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Commitment issues: 4 things you need to know before buying a psychometric assessment

August 18, 2023

In today’s world, we all understand the importance of data. Having tangible, objective facts and figures to inform your decision-making process is invaluable for every part of the business, and that includes recruitment. But how do you quantify something as unquantifiable as a human being?

Luckily, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Psychologists have been working tirelessly for decades to unlock the secrets to job performance, and psychometrics are now extremely good at predicting whether a potential hire is a great fit for the organisation and the role. But, like anything else, there are risks — some psychometric assessments don’t actually follow the science, and instead give you an inaccurate picture that could truly harm your business.

So, what should you look out for when purchasing an evaluation?

What are psychometrics?

Put simply, a psychometric is a psychological measurement — as you can tell from the name. In other words, these assessments attempt to measure cognition, ability, skill, or personality. Psychometrics is particularly concerned with the question of how psychological traits and behaviours (referred to as ‘constructs’) can be best related to what is being tested (in our case, job performance).

Psychometrics is a vigorous research field, usually run by psychologists, and combines psychology, analytics, statistics, and behavioural science to try to quantify human characteristics. As you can imagine, this is very difficult to do, and that’s why purchasing a psychometric assessment from an unreliable provider is risky.

Further reading: The history of psychometrics

What should I look for before choosing a psychometric assessment for an organisation?

Before you commit to a provider, we highly recommend you ask some questions about the scientific approach taken by the designers of the assessment. For your convenience, you can download a complete printable checklist to support you on your call with a potential provider.

Here are the top four concepts you should understand before committing.

1. Highlight reliability and validity

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this. We cannot stress enough how important reliability and validity are. Without them, the entire assessment is quite literally useless.

Validity is the degree to which the assessment measures what it claims to measure. It’s the answer to the question ‘to what extent do the results of this test indicate what they purport to measure?’. For our purposes, this means ‘does the test actually measure the personality or cognitive ability of your potential hire?’.

Reliability, on the other hand, is the potential of the assessment to reproduce a result consistently. So, it asks the question, ‘if the same candidate took the test again at a different time or under other conditions, would their results still be similar?’.

Both of these terms are integral to the scientific process of designing experiments and tests generally, and particularly in psychometrics, and take a long time to measure. Unfortunately, the psychometric test market includes a number of companies that sell assessments that have not been scientifically proven as valid and reliable, so it’s of the utmost importance to research the company and ask them for information on this — if they have scientific proof, they’ll be happy to provide it.

2. Make sure it is generalisable to your target population

People are beautifully different. It’s likely that your pool of candidates will come from a variety of backgrounds, genders, orientations, and abilities — that’s why you must make sure that your assessment is relevant to every slice of the population. If the assessment you’re considering isn’t generalisable to your target audience, you’re going to get inaccurate and confusing results that don’t truly reflect the abilities and personality of your hires. 

More importantly, it can lead to biased decisions, which is exactly one of the factors that psychometric evaluations try to help you avoid in the first place. Ask your provider if they have included minorities in the earlier phases of test calibration, as well as sensitivity tests of potential scoring bias. 

If your target audience includes more than one location and language, this becomes even more significant. Ask your potential provider if they’ve made any adaptations to the assessment that are relevant to the languages and locations you’re hiring in. This is beyond just translation, as it’s not about changing the language but ensuring that the target audience truly understands the essence of every question — personality traits can be different in different cultures.

3. Check that it is based on scientifically-proven psychological theories

As previously mentioned, psychometrics is not a new field of study. It’s been researched for decades and many scientifically-proven theories of personality have blossomed out of this. They have robust literature around them, studies that have been conducted, and research that made them stand tall in the scientific community.

Currently, the most respected theory for the purposes of hiring, recruitment, and HR is the Big-Five model, so it’s a green flag if your provider relies on it. However, there are other theories that could still suffice, as long as your provider can direct you to a scientific model they based their assessment on, and your research shows that it’s valid.

4. Understand that assessments are not perfect

Nothing’s perfect. It would be wrong to expect one assessment to be able to tell you every single thing you need to know about a human being. When you purchase an assessment, you should be aware of its flaws — each one has them. But it’s more than that. Even if the assessment managed to capture a candidate perfectly, you still shouldn’t make an important decision such as hiring or not hiring someone solely based on a test of any kind.

Psychometric evaluations are invaluable in the early stages of decision-making, giving you a bird’s-eye view of a candidate and informing your assessment of them. But they should always come hand-in-hand with other methods — behavioural capacity assessments, technical competency, and structured interviews.

We recommend using the results of the psychometric assessment to inform the interview questions. The Thrive platform does this automatically: after a candidate completes the evaluation, your report will give you questions you should ask based on the weaknesses presented, to allow you to get a fuller understanding of how they handle challenges.

If you want to learn more about how Thrive’s psychometric assessment can help your business, book a demo with us today.

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