Interpreting psychometrics

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Psychometric TestingPsychometric testing has a very special place in the selection process. It assesses aspects of a candidate that can’t be assessed any other way.

It’s impossible to sense another person’s personality (like character, temperament, disposition) in any quantitative way. And personality is a key factor of performance in the job.

It’s also impossible to determine a candidate’s intelligence quantitatively. Yet intelligence is a key indicator of a person’s ability to excel.

And, people enter careers for many reasons. Some are well suited to the careers they choose. Some are not.

Psychometrics illustrates career themes and the degree of match between a person’s personality and the job they choose to do.

So, this post gives guidance on interpreting psychometrics.

Organisational psychologists, such as TimelessTime, develop, administer and assess psychometric tests. But how should managers interpret the results? Managers must work with their consultant and rely on them. This post discusses three key considerations.


The key thing is to read the test report provided by your consultant.

There are two key points in that report. The first is that general mental ability or ‘g’ is the single best predictor of performance in a job. It is also an important predictor of the ability to learn.

General mental ability and its three sub-elements (numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning) is reported on using a Stanine score. Stanine scoring is a method of scaling test scores in order to compare respondents’ scores with others. It is a nine-point scale with the mean of 5 and a standard deviation of 2.

Most managers would want the people that work for them to be of at least average intelligence, if not above average, compared to other workers in the same type of jobs.

Managers should therefore seek a Stanine score in the range 5-8 for ‘g’ and its components when compared to the appropriate test group. Typically candidates working on original and conceptual work such as engineers, scientists, mathematicians, doctors and economists would be expected to be in the upper end of this range. Those in more directed and standardised roles would be in the lower end.

Managers who proceed to appoint a candidate who scores below average should beware.


The second key attribute of a person is their personality and this is second point in your consultant’s report. Your consultant will have worked with you beforehand to develop the ideal personality profile given the job to be done. All personality reports should therefore be referenced to that ideal.

The personality test reports a single numeric value known as the profile similarity. This lies in the range 0 to 1 and is a correlation coefficient relating ideal and actual. In reality, most profiles of people that are a good fit for a job come out pretty close to the ideal in the range 0.5 – 0.7. This is caused by self-selection: for example, people who have personalities that suit engineering tend to select engineering as a career.

What matters with personality is that major deviations from that deemed ideal are identified and discussed. Here are two examples.

First, it is possible for someone have low intellectance. Intellectance is the desire to make use of what intelligence one has. It’s not intelligence itself. Someone of low intellectance would likely be reluctant to engage with new learning and reluctant to use the mental models needed to envision how to excel in a new job. If this is reported, it should be investigated at interview.

Second, if someone is highly restrained, they may be very reluctant to enter casual discussion. Many jobs need staff to spontaneously talk to colleagues and customers. Extreme constraint often blocks that spontaneity: the person prefers to think a lot in advance about what they are going to say. If extreme restraint is reported, it should be investigated at interview.

These two examples show the procedure for any extremes in personality that deviate from the ideal and worry managers. Managers who proceed to appoint candidates who have confirmed major deviations from the ideal personality developed for the role should beware.

Whilst there is no such thing as a dysfunctional personality, it is easy to recruit someone with a personality ill-suited to a role, and this idea is developed further below.

Career Themes

Career themes provide a match between a person’s personality profile and broad occupational groups he or she may be suited to.  The score illustrates empathy between the person and the job environment but does not take account of interests, aptitude, qualifications or work experience.

For example, those scoring high in a social theme tend to do well in charitable work, involving caring for the elderly, children with special needs, counselling, teaching and assisting others to achieve their potential.  Those scoring high in an investigative theme tend to do well in jobs involving manipulation of ideas and scientific principles.

The degree of fit between personality and environment in a person’s career themes illustrates commitment to that career and predicts higher engagement and motivation in it. Managers who proceed to appoint candidates to careers for which they are ill-matched should beware.

Reaching Conclusions

Psychometrics are major aids to decision-making in selection. One could just appoint on ‘g’ and personality alone. But generally most managers want more. They also want other evidence to allow them to predict who can best do the job and develop work sample tests and scenario questions at interview.

Psychometrics can be use in two ways. Firstly, they can be used as a bar. Only those clearing the bar (for example, by getting above average ‘g’ and having a good personality fit) proceed to interview and work sample testing. Secondly, the psychometrics can be scored and aggregated with other testing to give an overall mark.

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