The different kinds of psychometric tests

There is a psychometric instrument for evaluating all key personality traits from decisiveness and teamwork through to aptitudes like complex thinking and numerical skills. There are profiles used for measuring mental attributes that are applicable both in a team and on a personal level. Whether you want to find out a person’s maximum or their average, the circumstance and subject matter of tests can alter dramatically.

Personality, ability and competence tests

Personality questionnaires are used to evaluate how people prefer to act in a work environment and look at traits related to job performance, such as learning styles, motivating factors and tolerances. If a person is happy focusing on a task or engaging a particular skill, this is beneficial to them and whoever employs them. If somebody is wired to do the job they are chasing, they will progress and perform at the best possible rate.

Before studying personalities though, organisations typically run ability tests. These tend to reveal the most about a person’s potential job performance and typically test logical, verbal and numerical reasoning. There are other areas and more specific focuses within and beyond these categories, but most ability tests are tailored to examine how people tackle problems, Interpret communications and dissect numerical data respectively.

Personality tests look at typical performance when there are no wrong answers.

Simon Kerevan, Iceberg Consulting

Competency-based assessments are similar to ability tests in many ways, but focus on more specific skills and knowledge used in a position rather than on general skillsets. They are typically used to help identify candidates who are most suitable for a role, often as a way of shortlisting a large quantity of applications. Both competence and ability tests generally have pass requirements rather than the information focus of personality tests.

Individual and team profiling

Within the field of psychometrics there are many different models and instruments focused on various elements of the human mind. There are numerous organisations that conduct research into personality types and provide the frameworks used to identify them. Among these different tests and perspectives, there are assessments built to focus purely on individuals or on their place within a wider team.


Individual profiling typically looks a person’s skills, characteristics and traits. It is particularly useful for recruitment and can help to highlight behavioural differences in applicants, enabling businesses to approach those that tick the right boxes. An example of a personal assessment tool focused on individuals is the DiSC Profile, a profiling system that helps assessors to improve productivity, teamwork and communication.

The DiSC model uses test results to categorise people into D, i, S and C personality types, as well as combinations of two where applicable. These types are defined by dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness respectively. A driven, straightforward person who is good at building relationships would be a Di, while a CS type would be reserved and cooperative.

Every person will have valuable characteristics and individual profiling can be used to identify them.

Team profiling is ideal for identifying the strengths and weaknesses within a team, and requires a different approach than merely forcing individual results together. It is a great way to analyse established teams, as well as helping individuals thrive within larger groups. It does this by measuring the behavioural strengths and weaknesses of a team and defining the roles held by people with it. The Belbin Team Roles are one example of this. Belbin suggest there are 9 team roles that are essential to the dynamics of a business or project, and help businesses identify them. The roles are:

  • Plant
  • Monitor Evaluator
  • Coordinator
  • Resource Investigator
  • Implementer
  • Complete Finisher
  • Team Worker
  • Shaper
  • Specialist

Other than the Plant, who is a creative thinker and problem solver, the majority of these are self-explanatory and cover every team role from the investigative through to the organisation. Profiling like this is useful not only for evaluating a team and their positions, but when measuring up new hires. By strengthening a weakness in a team, it is possible to make all the parts better.

Businesses can use team profiling to find specific people and learn ways to communicate with different types.

While Belbin and DISC are two specific examples, they highlight the different approaches even similarly pitched tests can take. Other companies will have different terminologies, criteria and messaging, but the overall concerns and outcomes are similar. By identifying people’s strengths and their place within a team, companies can ensure their staff work in a way that’s suited to them.

There will be a suitable psychometric test for most staffing decisions, but there are several misconceptions about them.

What are the misconceptions?