Understanding psychometrics

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Psychometric tests can certainly help in the recruitment process if handled by trained users.

The chances of an individual being asked, or more likely, required to take a psychometric test at
some time in their working life is extremely high. Numerous surveys report that there has been a substantial increase in the use of psychometric tests by various organizations. In the UK for instance in 1980, ten per cent of the companies used psychometric testing, the corresponding figure at the end of 1990s is 85%. The concept of psychometric testing is fast gaining ground here in India as well.


Employersarenowusing psychometric tests to help with recruitment, internal promotion, career development,teambuilding, counselling, training needs analysis, succession planning and so on.


One reason for the increase in its popularity is the high level of unemployment, where organizations receive a large number of applications for the same post. They use psychometric testing as a fast and cost-effective method of dealing with them. Secondly, it also provides a more standardized approach to assessing and defining an individual’s strengths and limitations.


On the other, hand, there are organizations that are skeptical about the ability of psychometric tests to indicate unique human qualities such as personality and intelligence. It is commonly believed that psychometrics is not a precise instrument and is open to misinterpretation. There are now hundreds of psychometrics tests available, and there is a growing concern with the number of untrained and unqualified individuals who develop, administer and assess the results of these tests.


So whether you are one of the psychometric faithful or a skeptic let us look at the principle of psychometric profiling and how they can benefit you.


All that psychometric analysis does is to quantify what one’s personality preferences are. The word meter means measure and psyche means mind or soul. So a psychometric metric simply means, a measure of ones mind or soul, or more precisely, attitude.


Psychometric types are also known as Four-Quadrant Behavior (4QB). Human behavior is categorized into four basic types. Sub-types of 8, 16, and 32 and beyond can be identified. A simple analogy is seeing four primary colors on a palette. By mixing different concentrations of each, the number of variations is virtually infinite. However, an understanding of the 4QB is sufficient to develop a working knowledge of the subject.


The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates (b.460BC) identified the four Quadrants in ancient Greece. He and his colleagues noted that common complaints did not vary a great deal, the manner with which the patients described them varied quite distinctly.


Hippocrates went on to classify the people under four distinct types and called them Four Humors and named them as Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholic. These terms over the years have acquired different names and dimensions, but the basic framework has not really changed much, even today.


Thus the applications of psychometrics are various and the benefits arising from their use can include the following:


1. Maximizing an organization’s performance by improving accuracy of selection


2. Improving employee retention by better matching individuals to jobs


3. Avoiding the financial and personal cost associated, on both sides, with poor recruitment decisions


4. Achieving better career management by matching individual aspirations to organizations’ opportunities


In fact many people have found Psychometric Tests to be of very substantial value, but practices in test use are still patchy, variable and often idiosyncratic. The context in which tests are used is in essence the very broad one of understanding and predicting behavior


In selection, tests are commonly used as part of a chain of activity, but their positioning in the chain may vary substantially. At one extreme is their use at an early stage in the screening process, especially where bulk recruitments are envisaged. The idea is to pass on those with a relatively higher chance of success for further examination. At the other extreme is their use at much later stages, applied to shortlist candidates only to extend information already available on them. Often this will be to acquire a view as to how the candidates might fit with other members of a management team.


Reasons not to use Psychometrics for appraisals


1. The company does not have a specific job description and hopes that testing will clear it up. In this case, it would be impossible for a psychologist to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a job if he is not aware of what the job is.


2. The company has a policy of psychological testing for all applicants prior to employment. In this case, the reasons for testing all applicants must be determined. There may be valid reasons for ability tests, but why should all candidates be tested for personality or intelligence?


3. The company considers this as an expense and not an investment.


Keep the following in mind while choosing an instrument:


1. Understand the features of the instrument as described above.


2. Understand that such instrument requires years of work and validation.


3. Understand that an instrument has been designed for a specific purpose.


4. Relate the purpose to what you want to achieve.


5. Time to administer.


6. How user friendly are the instruments, are they line manager friendly, as it impacts them the most.


7. Accuracy of the information generated.


8. Research and Development team backing the instrument.


9. Does it add value to the process you are addressing.


10. At the end of it all does it measure and link to growth and performance of an individual and to the organization as whole.


The answers to the above would allow you to make a fair assessment on the type of instruments you would want to use.


The use of such instruments at best could be called as a tool. As any tradesman knows, a quality tool used for its proper purpose will produce a quality finish. He also knows that a hammer can drive a screw home and the job may appear to have to be done.


Psychometric testing should be ab-initio viewed as a support tool, these instruments would throw up a lot more questions than answers for you in what area of application that you may want to use. It adds value to your process, and brings in a large amount of objectivity and general acceptance of assessments within the organization.


(The author is Head – Consulting, Thomas International (India). He can be reached at rajulu@vsnl.net




Issue BG27 June03


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