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Psychometric Testing enables companies to select the best people and develop the ones they have.

Personality Questionnaires look at how a person behaves in work situations.  Ability Tests identify the level of expertise in specific tasks.  Together, these assessments produce fair and unbiased results. They constitute what is known as Psychometric Testing.

Psycho = mind, consciousness, Metric = measurement

First developed to help in clinical situations, psychometrics measure personality and ability in a scientific way. Using statistics, they describe what typical – or ‘normal’ – behaviour might look like.

However, businesses soon saw the advantage of using the same type of process.  They could find the best people for different types of work.


  • Wouldn’t it be useful to identify the calmest and most methodical candidates for airline pilots?
  • It would be helpful if you could recognise the natural leaders within the workforce.  HR staff could then encourage them to go for promotion to management roles.
  • Great to have an indicator of an individual’s integrity when working with children.

Types of Psychometrics

Ability tests

The most commonly used assessments are ability tests.  These start with basic skills tests like copy-typing and data-entry.  They measure pure speed and accuracy without any comparison to other people.

However, Ability tests can only provide insight into one specific area of work performance.  Your candidate may have excellent technical skills, but will they fit in with the rest of the team?  This is where Personality Questionnaires can prove useful.

Personality Tests

There are many popular Personality Questionnaires on the market – for example the OPQ32 from SHL which measures 32 different personality traits. The OPQ Questionnaire has a range of reports to support selection and development.  One of the oldest and most well-known questionnaires, is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator which classifies people within 4 different ‘Types’.  This questionnaire is a useful development and team-building tool.  Other examples are the Identity® questionnaire, 16PF, Saville Wave etc.

Situational Judgement Tests

More recently-developed tests measure different aspects of performance.  Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) fall midway between Ability tests and Personality Questionnaires.  One example of SJTs is the Scenarios suite of tests.  These tests put forward a realistic work issue; the candidate then ranks the possible ways to solve the problem.  These questions have a best answer like Ability tests (based on the views of industry experts).  However, they also measure the candidate’s personality in regards to how they might approach solving the problem.

Norm Groups

Norm Groups

Ability tests such as verbal and numerical reasoning compare a candidate’s reasoning skills against others who have completed the test in the past.  This comparison against other people is useful to ensure you are ‘comparing apples with apples’.  It would not be fair to compare a school leaver’s numerical reasoning with that of an experienced manager.  As a result, different ‘Norm Groups’ are used i.e. groups of people with the same level of experience or who work within the same job sector.  The majority of people within a Norm Group will achieve a typical – or ‘normal’ – score, with some scoring above the average and some below.

Examples of Norm Groups include: 

  • Senior Managers,
  • Graduates,
  • Operators in the Manufacturing or Engineering sectors etc.


When companies carry out testing on a regular basis, they can build up their own, highly specific Norm Groups.  These are based on all the candidates who have applied for the same role over several years.  This will make the results even more accurate.


As with Ability tests, Personality results are also compared against a Norm Group.  However, rather than a score, questionnaires provide a rating.  As there is no right or wrong personality, the results are generally given as a rating between 1 and 10. 5 and 6 are taken as being the ‘norm’ and 1 and 10 being the extremes.  In some cases, recruiters may want someone with a typical 5 or 6 rating. On other occasions they may think it useful to hire someone with a more obvious preference.  For example, for a role in engineering, recruiters may prefer someone with a rating of 8-10 on the ‘Methodical’ scale. On the other hand, a rating of 5-6 on the ‘Consultative’ scale would indicate someone who is happy to work with others, but equally at ease on their own.

Standardised and Reliable Results

Ensuring standardised results

Of course, you need to make sure that your results are reliable so that they can be used with confidence.  A starting point for this is to ensure that every test is completed under similar conditions.  To do this, we recommend that qualified Test Administrators supervise testing. This will ensure consistency and allow every candidate to have the same chance to perform at their best.  Many candidates complete a paper and pencil test when they come in for interview.  Under these conditions it is easy to ensure that the candidate has a good experience.

However, with the advent of online tests  candidates often complete the test on their own, in advance of the interview. Ensuring standardised conditions in this situation can be more challenging.  As a result, many online tests include engineering to hamper candidates’ from seeking outside help.  They provide randomised questions or offer the option of a short verification test.

