Psychometrics is a scientific field concerned with the theory and techniques of testing personality traits and cognitive ability via different assessments, measurements, and models. 

Psychometric testing is used in several fields, such as education, psychology, psychiatry, and recruitment to assess cognitive ability, personal traits, and mental health status. 

In the past few years, psychometric testing has become a standard hiring practice: many companies now use online psychometric tests as a part of their recruitment and hiring process.

Psychometric testing can be a powerful tool for assessing the strengths and abilities of your candidates. Still, it needs to be used carefully and shouldn’t be the only way you evaluate their skills.

In this article, we’ll look into psychometric testing in the context of hiring and workplace management.

What is a psychometric test?

A psychometric test is a series of tests designed by qualified professionals (psychologists or psychometrics experts), aiming to assess cognitive ability, personal traits, and mental health status.

  • Cognitive ability: intelligence, aptitude, skills

  • Personal traits: behavior, attitudes, values, interests

  • Mental health status: to detect potential disorders or conditions.  

In hiring, psychometric tests are widely used to evaluate skills and abilities that cannot be assessed during an interview and which you couldn’t evaluate based on the candidates’ cover letters and resumes.  Employee integrity is a good example.

Methods used in a psychometric test

It’s interesting to mention that there are a few different methods used in psychometry, which are:

  • Observation, or observing the person in different situations. Observation can be a powerful element of your hiring strategy, for example, during job simulations, where you test the performance of your best candidates in your actual work environment.

  • Projective techniques, such as the famous Rorschach inkblot test, where subjects need to interpret specific images or scenes. Other similar tests exist, but projective testing techniques are rarely used in hiring. 

  • Personality inventories or capability assessments, or psychometric tests, which typically come as self-assessment tests, and are used to measure a person’s abilities, skills, or personal traits. 

Hiring managers use psychometric tests to:

  • Get an in-depth evaluation of someone’s strengths and weaknesses

  • Complete candidates’ profiles with more data

  • Compare candidates between each other

  • Assess the potential for a culture and personality add

  • Reduce biases and hire a diverse workforce 

Psychometric tests are usually used in the recruitment and hiring stage, but you can also use them later in the employee’s journey.

For example, companies sometimes use them as a part of a job performance assessment, in employee development and promotion, or as an effort from management to assess teams’ forces and weaknesses and to adapt their management style to employees’ personalities and traits.

Besides that, HR managers might use psychometric testing as a part of a leadership assessment to evaluate the capacities of the company’s management team and study its potential for improvement. 

What can psychometric tests measure? 

Psychometric tests can measure a wide variety of skills, aptitudes and traits, which, as mentioned above, we could put into two major categories: cognitive abilities and personal characteristics.

Let’s look into each one.

Cognitive abilities

You can measure different types of cognitive abilities with tests, for example:

  • Intelligence: Psychometric tests can measure intelligence in its different forms: logical reasoning, spatial thinking, mechanical reasoning, emotional and social intelligence, introspection, and more

  • Aptitude: Psychometric assessments also allow you to evaluate someone’s abilities, including their ability to learn new skills

  • Skills: You can also assess specific competencies, which can be strictly job-related and related to experience and knowledge, or broader skills, such as communication. 

Personal traits

You can also measure personality traits, behavior, and motivation:

  • Attitudes: You can evaluate attitudes towards other people, new and unfamiliar situations, challenges, etc. 

  • Behavior: With personality tests, you can evaluate and predict behavior in specific circumstances.

  • Values: Values that inform a person’s attitude and behavior can also be measured.

  • Motivation: Everyone has different motivators closely related to their work choices and their willingness to excel.

Besides the above, psychometric tests can also be used in a medical context to assess someone’s mental health status. In this instance, they are used by a trained professional as part of a global assessment.

What are the different types of psychometric tests?

In general, psychometric tests fall into two major categories: 

  • Cognitive ability tests

  • Personality tests

 Let’s take a quick look at each one. 

Cognitive ability tests 

Cognitive ability tests evaluate specific skills and abilities in relation to the open position you’re looking to fill. You can assess many cognitive abilities with tests, such as:

  • Intelligence in its different forms, such as reading comprehension, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, numerical reasoning, and more

  • Aptitude and skills, which can either be broad, like communication skills and time management, or narrower skills related to specific jobs, like negotiation skills, working with data, accounting, and more

Check out TestGorilla’s Critical thinking test to identify candidates who can evaluate information and make sound judgments using analytical skills.

