Psychometric tests have existed since the beginning of the 20th century. In the past 25–30 years they have been brought into widespread use in industry because of the need of employers to ensure that they place the right people in the right job from the outset. One of the main reasons for this is the high cost of errors, including the need to re-advertise and interview new applicants, and reinvestment in training.
The British Psychological Society defines a psychometric test as: 'an instrument designed to produce a quantitive assessment of some psychological attribute or attributes'.
The use of psychometric testing in selection is now well established, and it can be used to provide objective information about different areas of candidates' skills, for example, the extent of their knowledge, motivations, personality and potential.
The two main types of psychometric tests used are personality questionnaires and aptitude tests.
Personality refers to the patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour that are unique to every one of us, and these are the characteristics that distinguish us from other people. Our personality implies the predictability of how we are likely to act or react under different circumstances.
In reality, of course, nothing is that simple and our reactions to situations are never so predictable. In many ways, the word personality defies a simple definition, so broad is its usage.