Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Nuts and Bolts of Psychometric Assessments

The use of psychometrics has been around in some way, shape or form a great deal longer than their prevalence in the twentieth century. It has particularly been gaining popularity in its use in organizational development and talent management in the recent decades. But with increased use, and increased supply of different psychometric tools in the market, is also increased confusion and ambiguity due to too many choices. This article will address three most commonly asked questions in an attempt to demystify the concept and enhance understanding of psychometrics: What is a psychometric test, how does it help organizations, and how effective is its use?

So what is a psychometric test? ‘Psychometrics’ is generally defined as the measure of one or several aspects of human psychology, personality, aptitude, behavior or intelligence of an individual or group. This usually entails the measurement of knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, as well as personality traits in some score or scale. For practical purposes they are referred to as personality profiles, assessment tests, screening tools and behavior profiles.

Although there are many variations, and multiple applications of psychometric assessments, there are two main forms of psychometric tools used by organizations today: ipsative and normative. Ipsative assessment tools are self-reporting (measured against the ‘self,’ rather than someone else or a group), report what individuals consider themselves to be better at than another (from two or more options, sometimes referred to as forced choice), without necessarily comparing these traits with a normed group or benchmark. They provide information for personal development and team development where individuals can understand themselves and one another by learning about each other - examples: Myers Briggs*, DISC**. Many of the ipsative assessments in the market today are a variation of the DISC model that subscribes to the four main quadrants of human behavior (substituting colors, animals, and other descriptors to differentiate from the DISC acronym). Normative tests or tools, on the other hand, assess the traits of an individual against a specified group or population (or normed group), making them relevant and highly effective for the selection, placement and development process due to their predictive and comparative quality (measured against ‘another’). Notably, the most valuable function of an assessment instrument for selection is its predictive validity in terms of organizational effectiveness. The U.S. Department of Labor advocates the use of employment assessments that assess skills with fit for jobs, so long as they do not cause bias based on gender, ethnicity, or age.
How does Psychometrics help the organization? In the context of organizational development or recruitment function, assessments are widely used to assess core competencies of individuals to identify their personality, behavioral traits or cognitive abilities to determine if these will prove conducive to the successful performance of a job, besides the critical requirements such as qualifications, education, experience or certification found on resumes. Assessments are largely used either as a composite of the recruitment process, as an employee development initiative, or some combination of the two. Overall, assessments are now an integral part of the talent management process contributing to managing the multiple stages of the employee life cycle.  When used for recruiting however, as a rule of thumb, normative assessments should not be the basis of the entire selection decision, rather, should augment the screening of resumes and an in-depth interview process. For ipsative tools, such as DISC or Myers Briggs, their use should facilitate communication, better understanding, and team development. 
Finally, how effective is the use? To address this question, it is important to evaluate what you wish to achieve; is it to gain better understanding between individuals to facilitate communication and harmony, or to predict success of performance? The effectiveness of any tool is largely a function of 1) its construct, and 2) its understanding, proper implementation, and uniform application which can result in lowering of hiring costs, turnover, and increasing productivity. Ultimately, the key questions to ask when considering using a psychometric/assessment instrument are: Is it valid (i.e. what does it measure, and does it measure what it says it measures), is it reliable (i.e. does it measure it consistently?), and, is it relevant (i.e. does it address the identified and stated needs)? Most importantly, in the selection, placement and development of employees, reliability and validity should be augmented by the predictive validity of the instrument. It is important to remember that psychometric assessments are not designed to pigeonhole people into neat little labeled categories with broad, sweeping generalizations. There is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ with behavioral assessments. They are designed to gain better understanding of people’s drives, behaviors and fit that facilitate effective communication and enhanced job performance. 

*Myers Briggs assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions based on original typological theories by Carl Jung, and later adapted by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers for organizational use, which categorized four basic psychological functions: sensation, intuition (rational or judging), feeling, and thinking (irrational or perceiving). These 8 types or indicators (creating 16 possible type combinations), expressed in an introverted or extroverted form are identified as follows:
Extroversion (E), Sensing (S), Thinking (T), Judgment (J)
Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Perception (P)

** DISC is an acronym for:
Dominance/Drive- relating to control, power and assertiveness
Inducement/Influence – relating to social situations and communication
Submission/Steadiness – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
Compliance/ Conscientiousness – relating to structure and organization

For additional information, sample reports, or to request information on types of assessments available, and sample assessments reports, please visit our website at or email Seema Rafay at


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Benefits of Behavioral Based Interviews

Picture this: You have posted job vacancies. You need to fill them with top performers, and you need to fill them fast. You have just gone through a myriad of resumes, combed through as many as possible and finally pulled a few gems. Now if only these applicants turn out to be the stellar employees their resumes, applications and interviews promise to be -  because the last time you hired those perfect candidates, they showed up to work impersonating someone else! So how can you really tell? How do you predict future performance? 

