Psychometric tests developed quickly during the 1980s and 1990s and nowadays, it is very commonly used by many organisations for making decisions on selection and promotion. “In the UK, about 75% of medium to large sized organizations use them as part of their selection procedure alongside interviews or other face-to-face assessment techniques.” (Website: http://www.morrisby.com/faq/faq_answer.asp?ID=11 Accessed 30/11/2005) The psychometric tests are a useful tool for understanding more about the candidates, and finding out their aptitude and personality to support the organisation making prediction about the person’s behaviour or work performance in the future.
Types of psychometric tests
“A key feature of all psychometric tests is that they have to fulfil two principal criteria in use: reliability, ie, tests must provide consistent results when measuring the same characteristics, or factors, on two or more occasions, usually on a test-retest basis; validity, i.e they must be able to measure what they claim to measure.” (G A Cole, Organisational Behaviour, 1995, Continuum) The psychometric tests fall into two types:
* Aptitude tests – Measure a person’s potential rather than knowledge and how well they can learn new skills to cope with the job. The tests mostly focus on the person’s numerical, verbal, non-verbal and spatial ability. It is different to the attainment tests because it helps to predict the performance of the person, whereas the attainment tests focus on the person’s achievement in the past. However, there is a link between the attainment tests and ability tests because what the person has achieved depends on his/her ability.
* Personality questionnaires – Focus on the person’s personality, values, interests, etc. The tests involve finding out and analysing the ways in which people deal with things, their attitude and how they will behave in different situations. The tests normally don’t have a time limit, and there is no “right” or “wrong” answers.
Back to 400 BC, Hippocrates from Greece was the first theorist to measure the differences between individuals’ personality. He believed that individual’s personality or temperament were determined by their bodily fluids or ‘humours’, i.e. yellow bile – choleric – aggressive, excitable, irritable. Another type theory was developed by William Sheldon (1898-1970,) he believed that the temperament of people were related to their physique, i.e. the ectomorph type, people who are thin, shy, creative and intelligent, the mesomorph type, which are people who are strong, active, brave and assertive, and the endomorpht type, people who are fat, sociable and easy going.
Another example of type theory was created by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung; he focused on how people think. He created eight psychological types, four Extraverted (E) attitudes plus four Introverted (I) attitudes combine with either thinking (T) or feeling (F), and either sensing (S) or intuition (N); EST, ESF, ENT, ENF, IST, ISF, INT and INF. His work was later developed by two generations of the Myers-Briggs family, which the MBTI test use one side or other of all four of Jung’s, establish a four-letter code to set up sixteen types of personality. In addition, one of the most famous trait theories was created by Hans Jï¿½rgen Eysenck (1997; 1990) and the Sixteen personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) created by R.B. Cattell, it’s one of the best-known personality measures, also one of the most frequently used in the selection process.
The use and effectiveness of psychometric tests
Organisations spend lots of money and time on selection and all they want is the right person for the right job, an employee who has the ability, enjoys doing the job, and will provide a good level of performance, and benefit the organisation as a result. In other words, the tests help the organisations to save money and time, because once they have got the right person for the job, they might not need to go through the recruitment process again.
During the interview process, sometimes applicants might lie about their achievement and ability, or even create a false good impression to increase their chance of getting the job. With the help of the psychometric tests, the organisation will be able to make decisions about people more effective and accurately because the information they gather from the tests are reliable, and also enable them to predict the ability and the performance of the candidate. “Recent meta-analysis studies have consistently demonstrated that cognitive ability testing accurately predicts future job performance across almost all operational areas.” (John Arnold, Work Psychology, 4th edition, 2005, Pearson Education Limited)
An example of the use of a psychometric test during the selection process could involve a potential sales manager, and possibly testing them for their numerical ability, verbal reasoning powers and for analysing their personality, enabling the company to see how he/she deals things, behaves towards the staff or reacts in different situations. Using a psychometric test during the selection process would also help an organisation to give feedback to those who failed to get the job; the feedback is accurate and straight forward, helping the applicants to identify their strengths and weaknesses, so they know what kind of job is suitable for them and to help self-development.
