Common questions about psychological testing

How do I safeguard against discrimination in recruiting?

While there are other ways to avoid discrimination, such as anonymizing resumés/CVs and emphasizing diversity in advertising and candidate searches, our focus is on safeguarding against discrimination with recruitment testing.

Testing can be used to support an anonymous application process without the risk of discrimination on the basis of age, gender, or ethnicity.  Testing can be administered with identification codes so that an applicant’s name and age are not visible to the decision maker.

Many studies have shown that ability testing has particularly good predictability for career success.  However, non-native speakers may experience problems with verbal ability tests.  To solve this problem, numerical and visual tests are available that produce data based on the test taker’s reasoning about visual elements.  These tests do not require a native level of fluency, and the same comparative values can be used for both native and non-native speakers since the data produced is accurate for both.  One example is g-fair, a figural reasoning test from Psytest, designed for fair testing.  It consists of visual elements and does not require advanced language comprehension.  G-fair consists of 40 tasks and takes 20 minutes to complete.  Other examples are g-fig (a shorter figural reasoning test) and g-num (a numerical reasoning test).

I would like to use personality testing and/or ability testing for recruitment. How do I get started quickly?

Second Opinion
A second opinion, a consulting service that can be delivered quickly, is a wise and secure recruitment tool. Psytest can provide this service or connect you with other certified test users who can also offer it.

Analysis Direct
If you want to manage the test yourself, Psytest’s Analysis Direct, an affordable expert assessment system, provides a short “Digitized Second Opinion.” Analysis Direct is an automated expert interpretation of the Big Five personality test, BP Basic Profile, which is quality-approved and recommended by the Swedish Foundation for Applied Psychology. Through a separate account in the web-based testing system, you can easily send links to test takers. Once they have completed the test, you can immediately generate an expert second opinion. To use Analysis Direct, you must be a documented professional in recruitment, professional development, and/or human resources.

How do I become a certified test user?

To conduct psychological testing independently, you should understand the methodology behind psychological measurements in general and a specific test in particular.  This understanding is achieved by attending a training course to become a certified test user.  The certification process offers your own personalized training and develops your ability to test independently and interpret the results.  Read more about Psytest’s certification program here.

What is the Big Five model in personality testing?

There are many test scales that measure hundreds of aspects of personality.  Fortunately, many decades of research have gone into bringing order to this vast conceptual world.  These efforts have demonstrated that the overall personality is best described in five broad dimensions, the Big Five model, developed by McRae and Costa. 

The Big Five model provides insight into a person’s personality based on the following five dimensions: 

Conscientiousness:  A high C value means that a person strongly focuses his or her energy on single goals, while those with a low C value prefer a spontaneous lifestyle and focus among many different goals and tasks. 

Extraversion:  A person with a high E value loves to be among people, at the centre of events, while a person with a low E value is most comfortable in a quieter, more low-key environment. 

Openness to experiences:  A high O value means that a person has a great appetite for new ideas and experiences and is often quickly bored by routine.  People with a low O value enjoy the tried-and-true and are more conventional in their mindset. 

Neuroticism:  A person with a high N value is sensitive and prefers a low-stress work environment.  A person with a low N value is calm and collected in stressful situations. 

Agreeableness:  A person with a high A value has a pronounced tendency to adapt to other people’s wishes and needs.  A person with a low A value focuses more on his or her own priorities. 

Each of these broad dimensions may involve a number of different subscores.  In general, however, personality tests measure the dimensions above.  Even if the scales in the test have different names than those mentioned above, they still focus on measuring similar areas. . Because recent research indicates that it is often better to use sub-dimensions for some of the Big Five factors rather than the Big Five factors themselves, the BP Basic Profile has integrated this methodology.

How can I use personality tests in coaching and career development?

The career development process begins with the person taking a personality and/or leadership test.  Then a subsequent conversation, based on the results of the test, provides feedback about the person’s resources and self-awareness, whether the goals and expectations are realistic, and the person’s willingness to change.  In leadership development, the person can fill in a requirement specification before taking the test.  This form creates a common ground to work from.  A joint action plan then identifies areas to address and how; strengths to build on, areas to improve upon, and the resources and steps necessary to do so.  A date is then set when the person’s progress is evaluated.

How can I link the results of a personality test to work requirements?

You can create a work-requirement analysis and a work-requirement profile for any position.  The applicant’s test result is then compared to the profile.  (See also the answer below.)

How do I create a work-requirement profile that can be used as a basis for testing?

If you use Psytest’s BP Basic Profile, simply access the form “Work requirement analysis for BP-Basic Profile,” available at no extra charge.  This way, you can assess what personality traits are desirable in light of a position’s demands.  Once you assess a range of scales that correspond to those of the test, you can access your work-requirement profile.  This profile can then easily be compared to a person’s values on the BP Basic Profile for an accurate analysis.

How does a leadership test measure leadership style?

The LSI Leadership Inventory shows a manager’s leadership style, which is how a person works in a leadership role. It is structured as a personality test, but the questions measure how the person acts and thinks as a leader in different situations and contexts, both with staff and supervisors. The LSI is, therefore, specially developed for managers and leaders and can be used in both recruitment and leadership development.