Are IQ tests cognitive ability tests? 

Yes, IQ tests are a type of psychometric cognitive ability test but can be administered only by trained professionals.

There are many different IQ tests: the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities, and more.

IQ tests aren’t commonly used in recruitment and might be considered unethical. Companies usually prefer other cognitive ability tests or game-based assessments. A famous example of the latter is IBM’s Cognitive Ability Assessment.

Personality tests

Personality tests, such as Big Five (OCEAN) and DISC measure:

  • Attitudes and behavior in specific circumstances, and especially new and unfamiliar situations. 

  • Values such as honesty and integrity, which inform a person’s actual behavior, can also be measured.

  • Motivation, which is different for everyone. Some employees will be mainly motivated by praise and recognition among teammates, while others will thrive when they see the positive results of their work.

Personality tests cannot be used as a standalone assessment tool but should instead be a part of a carefully defined strategy that considers company culture, team cohesion, and diversity.

They can predict job performance to an extent when combined with other cognitive abilities.

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Are game-based tests similar to psychometric tests?

Some companies, such as IBM, use game-based tests to assess candidates’ cognitive abilities. Those assessments are a type of psychometric test, and require applicants to solve puzzles, order numbers, compare shapes, and more. They’re timed, and the difficulty level increases with each solved puzzle.

Game-based tests are a viable form of evaluation and can predict job performance to an extent. Some candidates enjoy them, but most feel stressed by the time constraints; a quick Reddit search shows that not all IBM candidates have a positive experience with the Cognitive Ability Assessment.

So, if you opt for game-based tests, these need to be carefully designed and selected. Alternatively, you could simply use standard cognitive ability tests and assess skills such as numerical reasoning, spatial reasoning, intermediate math, and more.

Make sure to set clear expectations and give your applicants enough information on the hiring process to guarantee a positive candidate experience.

Can personality tests predict job performance?

Companies use personality tests to better understand candidates’ personalities and predispositions to assess their potential for a culture add and predict future success. Of course, the traits that can help you accurately predict future performance largely depend on the specific position, but some are universal.

Let’s look into the details.

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness, or an individual’s capacity for self-discipline, organization, and diligence, is thought to predict performance relatively accurately across different roles and industries, as evidenced by a multitude of studies. This is especially true for less complex jobs, for example, customer service roles; for executive and other high complexity positions, this link is not as strong.

The Big Five (OCEAN) test, which measures candidates’ conscientiousness (in addition to their extraversion, agreeableness, openness to new experience, and emotional stability), is among the most studied psychometric tests in the workplace. A 2019 meta-analysis performed by Michael P. Wilmot and Deniz S. Ones confirms that conscientiousness is a powerful predictor of success at the workplace.

Extraversion

Positions that are a better fit for extraverted candidates include leadership, marketing, or consultancy roles. The popular belief that salespersons need to be extraverted to be successful might not be true, however.

According to Adam M. Grant from the University of Pennsylvania, ambiverts (people who fall in the middle of the extraversion vs. introversion continuum) have an advantage for sales positions compared to pure extraverts.

Openness to innovation

In dynamic environments where innovation is a key priority (notably, tech companies, startups, and disruptive businesses), openness to new ideas and concepts is crucial. It will help both employees and companies thrive.

Are psychometric tests accurate?

The short answer is: it depends. 

Psychometric tests can be pretty accurate if qualified professionals design and administer them correctly; that is, by using the proper tests for the role and providing applicants with enough context.

This way, you improve your chances of getting honest answers and ensuring a positive candidate experience. Additionally, results need to be read and analyzed carefully by trained HR personnel.

For Deniz S. Ones of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, tests can be a powerful tool to assess whether someone would be a good fit for a given role if appropriately used.

Not all tests were designed to be used in a hiring context, though. For example, the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), also known as the “16 personalities test”, which is widely used by companies worldwide, isn’t intended to be used for making hiring decisions, according to the Myers-Briggs Foundation. If you decide to use this test (or similar personality tests), you should use it only to get a better idea of your candidates, but not as an evaluation tool on its own.

