange a personal presentation at your office, or via videoconferencing, please contact Christopher Apps at Fermion on 02-42853480 or 0401 752 602 or chris@fermion.com.au.