During the training and promotion processes, the tests are also useful as they help to identify whether the employees need training and assistance in improving their skills in specific areas. During the promotion process, the organisation might use the personality questionnaires to find out which candidate’s personality is most suitable to promote to a higher level. Some organisations might even use the results of a psychometric test to make someone redundant. I personally think that it is not fair because the tests should be seen as additional information, and also the personality does not fully reflect the productivity of the employee.
Limitation of the tests
First of all, it may be costly and time-consuming for the organisations to produce the tests because the materials required can be expensive, big organisations may even employ a psychologist to design specific tests and it will therefore increase their costs. Examples such as personality tests are difficult to manage and interpret results, and therefore specific experts are needed.
Secondly, the applicants can fake their response in the personality tests as it increases their chances of getting the job, as they might attempt to give the answers to which the organisation is looking for. It can be described as “social desirability” and it contains two fundamentals, self-deception and impression management (Paulhaus, 1989). “Self-deception refers to applicants’ being overly optimistic in their perceptions of positive personality features while simultaneously trying to play down their perceived negative aspects. Impression management is more concerned with applicants trying to appear “nice” because they fear social disapproval.” (Dominic Cooper and Ivan T. Robertson, The Psychology of Personnel Selection, 1995, Routledge). It’s also required to take into account that sometimes applicants might be nervous when they are taking the tests, and that it might have an influence on the answers they are giving.
For the aptitude and ability tests, some jobs might require multi-skilled applicants who do not have all of the abilities, this does not mean that they cannot perform well, but their performance would also depend on many other factors, i.e. company’s policies, procedures and structure, luck, team working, appraisal system, etc. It is hard to predict the performance of an individual when sometimes people rotate their duty or positions, tailored to one of the methods of motivation.
The purpose of the aptitude and personality tests are to predict an individual’s performance, personality and behaviour, specifically when the individuals receive new information and obtain new experiences, i.e. If a special event or dramatic change in life were to occur, their attitudes would change and it can therefore influence their performance. Another strong argued point against aptitude and personality tests would be, for example, an employee who performs well but has a bad personality; he/she could be unfriendly, unsociable and may not like to work as part of a team, but overall his/her performance could be the best within the department.
The question is, is he/she really the most suitable person for the job? From the business’ view, he/she is definitely the right person for the job as long as he/she helps to achieve the business targets. However, the use of the personality tests would become useless, and fail to take into account their performance capability in this situation because it clearly proves that his/her personality does not reflect their performance. In addition, the tests might be unfair to applicants whose first language is not English, even though some tests might require a certain amount of education, i.e. vocabulary, but also it would be unfair to applicants who have different cultures, or come from a different background, because they might have different beliefs, opinions and values on different things or react differently to similar situations.
I personally think that the aptitude and ability tests are really useful for organisations, as it helps them to make decisions during their selection and promotion stages. It is reliable and accurate, helps to identify the ability of the applicants and predicts their performance. However, there are lots of factors that could create an influence on the individuals’ life, which would directly or indirectly affect their performance.
The personality questionnaire can be accurate if the person answers honestly to the questions, it can help them to know more about themselves and find out what type of person they are. However, I suggest that the personality questionnaire should not be used within workplace because I strongly believe that personality does not reflect the productivity of the person.
Finally, I think it is important for organisations not to rely on these tests because they cannot be 100% accurate, and that they should set out a good selection procedure, making sure they are providing a good feedback system to the applicants, and make sure discriminations do not take place during the selection process.
G A Cole, (1995), Organisational Behaviour, Continuum
Laurie. J Mullins, (2005), Management and organisational behaviour, 7th Edition, Prentice Hall.
Andrzej Huczynski and David Buchanan, (2001), Organizational Behaviour An Introductory Text, 4th Edition, Prentice Hall
John Arnold, (2005), Work Psychology, 4th Edition, Prentice Hall
Christoper Lewis, (1992), Employee Selection, 2nd Edition, Stanley Thornes
Dominic Cooper and Ivan T. Robertson, (1995), The Psychology of Personnel Selection, Routledge
Website http://www.lboro.ac.uk/service/careers/section/apps_ints/apps_psyc.html#WHAT Accessed 30 November 2005
http://www.psychometricadvantage.co.uk/personalityprofiling.html Accessed 28 November 2005
http://www.cosmiccoaching.com/articles/psycho.htm Accessed 28 November 2005
http://www.morrisby.com/test_takers_guide/psychometrics.asp#8 Accessed 28 November 2005