To begin with, let’s put the process in perspective. The hiring and selection process can be described as having two main elements: the tangible and the intangible. When you have scanned through an applicant’s resume, screened the basic but required competencies and checked out the prerequisite occupational qualifications, such as education, certifications, training and experience -the tangible fit - you proceed to invite the applicant in for a personal or telephonic interview. This is to ascertain the intangible fit such as attitude, values, demeanor and appearance, among other things. Since this is a critical step to matching the candidate to a job, it is crucial to elicit as much information from the candidate as possible, and more importantly, it is crucial that this information be job-relevant. The main purpose of an interview is to determine some predictability of performance if the person were hired.  

This is where behavioral interviewing serves an invaluable purpose. The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. So instead of asking broad, sweeping questions such as “Tell me about yourself” or hypothetical ones such as “what would you do if….,” the behavioral interview questions are fashioned after actual incidents, and are filled with further probes. Examples are, “In your previous position, how have you handled an irate customer who refused to reason?” led by a probing question such as, “What led you to make that offer,” or “How did you overcome those objections?” This line of questioning is designed to elicit responses that describe the candidate’s thought process, motivation and behavior. There is no right or wrong answer, rather, it is a process of discovery that helps the interviewer learn about the candidate’s critical thinking skills, objective judgment as well as assess attitude, integrity and thinking style, that may be relevant to the current position. The key is to keep probing and digging deeper into the first question; it gets the applicant to think and respond, and it becomes difficult to be fictional, as in traditional interviews. Knowing how a person behaved in similar or unique situations in the past is an excellent predictor of behavior in a similar situation in the future.  

Behavioral interviews are often part of a valid and reliable screening assessment tool, such as the Profile XT™ that outlines the benchmark of success of a job and highlights a candidate's match against it. The Placement Report is equipped with targeted behavioral interview questions that address specific gaps. Request a sample report at

Seema Rafay is the President of Spectrum Performance Management, a FL based, global talent management firm, providing talent solutions in hiring and selection for performance, retention strategies, succession planning, and top brass leadership development. She specializes in right-fit performance profiling and job-matching in the selection and development of top performers, executive coaching, and customized employee performance workshops. Visit for details, or contact Seema at or 786-245-7161

Monday, March 26, 2012

Talent Management Trends 2012

The good news is that the economy is showing signs of improvement. National unemployment rates etched downward to 8.3% in January. News of hiring plans and expansions in 2012 offers a pleasant change to previous years' news of doom and gloom. According to the 2011-2012 Economic Trends Survey Results, by Employers' Association of Florida, the majority of respondents (77%) believe the economy is the same or better than 2010 and 86% believe the economy in 2012 will be the same or better than in 2011. Additionally, the majority of organizations plan on maintaining or adding staff in 2012, and 72% of the reporting organizations expect to see increases in sales/revenue in 2012. Strategic planning requires looking forward and getting armed with tools and resources to meet new challenges and opportunities. Companies most prepared to brace the changes will have a distinct advantage over those that lag in any of these areas. Here are some trends to watch.

Social Media: Leading the pack in these trends will continue to be the use of social media to recruit and expand networks, notably via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Currently 85% of US companies use LinkedIn for recruiting and that trend will continue to rise. Tied to that, will be increased use of the mobile device, including cell phones and tablets, used for everything from email, IM's, texting, voice and video messaging, particularly as remote work trends upward.

Competition for Talent: Not surprisingly, as companies prepare to meet revenue projections, the need to recruit top talent also emerges. The challenge is not so much in finding talent as it is to find the best talent. As unemployment drops, so does the supply of qualified, skilled and experienced candidates as they get scooped up by the most willing and able employers. Creating a recruitment team, utilizing the most up to date recruiting methods and becoming employer of choice will ensure companies keep abreast of the competition.

Retention of Top Talent: Most surveys reveal that despite high engagement scores, majority of employees are willing to leave their current job as soon as a better opportunity presents itself. Since economic recovery offers many employment options, dissatisfied employees are quick to jump ship creating voluntary turnover - employees voluntarily leaving for other opportunities vs. involuntary turnover where they are forced to leave as in the case of an economic recession. It is estimated that it costs employers 3 times the salary to replace every employee. Reviewing and strengthening retention strategies will ensure productivity remains high and profits are not drained by high turnover costs.

Forward-Looking Metrics: Most talent management and recruiting trends will involve forward looking metrics to establish predictive analysis. This includes using them in production, supply-chain and finance, as well as talent selection and retention. Traditionally, companies have employed backward looking metrics that tell how things were in the past. Forward-looking metrics can not only aid in decision-making but can also help to avoid or mitigate future talent problems.

Seema Rafay is the President of Spectrum Performance Management, a FL based, global talent management firm, providing talent solutions in hiring and selection for performance, retention strategies, succession planning, and top brass leadership development. She specializes in right-fit performance profiling and job-matching in the selection and development of top performers, executive coaching, and customized employee performance workshops. Visit for details, or contact Seema at or 786-245-7161