Psychometric tests aren’t 100% accurate—and aren’t meant to be

Psychometric tests aren’t intended to be a 100% accurate tool. They cannot be used on their own to predict future job performance, as they’re related to overarching qualities and abilities rather than to specific skills and domains of expertise. Instead, they should be one element of a comprehensive approach to hiring, together with structured interviews (which Google themselves are using in their hiring process) and other skill assessments.

For example, even if someone is highly conscientious, extraverted, and creative, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’d be a good fit for the role of a marketing director. For that reason, psychometric tests are best used in combination with other skill assignments for specific job-related skills. This way, you can get a solid understanding of someone’s capacities, which you can use to analyze their resume again and prepare for a structured interview. 

Tests should inform the decision-making process, not replace it

While psychometric tests provide additional data and help hiring teams better grasp the candidate’s strengths, they are only as good as the information you feed them with, i.e., the answers the candidate provides. They simply add a layer of information to the bigger picture and cannot replace the insights of an experienced hiring manager or a well-designed hiring strategy.

The Big Five (OCEAN) test, for example, was developed as a simple way to measure where everyone fits on a continuum of five key traits: extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

Specific behaviors or personal characteristics were measured and grouped together in clusters and related to each one of these traits. The key to its accuracy is its simplicity, as Scientific American points out: the test is only as good as the information provided by the test-taker, and the results depend entirely on whether their answers are accurate. 

Candidates influence results

It’s important to note that candidates could influence results in their favor, at least to an extent: candidates could provide answers in line with what they believe you’d expect to see. This is especially true for personality tests, as SHRM points out.

For highly competitive positions, candidates will probably do their homework and could try to paint a more favorable picture of themselves, especially for personality tests.

The results of cognitive tests remain somewhat more difficult to influence, but with plenty of training, applicants could still perform better than they otherwise would. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though: someone who is highly motivated and driven to succeed will likely demonstrate the same level of determination to do well on the job. 

With resumes and cover letters, you may have the same problem. According to a 2019 survey by Monster, 85% of recruiters agree that candidates exaggerate their skills and competencies on a resume.

For these reasons, it’s essential to create a comprehensive hiring strategy that uses psychometric tests in combination with several other tools and techniques. This way, you can get a detailed, in-depth overview of the skills and abilities of each candidate. 

Advantages of psychometric tests

Psychometric tests have several advantages, which make them an excellent tool to use in your hiring process.

1. Help you make data-driven hiring decisions

A solid hiring process is based on data-driven hiring decisions, and psychometric tests can help you complete the picture you have of each candidate with new data. 

2. Help you quickly filter out candidates and proceed only with the best

If you administer the proper tests, you can instantly see whether someone has the right set of cognitive abilities & personality traits for a role. This lets you optimize resources: by concentrating only on your best candidates, you shorten the time-to-hire and reduce the cost-per-hire.

The hiring process is very resource-intensive: the average cost-per-hire, according to SHRM’s talent acquisition benchmarking report, is at $4,425, and the time to fill a position is nearly 40 days.

3. Give you a clear overview of each candidate’s abilities, skills, and personality

You get in-depth, detailed information on each applicant’s performance potential, cognitive abilities, and personality. This way, you can analyze each applicant’s profile to see how someone would fit in a given role. For this, you need to clearly define what you’re looking for and analyze results correctly: is a skill nice-to-have, or is it crucial for success in this role?

4. Allow you to measure things you couldn’t otherwise detect

Cognitive ability and personality are difficult to grasp from a resume or a cover letter and cannot be tested easily during interviews. With the right set of tests, and when using them as a part of a comprehensive hiring strategy, you can drastically improve your understanding of each applicant’s capacities.

5. Let you compare many candidates at a glance

You can analyze multiple profiles at once and compare them. Tests allow you to collect vast amounts of data and see how everyone scores for various traits and cognitive skills to detect your best candidates and disqualify the rest accurately.

6. Promote diversity and inclusivity

With psychometric tests, you’re reducing the extent to which your gut feeling (otherwise said, biases) influences your hiring decisions. This way, you can objectively assess candidates and hire a diverse workforce from all paths of life.

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Disadvantages of psychometric tests

Psychometric tests aren’t a 100% accurate tool: they come with shortcomings and limitations that you need to consider. Let’s look at the disadvantages of psychometric tests.

1. Tests don’t give you 100% of the information needed to hire someone

Psychometric tests shouldn’t be the only tool used to assess a candidate but should be a part of a holistic approach to hiring and a global talent assessment strategy instead. Remember: tests aren’t a crutch but simply one more tool in your toolset. 