Impact of technology

Technology has had a huge impact on psychometrics in the last 20 years.  Most tests and questionnaires are now available online.  This offers greater efficiencies in both time and resources. 


Randomised questions mean that each candidate will get a different test so it is unlikely that individuals will be able to share answers. 


Even more advanced is adaptive testing. In these tests, the questions chosen depend on how well the candidate performs. In these tests, questions get harder each time a question is answered correctly, or easier when the candidate get one wrong.  In this way the candidate reaches their true level.

Greater choice of psychometric assessments


More and more psychometric tests are available and it can be confusing trying to decide which might be the most suitable option for your needs. 

For those who are trained Test Users, the best option is to look up the technical data published for the assessment.  This will give an indication of its Reliability (i.e. how accurately it measures the thing you are testing) and Validity (i.e. is it actually measuring what we want it to measure, and how well does it predict job performance?). 

However, for those who are untrained, it is best to get some independent advice from a specialist such as ourselves.

Using Psychometrics during Interviews or Development Discussions

Interpreting questionnaires

Personality questionnaires are based on what the candidate thinks about themselves. Their results should only be the starting point for an interview or development discussion.  A person’s responses may change slightly depending on their mood. Some candidates may be aware of certain aspects of their personality and compensate accordingly.  Someone who is naturally shy, may make a particular effort in group situations, so it may not be apparent to others.  It is always good practise to discuss the results of the questionnaire with the individual.  That way they can provide insight on why a particular rating may have occurred, and if they think it is a true reflection of themselves.

Traditional interviews and assessment centres can suffer from the unconscious bias of those observing the candidates.  We all have preferences and experiences which can lead us to take a positive or negative view of someone. It is often quoted that recruiters make up their minds about someone within the first 10 seconds of meeting them.  How fair is that?  Interview and assessor training can help to make these processes fairer for everyone.  However, psychometric reports are truly unbiased as they are a measure of the individual’s actual performance or view of themselves.

Analysis of Test Results

As mentioned above, highly specific Norm Groups can be created for particular groups of candidates.  For example, HR staff usually select different norm groups for Call Centre applicants, or junior managers going through a development programme. The results can prove particularly useful over time when comparing successful candidates or creating personal development plans.  Analysis of results can answer questions such as: Were the test scores a good predictor of future performance?  Have any trends been identified?  Did apprentices scoring very highly eventually drop out of the programme as it did not prove challenging enough?  Are there particular areas of performance which need development?  In-depth analysis of psychometric test results is one of the many consultancy services which Occupational Psychologists can provide.

Bespoke Psychometrics

Bespoke assessments

For specialist roles, you may wish to  create a bespoke test or questionnaire.  This would involve an in-depth job analysis to fully understand the role and its challenges.  From this, developers would explore what both good and bad performance looks like.  Finally, a range of test questions can be developed and trialled before the final assessment is used in earnest.  This process will involve up-front development costs.  However, if the final test or questionnaire is to be used for many applicants each year, it may prove more cost-effective in the long run than using an off-the-shelf product.

Best practice

As we can see, Psychometric Testing can be a powerful tool when used correctly. It should be:

  • administered in standardised conditions
  • compared against the relevant Norm Group and
  • interpreted and discussed with the individual for greater insight


For more in-depth insight into the results produced by psychometrics, you can consult with professional Occupational Psychologists.  They can provide feedback to both recruiters and individuals.  Alternatively, you may wish to complete the ‘Test User’ training courses verified by the British Psychological Society. These courses will give you the tools to interpret and provide feedback on results yourself.


Development, promotion to management roles or recruitment:

Psychometric Testing is available for all job levels and with a range of costs depending on your business needs.  Options range from a single test to see if a member of staff has the skills to handle a new role.  Alternatively, it can include the creation of a bespoke questionnaire to form an integral part of a leadership development programme.  Some Occupational Psychology companies have a niche role.  They specialise in one particular brand of assessment or consultancy service.  Others such as Quest Partnership Ltd, offer a full range of psychometric testing from a range of test publishers, as well as bespoke consultancy services.  Choose what suits your needs best.  Let Psychometric Testing support you and your staff to make the best decisions for themselves and for your business.

Max Choi, worked with a team of occupational psychologists to produce the Assessment Centre Standard for the British Psychological Society (BPS). This was published in 2015 and is freely available to download here >>>