How do I measure basic leadership potential?

Since the LSI Leadership Style Inventory has been developed for people with at least some leadership experience, it is not suitable for assessing basic leadership potential.  Instead, the BP Basic Profile is used in combination with ability tests.  Surveys suggest that ability tests show good predictability for success in complex professions.  From the BP Basic Profile result, an expert report, which includes a leadership-potential score produced by a scientifically-based algorithm, can be obtained. 

Being a leader, executive, or manager requires juggling complex situations and quickly assimilating to new information.  Leaders need to be innovative and flexible, with sound communication skills.  Psytest’s Ability Tests are particularly useful in assessing a candidate’s aptitude for a leadership role.

Why should I test ability when recruiting?

The higher the demand for leaders to handle complexity and quickly process new information, the greater the benefit of ability testing and career counseling.  Ability tests are also very useful in assessing the potential for development.

In a well-known article published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology:  Practical and Theoretical Implication of 85 Years of Research Findings,” Frank L. Schmidt and John E. Hunter (1998) present the results of a large-scale meta-analysis, a study summarizing the results of many individual studies.  Schmidt and Hunter’s objective was to assess the predictive validity of different selection procedures in recruitment, that is, how well an individual’s work performance could be predicted by using the respective selection procedure.  The results were the following:

(Validity values are correlation coefficients, i.e., at 1.0, an entirely positive correlation exists between the observed variables.  At a correlation of 0.0, there is no connection at all, so the method cannot at all predict professional achievement.) 

GMA tests:  .51
Work sample tests: .54
Integrity tests:  .41
Conscientiousness tests (Personality test scale):  .31
Employment interviews (Structured):  .51
Employment interviews (Unstructured):  .38
Job knowledge tests:  .48
Job try-out procedure: .44
Peer ratings:  .49
T & E behavioural consistency method:  .45
Reference checks:  .26
Job experience (years):  .18
Biographical data measures:  .35
Assessment centres:  .37
T & E point method:  .11
Years of education:  .10
Interests:  .10
Graphology:  .02
Age:  .01

In summary, Schmidt and Hunter recommend either GMA tests (IQ tests) plus a structured interview or GMA tests plus integrity tests.  An integrity test is a personality test that measures a blend of the dimensions conscientiousness, kindness, and stability.

Therefore, the research proposes using psychological testing methods to optimize the prediction of professional performance.  Schmidt and Hunter, as well as many other researchers, demonstrate that using test technicians can provide significant financial benefits.

What does an ability test measure?

Most ability tests are designed to measure what is commonly called “intelligence” or specific aspects of intelligence.  The tests have in common that they consist of questions (items) whose solutions require abstract logical thinking.  The questions may have numerical, verbal or figural content.

Can I trust the results of personality tests? Are they reliable? Do they really measure what they are supposed to?

First, there are scientific quality criteria that measure the reliability and validity of the test.  Reliability is the precision of measurement.  Validity refers to whether a test actually measures the quality it claims to measure.  Reliability and validity values are presented in test manuals, which include suggested limits for how high these scores should be.  The limits for these scores are reflected in the international EFPA criteria. 

Another issue is that candidates, especially in recruitment situations, may sometimes try to enhance their personality profile, for instance by overemphasizing their strengths.  There are several ways to counteract this phenomenon – they include adjusting the way testing instructions are given or how the test questions themselves are constructed.  Scales are also available to measure the response tendency and generate useful correlations afterward.

Can I customize a test by adjusting the questions and the length of the test to fit my specific needs?

Psytest Builder is a new tool that incorporates modern technology to provide ready-to-use building blocks for constructing your own unique tests.  These building blocks are scales from classic, well-proven test methods and newly-developed psychometrically-proven standardized scales that measure new and exciting areas.  You choose which scales will be included and how long the test will be, based on what is important to measure in the current situation.  For example, you can build a shorter test suitable for screening or a more extensive test as a basis for recruitment and personal, professional or leadership development.  Only what is relevant to your context and situation is tested.  You can even name the test and apply your own organisation’s logo.

When is unsupervised testing appropriate?

Only supervised testing can guarantee that the actual applicant is taking the test and that there is a quiet and undisturbed testing environment.  However, there are a number of clear, practical advantages to allowing candidates to test from home.  In fact, unsupervised personality and leadership testing is an established practice since the motivation to seek help is presumably not present in self-assessment tests, for which there are no right or wrong answers.  Even ability tests are sometimes taken from home.  In this case, some form of reassessment at a later stage in the recruitment process is recommended, and this requirement should be communicated to candidates in advance.

Does training for an ability test raise the score?

For almost everything you practice, there is a learning curve, and this also applies to ability testing.  With practice, you can expect a certain improvement, especially the first time you take an ability test.  Eventually, though, the learning curve reaches a plateau.  (One might compare this process to the free distribution of old university tests:  everyone is given the opportunity to practice and place a bit nearer the peak of the learning curve.)