Conforming or Conscientious? When Personality Pays: Google 'Psychometric Assessment' or 'Personality Profile' and You Will Find Literally Hundreds of Different Tests Available. the Use of These Tests Is Growing and Not Just in Recruitment. Helen Tatham Investigates Some of the Many Tests Available, Their Application and Whether It's Possible to Cheat

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Psychometric testing or personality profiling, in its basic form, is the use of questionnaires to investigate personal preferences. Many companies are familiar with their use in recruitment but now businesses are becoming smarter and starting to take ownership of the process. In this way they maximise the value of the tests. Some develop their own tests unique to their organisation so they can be used to best effect. A recent development is the ability to conduct research using the tests to demonstrate how they can add value to a business in dollar terms.

While psychometric tests can be purchased from companies which develop or administer them as a speciality, recruitment agency Drake International is one which has developed its own psychometric tests which every candidate applying for jobs through the company must take.

The Drake Predictive Personality Profile (or P3) measures five personality traits--dominance, extroversion, patience, conformity and conscientiousness. Drake's Picasso assessment is targeted to higher level executive roles and consists of 38 different traits. SPQ Gold is specific to sales roles.

Drake HR solutions manager Sally Cannan says most people leave an organisation because of a personality miss-fit or clash. The Drake tools help to recruit the right person for a particular role.

However, most recruitment companies are quick to point out that they would never use the results of psychometric or personality tests to make hiring and firing decisions. They are seen as just one part of the recruitment toolbox.

Madison's national manager of organisational development, Julie Cressey, explains that the tests help to get a more rounded picture of candidates. Madison is another recruitment agency that has formulated its own model, the Madison Predictor test, from others in a range developed by PreVisor. Cressey describes it as an integrated psychometric tool which includes cognitive measures, abilities and personality preferences. Madison also uses tests known as Opra and SHL.

Cressey says the tests provide further guidance about what to be asking and probing on in interviews and reference checks.

"Often we find it can further validate what a client already feels about a candidate."

As psychometric tests are becoming more widely used, candidates are expecting to sit them at some stage during the job application process, especially for roles at management level. Many are surprised if they are not asked to complete a test. Most people react positively to being asked to do a test or assessment. It is their opportunity to prove they can do the job for which they have applied.

Registered psychologist and director of QED Services Jean de Bruyne believes the use of psychometric tests and personality profiling is becoming more popular due to the tight labour market.

"I believe it is growing in popularity because it is very hard to find the right person [for a role]. We want to know as much as we can about the person before we make an employment offer because once they come into your business it is hard to get rid of them," de Bruyne says.

Organisation psychologist and partner at Winsborough, Gus McIntosh holds the same opinion.

"Hiring an employee is like buying a house. The front door is locked and you cannot see inside without squashing your nose up to the window. But if the blinds are down, you can't see. Psychometric tests are like the key to the front door.

"Let's face it, most people want to get in there and have a poke around. They want to see if the house has rooms that will suit the purpose."

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Herrmann International NZ director Wayne Goodley believes psychometric testing can be used to make hiring and firing decisions. He points out that it is sometimes critical for a person to share the same thinking style as an employee with whom they work closely. …