2. They might be poorly designed

There’s an abundance of online psychometric tests, but not all of them are well-designed or accurate. Additionally, many of them aren’t intended to be used in hiring at all, which is why it’s crucial to choose a test provider that develops recruitment skills tests.

3. Candidates might alter their responses to build a better picture of themselves

If someone really wants the job, they’ll do their homework on what are the desirable traits you’re likely looking for and will try to give the “right” answers. Therefore, it’s vital to analyze test results in context and use structured interviews to dig deeper.

4. Candidates might feel anxious or stressed by taking tests

Sometimes, psychometric tests can give you a false negative simply because some candidates do not perform well in timed assessments or feel stressed and anxious. Psychometric tests also don’t account for cultural differences, and not everyone enjoys being tested. This leads us to the next point.

5. Tests might lead to a negative candidate experience

Suppose you administer tests without giving enough context or explaining what your hiring process looks like, or providing feedback (or at least setting the right expectations about feedback). In that case, candidates might have a bad experience. This could harm your employer brand and scare away skilled applicants.

This INSEAD article gives us a good illustration of what could go wrong when a test is mismanaged.  As two executives recall, putting someone through a thorough personality assessment without giving them enough context might feel confusing at best and humiliating at worst.

How TestGorilla addresses the limitations of psychometric testing

To help you make the most out of psychometric tests, at TestGorilla we:

Give you a wide variety of tests to use

For each position you’re looking to fill, you can administer a few different tests. This way, you can get an in-depth assessment of your candidates’ skills and easily compare them. We advise you to use both psychometric and specific tests that are highly relevant to the job role you’re looking to fill to get the complete picture.

Only hire subject-matter experts to create tests

Our tests are developed by subject-matter experts, with the guidance of our team of psychometric experts. We use the principles of test theory to create a solid framework for our tests. Psychometric tests are then peer-reviewed to guarantee their effectiveness. We verify the content validity of each test using both the UGESP framework of employee selection and the US Department of Labor’s skills analyses.

Constantly improve the quality of our tests

Our test development team and subject-matter experts work together to improve the quality of our tests continuously. We analyze test results and assess whether questions are aligned with the goals of the test and whether they aren’t too easy or too difficult to provide accurate results.

Take into consideration the candidate experience and help you build a positive employer brand

While our tests are timed, candidates can take them at home, in a low-stress environment, and at a convenient time for them. This is considerably less stressful than a formal interview. You can also use your own logo and brand color to personalize tests.

How to use psychometric testing to improve hiring

You can use psychometric testing to improve your hiring process through the following steps:

  1. Consider which skills and abilities are most important for the job and ensure that your tests are evaluating these.

  2. Think about whether there are other skills that might be even better predictors of job performance.

  3. Use a combination of testing methods, including psychometric tests, to get a well-rounded view of candidates.

  4. Take into account how a candidate compares to their colleagues in terms of skills and abilities.

  5. Make sure the onboarding process is tailored to the specific requirements of the job.

  6. Give candidates sufficient time to complete the tests.

  7. Carefully review the results of the tests and use them to screen out candidates who don’t meet your requirements.

  8. Compare the top-performing candidates and only interview the best ones.

  9. Be mindful of not relying too heavily on the results of psychometric testing and use it in combination with other hiring techniques.

A caveat: hiring decisions shouldn’t be based on psychometric tests only. Take note that they’re one of the many tools that allows you to analyze a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Instead of relying on gut feeling and unstructured interviews, you can design a multi-step data-driven hiring process that uses psychometric tests, job-related skills tests, and structured interviews to inform decisions.

Examples of psychometric tests

TestGorilla has an extensive library of psychometric tests to help you optimize the hiring process and select the right candidate. Tests are timed and take 10 minutes each; most of them contain multiple-choice questions.

In this section, we’ll give you some examples from TestGorilla’s test library, which you could use in your hiring process, as well as roles for which those tests could be relevant.

Of course, you need to analyze each position you’re looking to fill and define your specific requirements for it, but if you’re looking for some quick ideas on how you could use different skills assessments, below you can find several examples.

