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The Pragyan Blog

Science Behind Psychometric Tests

Resume + Interview = Perfect Candidate… or is there more to it?

Companies usually resort to technical tests to evaluate candidates. Source: Business Advice

In the modern-day corporate world, there are certain job requirements that are needed regardless of the position being applied for. Most companies look for interpersonal and applied skills, commonly referred to as “21st-century skills” or “soft skills”. These skills define our interactive dexterity and the ability to reflect on our life experiences so as to perform better in the workplace. Some of these skills include communication, teamwork and collaboration, self-management and initiative, critical and creative thinking, etc. Various companies have distinct ways of approaching the above-stated skill requirements. While many companies resort to standard aptitude tests, knowledge-based tests, group discussions, and/or personal interviews as their critical cut-off processes, there are some who bank on psychometric tests.

Aptitude tests — an outdated concept?

Aptitude tests have lost much of its significance, as the competitive world we live in, has boiled down the tests to memorizing and applying formulae. It considers the way an individual has fared so far in his/her previous examinations, thus failing to assess his/her competence of coming up with creative solutions to different problems. It has merely been restricted to equations, grades and scores without delving into the more pragmatic skills that will be required while in a job. Moreover, these tests are time-consuming and require to be updated in accordance with the company’s needs. Candidates may get stressed or apprehensive while taking such tests, which can have a direct effect on the outcome.

On the other hand, psychometric tests have gained a lot of traction in the sphere of placements and internships. The term ‘psychometric’ is an abbreviation for ‘psychological measurements’. They are an upgrade over the standard testing methodologies and aid in bringing objectivity to the unstructured filtering processes, which largely fail to unravel many of the crucial aspects of an individual. Extraction of elements which cannot be reviewed efficiently during Personal Interviews is also accomplished by using psychometric tests. They help in envisaging the sustainability of the various candidates and the manner in which they respond to challenging situations at work.

How it all started

The existence of the psychometric tests can be traced back to the early twentieth century when the first laboratory dedicated to this subject was set up at the University of Cambridge by James McKeen Cattell. He aimed to gauge capabilities including reaction time, colour naming, memory and attention. This was followed by Alfred Binet designing the first ever intelligence test in the year 1905. Since then, the popularity of these tests has been on the surge, resulting in these tests to be best described as a standardised set of assessments that evaluate human behaviour and present it in the form of scores and categories. Sometimes these tests are used in conjunction with face-to-face interviews and generally form a determinative part of the selection procedure. These tests are conducted by companies, mainly to bring multitudinous benefits to HR processes ranging from mitigating bias to filtering out candidates, and a lot more. Improvement in the quality of the candidates and reduction in the employee turnover is observed as a result of adding psychometric tests in the selection procedure.

Psychometric tests form a determinative part of the selection procedure. Source: RateMyApprenticeship

Unraveling the unseen

The Iceberg model says that every individual has two layers to themselves. The first being the discernible trait layer and the other called as the indiscernible trait layer. The discernible trait layer consists of the easily visible cultural elements that can be understood by various levels of face to face interactions. The indiscernible trait layers are the invisible cultural elements that are observable only when the employee is performing in the workplace. Psychometric tests help in analysing these indiscernible traits of an individual, thus testing his ability to handle situations which cannot be evaluated solely through aptitude tests. While some psychometric tests highlight a candidate’s innate strengths such as literacy and numeracy, there are others that assess one’s creative abilities and decision-making skills.

Reading the man, not what he read

Psychometric tests can be broadly branched off into two major categories, namely ability test and personality and attitude test. These tests are made unbiased by using standard methods of assessment such that everyone is provided with the same set of questions and instructions. Moreover, the time taken to answer each question, is noted. This allows candidates to be assessed on how well they cope with time pressure. The results of a psychometric test indicate the extent to which the candidates’ personality and cognitive abilities match those required to perform the role. According to assessment consultants, such tests help companies in looking for candidates that will best suit the requirements for a specific job. This saves a substantial amount of money, thus increasing profitability in the long run. They give an insight into the working style of a candidate and the manner in which he/she responds to the work environment and fellow employees. According to a research, 81% of those using psychometric tools were likely to take less risky decisions and were more reliable and 57% believed that they could help in anticipating future performances. A candidate can have all the right details on his/her CV and perform well in his interviews, but he/she might be hiding certain qualities that might bring down his/her performance at the workplace. Moreover, not everyone has the skills to perform exceptionally well in interviews. Psychometric tests ensure that such candidates can demonstrate that they have what it takes to be successful in a position even if they don’t necessarily shine in the interview stage.

An individual has much more to him/her than what his/her CV says. Source: Mettl Blog

While aptitude tests, personal interviews and CVs do paint a picture of the candidate, recruiters use psychometric tests to procure a full candidate profile. In other words, psychometric tests judge a person holistically and thus help in identifying the perfect fit for a particular job.

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