Psychometric tests can be time-consuming, depending on the the complexity of the tools, the level of the position, as well as the job requirements. Tests can also be quite expensive.
In order to provide clients with best-value options, we usually recommend the use of a personality tool and a measure of reasoning as our most basic, standard battery.
But, what do these tests really tell us about the likelihood of a person performing effectively at work, in laymen’s terms?
How is personality measured?
There are essentially two types of personality measures, namely ”type” and ”trait-based”.
“Type” questionnaires are those that classify a person as a certain type, suggesting that if one belongs to a certain type, one is likely to own all of those attributes. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, as the name suggests, falls in this category. A person could thus emerge as an ENTP or ISTJ type, etc., with typical, pre-defined and associated attributes.
A “trait-based” questionnaire, on the other hand, provides a unique profile of attributes or traits associated with each person, (albeit along a certain number of defined constructs). As such, no one will have exactly the same profile and this allows for a more ‘dynamic’ interpretation. An example of this type of personality measure is the 16PF, the 15FQ+, OPQ or Wave personality questionnaire.
Yet, in both cases results are based on self-report, i.e. how the person sees himself or herself, and thus somewhat open to distortion. (Please note: there are ways to detect this).
What would be the best option when performing an assessment for pre-employment purposes?
For selection purposes, we would recommend a trait-based questionnaire, while a typology could be useful for development purposes, career guidance or team-building.
From a trait-based questionnaire, we, as psychometrists and psychologists, often report on three main areas of personality, i.e.
- Social inclination: For example, how the person feels about interacting with others; how bold a person will be in group situations; how assertive a person tends to be; to what extent the person will need to rely on others or, instead, be self-sufficient, etc.
- Thinking style: Or rather, how the person processes information or views the world around him/her; how likely the person is to conform to conventional thinking and rules; how practical versus idealistic/ideas-oriented the person tends to be; whether the person is generally more soft-hearted or has a more tough-minded, no-nonsense approach to matters. Also, whether the person is more likely to follow his/her own urges or the willingness to conform to societal norms.
- Coping style or emotional management: For example, assessing how relaxed and calm the person tends to be; how inclined to be guided by emotions and moods; and to what extent the person feels secure within. It is also likely to predict the degree of willingness the person will show to accept adequate responsibility when things go wrong, etc.
Essentially, as a rich source of information, personality provides an indication of what makes the person tick; what his/her essence is; what the person’s ”default” way of functioning is; and how the person is likely to act if under pressure or outside his/her comfort zone.
Of what use are reasoning tests when it comes to predicting work success?
From reasoning tests, we are able to get an idea of how quickly or easily a person will cope with, for example, verbal and numerical content, arguments, logic or problems that he/she would be expected to perform in the role for which he/she is being considered. This is done using a norm group – others who have a similar profile as the person, for example, general South African population or Managerial/Professional population, whichever is most applicable.
Reasoning tests are timed and assesses a person’s maximum performance in a limited time, thus making it less open to distortion.
Given the level and nature of the role, it is the psychometrist’s responsibility to decide what the reasonable cut-offs are or the range within which scores will be acceptable or not, and to make a recommendation given the likelihood of a person’s job fit based on that.
Which type of assessment is better equipped to predict work performance?
Both personality and reasoning tools are important. I wouldn’t want to recommend a person with a suitable personality profile to a senior position if I am not convinced that the person will be able to deal with relatively complex thinking and logic, which a reasoning test would indicate. Nor would I want to recommend a person based on excellent reasoning ability if I am not sure whether the person’s personality traits will match the nature of the role.
In conclusion: while a personality questionnaire and measure of reasoning may be the minimum for predicting work success, they merely serve as the foundation for psychometric assessment. Additional assessments may be required to determine leadership competence or the ability to deal with complexity.
Want to find out more about psychometric testing and how it can help your organization? Download our e-book on Guidelines for Ethical Psychological Assessment by clicking here.
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