Examples of cognitive ability tests

A few examples of cognitive ability tests, which are a type of psychometric test

A few examples of cognitive ability tests, which are a type of psychometric test

Let’s first look at some examples of cognitive ability assessments:

  • Verbal reasoning: With this test, you can measure candidates’ capacity to draw accurate conclusions from text and evaluate relationships between words and phrases. Verbal reasoning is one of the key skills in many fields, so it’s not limited to a particular set of roles. You can use it for positions in law, marketing, sales, journalism, and consulting, among others.   

  • Mechanical reasoning: The mechanical reasoning test assesses candidates’ familiarity with fundamental concepts of physics and mechanics, for example, the principles of force, movement, velocity, as well as the functioning of pulleys, wheels, levers, and gears. You could use the mechanical reasoning test for blue-collar jobs, such as HVAC technicians, equipment installation technicians, maintenance mechanics, and machine operators. You could also use it for engineering roles or to hire technical salespersons.

  • Spatial reasoning: The spatial reasoning assessment covers skills such as mental rotation, spatial visualization, mental folding, and spatial working memory. You could use the spatial reasoning test for engineering roles or other STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs.

  • Numerical reasoning: The numerical reasoning assessment evaluates applicants’ abilities to interpret numbers, percentages, and fractions, to understand numerical patterns, and to analyze text, tables, charts, and graphs. Strong numerical reasoning skills can be helpful in roles such as accounting, auditing, and finance, but also for technical roles. Software engineers, developers, and data analysts are also expected to have strong numerical reasoning skills.

  • Attention to detail (visual): The attention to detail test assesses applicants’ ability to pay close attention to visual information, cues, and details. Candidates will need to match images, find differences, identify patterns and distinguish details. You can use this assessment to hire graphic or web designers, lab technicians, or data analysts who work with visual data.

There are many other cognitive ability tests available in our library, which you could also combine with job-specific assessments, such as financial modeling in Excel, working with data, HTML5, or even specific software tools, such as HubSpot CRM.

Examples of personality tests

Some of the personality tests in our test library include:

  • DISC test: With the DISC test, you’re testing how your applicants express emotions based on four behavior types: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). William Marston developed the test. You can use it to hire for any position or to understand employees better and improve team dynamics.

  • The Big 5 (OCEAN) test: This test is one of the most studied assessments in recruitment, and it can help you predict job performance reasonably accurately if you know which traits your ideal candidate should possess. It evaluates candidates’ extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability.

  • 16 personalities test: The 16 types test is similar to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and is based on Carl Jung’s theories. It allows you to analyze applicants’ cognitive style, decision-making process, motivations, and lifestyle preferences. You can use it to understand applicants or employees better.

You shouldn’t use personality and culture tests to evaluate candidates but rather to better understand their behavior, personalities, and the things that motivate them.

You should always use them in combination with other assessments, tools, and methods; this way, you get a detailed picture of each candidate’s capacities and personality traits.

Assess candidates with psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are an excellent tool that you can use to make better hires and build a data-driven recruitment process. You need to use them carefully, though, to guarantee a positive candidate experience and get the right set of data.

In short, psychometric testing allows you to minimize hiring biases, hire an inclusive workforce, and concentrate on what really matters.

TestGorilla helps you make the most out of psychometric tests by providing a wide variety of tests to use, hiring only subject-matter experts to create tests, constantly improving the quality of our tests, and taking into consideration the candidate experience to help build a positive employer brand.

Our tests are developed by subject-matter experts and peer-reviewed to ensure their effectiveness and are aligned with the goals of the test to provide accurate results.

Candidates can also take our timed tests in a low-stress environment at a convenient time for them, making the testing process considerably less stressful than a formal interview. Plus, you can personalize the tests with your own logo and brand color to create a more cohesive and branded experience for candidates.

Optimize your hiring process with psychometric testing 

Use TestGorilla’s wide variety of high-quality tests and candidate experience considerations to streamline hiring. Get started for free today.

Frequently asked questions about psychometric tests

What are psychometric tests?

A psychometric test is a series of tests designed by qualified professionals (psychologists or psychometrics experts), aiming to assess cognitive ability, personal traits, and mental health status. Get started with TestGorilla’s psychometric testing.

What can psychometric tests measure?

Psychometric tests can measure a wide variety of skills, aptitudes and traits, which, as mentioned above, we could put into two major categories: cognitive abilities and personal characteristics.

Are psychometric tests accurate?

Psychometric tests can be pretty accurate if qualified professionals design and administer them correctly; that is, by using the proper tests for the role and providing applicants with enough context.

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