Background to Psychometric Assessments

Background to Psychometric Assessments


Psychometric assessments have been used in the work environment since the 1940s. They are tools that are used to evaluate various individual factors (behaviour, personality, values, motivations, abilities) and can assist with understanding outcomes (such as job satisfaction and performance).

Many companies use psychometric tests to help them make hiring decisions, develop employees, and build high-performing teams. A report by the London School of Economics estimated that close to 70% of employers in the UK use psychometric assessments in the workplace. Similarly, according to Saville Assessment in Australia, most recruitment processes for senior roles (General Manager and above) with ASX200 companies include psychometric assessment.

Personality & Behavioural Assessments


Behavioural assessments fall into the ‘Personality assessment’ category. However, the assessments are slightly different. In assessing personality, psychologists often refer to the ‘Big Five’ personality traits:

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Many personality tests then divide these traits further into 16 or 32 sub-categories of personality.

Personality is a complex organisation of both psychological and physiological systems. According to the American Psychology Association, personality refers to “individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving”. Some assessments are designed to measure particular personality traits (e.g. extroversion, or conscientiousness), while other tests focus on descriptors of behaviour.

Underlying this group of tests is the idea that there are certain personality traits or behaviours which are capable of being measured, and that these traits or behaviours may influence job satisfaction, job performance and/or an individual’s suitability for particular kinds of work. Personality and behavioural assessments are also often used to help people create more self-awareness for a better understanding of their strengths, challenges, and natural preferences.

Such assessments are ‘self-reports’ of how someone views themselves. Like an interview, an element of ‘social desirability’ (over-emphasis of positive behaviours or downplaying negative factors to project a favourable image) can occur. With assessments, this is referred to as ‘response bias’. When testing is used in the recruitment process, in conjunction with interviews and other selection techniques then companies are creating more space for frank and open discussions on suitability for a role.

The benefits of a Behavioural Assessment


Behaviour is essentially how you react internally (thoughts and feelings) and externally (your current environment). Behavioural assessments can help organisations understand how candidates or employees may act in a team environment; their natural tendency towards supporting others; how competitive they are; or how comfortable they may be under pressure. These insights can form the basis of a great discussion with candidates or team members on how they see their strengths and any challenges in relation to a role.

The important thing to note is that these insights are not about abilities. Just because someone has a naturally lower tolerance of pressure at work doesn’t mean that they can’t deal with stress. They have quite likely developed techniques over the years to manage pressure successfully.

The results of behavioural assessments must never be taken in isolation as a decision-making tool. Used in conjunction with other selection methods they can help to complete the story about a candidate or employee. Also, none of us are perfect, and we all have areas that we are developing; should be working on developing; or things that we know are strengths and weaknesses.