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Psychometric testing: a focus on personality testing

Opinion Written by Sue Berry on 28th September 2012. Reading time: 3 minutes

testingThere are four primary instruments that should be used to conduct a robust selection process during recruitment - the aptitude test, the personality profile, work sample tests and a structured interview. Psychometric testing in recruitment and selection: a focus on personality tests.

Personality

Personality means different things to different groups of people. The everyday user will use the term to refer to the emotions, attitudes and behaviours which they observe in a person. Terms such as "she has a bubbly personality" or "she's very reserved" will be used to describe somebody. These descriptions are based on subjective observations not research.

Psychologists defined personality in a different way. There is no single definition of the term but what is agreed is that the definition should be 'scientific'. This means that the definition should be based on, and supported by, models which can explain or predict behaviour in some way.

Tool Quality

Personality assessment tools fall into two broad categories: psychologist-supported instruments and practitioner-supported tools. Users of the psychologist-supported tools cannot use the tools unless they have received training accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and passed the associated assessment. Users of other tools often need no training. This division reflects the argument that rages about which tools are best. As a broad guide, managers wanting to benefit from personality assessment should always seek services from BPS-accredited providers.

The psychologist, and accredited test user, makes the following key assumptions:

  • personality relates to what people do, or what they experience;
  • personality exists, it's not simply a label used to explain behaviour; and
  • personality is fixed and enduring. This means that a person’s ‘core’ personality is relatively permanent but some modifications of behaviour might occur based on the situation in which the person finds himself or herself in.

Personality as Behaviour

Personality profiles indicate a person's characteristic pattern of behaviour (thinking, feeling and coping). Personality is assessed using a test. The person taking the test answers a set of questions, re answers to which are analysed to provide the end report. Some critics claim that an individual can ‘rig’ the results based on what they believe an employer is looking for in their ‘ideal’ candidate. The tests are constructed in such a way that they can determine if somebody unduly biases their answers. Such distortion of responses is apparent and will likely be discussed with candidates at interview.

The key to using personality tests in the recruitment process is to ensure that the correct personality assessment tool is used for the correct reason. There are a wide range of tools available, but by using the correct tool to assess candidates against the ‘ideal’ person for the role testing becomes an integral part of the recruitment process along with work based samples.

Psychometric testing in recruitment and selection

In our experience, clients who start to use aptitude and personality testing see the advantage the first time they use such a tool. In a recent piece of work undertaken by TimelessTime one client MD said “I never realised I needed the tests. It would not have been possible to select the best candidate from the CV’s and interviews alone. The interview question-prompts provided as part of the report proved invaluable”.

So what information do you get in the report? A full report will include a personality assessment of:

  • how candidates interact with others,
  • how they approach problems,
  • how they deal with work pressures, and
  • their behavioural style as a team member, as a team leader, as a subordinate and how they influence others.

Recruitment is never easy. Getting selection wrong can be very costly for any organisation. By using a range of tools including work sample tests, aptitude tests, personality assessments and structured interviews it is possible to design a robust recruitment and selection process which will ensure that you recruit the best person for the role.

Look out for further blogs that will talk about other aspects of recruitment including ability testing. If you would like to discuss the use of personality assessment in your recruitment process then give us a call.


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