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The science behind psychometric tests: how they help evaluate soft skills

The soft skills They have become essential in the workplace. As we have already commented on other occasions, they are among the skills that companies value most when carrying out a contract. However, measuring and evaluating them is not always easy.

A good selection process has to be objective, so that all candidates start from a situation of equal opportunities. We must leave behind the subjective biases that act on recruiters, and apply tests that allow the competencies, experience and training of applicants to be evaluated in a fair and equitable way for all.

We can apply language knowledge tests to determine what level of knowledge a person has about a foreign language. We can also give you a simulation of a task specific to the position you are applying for to see if you have the technical knowledge to handle it. But, with respect to soft skills, we find it more difficult to measure them. Because they are skills so linked to personality, that It is not always easy to detect them and determine the level you have of each of them.. Luckily, the psychometric tests They are here to help us.

Table of Contents

Why is it so complicated to measure soft skills?

Soft skills are usually related to subjective and emotional aspects. Precisely for this reason, making an objective measurement of them is quite complex. And the interpretation of certain knowledge and attitudes can vary depending on the subjective perspective of the person who is carrying out the evaluation.

On the other hand, these skills can appear with greater or lesser intensity depending on the environment and context. For example, a person may have leadership skills in one environment, but not in another. And this makes it difficult to make a uniform measurement. 

Another important aspect to take into account when evaluating these skills within the selection process is that many people have the ability to present to others an image that is not precisely the real one. Making people believe that they have abilities that they really do not possess.

Unlike what happens with technical skills, which are easy to measure through standardized tests, with respect to soft skills there have not always been evaluation tools that are uniform and widely accepted as valid. Although, in recent years, psychometric tests have begun to stand out in this field and gain popularity in personnel selection.

What are psychometric tests?

They are tests that measure the psychic abilities of an individual and give the final results a numerical value that allows the level of development of certain skills to be compared in a more objective way that different people have.

This type of test was devised at the beginning of the 20th century by the doctor Alfred Binet, to identify children with above-average intelligence. Over time, these tests evolved and their use extended to the field of Human Resources. Today, they are quite common in recruitment processes, because They help create a more complete profile about the applicant.

They take care of measure certain psychological aspects in a standardized and objective way. Its objective is to evaluate personality traits, abilities or the way a person reacts to certain situations.

In this type of test There is no right or wrong answers. So the intention is not to give a final rating about the person (although the result is shown in the form of a score), but to provide an approximate idea about what the candidate's personality is like, what soft skills you have and what potential they can develop. has.

As we said before, there are people who can make others believe that they have abilities that they do not really have. Therefore, these selection tests, like all the others, are not effective at 100%. But they do have a very high level of reliability and, unless we are in the presence of a true expert in lying, they usually allow us to detect those who are not being completely sincere when responding.

What can we achieve through psychometric tests?

These tests are ideal to achieve some objectives that are priority within the selection process:

  • Identify the capabilities, values, skills and competencies of a potential worker. 
  • Determine people's potential and limitations.
  • Predict adaptation or lack thereof to the company culture.
  • Make predictions about how a person's job performance and behavior will be in certain situations.
  • Point out the skills in which a person excels or can excel if they receive appropriate training.

What types of psychometric tests exist?

Not all tests that fit into this category are the same. We can distinguish three basic types.

Psychometric intelligence test

They help measure the learning capacity that a person has and application of new knowledge. To do this, they measure factors such as their ability to analyze and synthesize and their IQ.

Aptitudes and abilities test

With them the skills and competencies that are directly related to the position to be held. With the aim of detecting the candidate's most outstanding capabilities.

For example, determining how you can react in a high-stress situation, or how you will adapt to the company's social environment.

Psychometric personality test

They rate the candidates' ability to interpret situations, adapt to them, relate to others, manage internal conflicts and develop social skills.

The importance of psychometric tests in the evaluation of soft skills

Soft skills encompass a wide variety of competencies that go beyond technical and cognitive skills. Within them we find essential skills to function inside and outside of work, such as effective communication, empathy, conflict resolution and adaptability.

In work environments that are constantly changing, as is the case today, these skills have become essential. Therefore, companies need to know if both the candidates for the positions offered and the employees who are already part of their workforce have soft skills, and at what level they do so. For this, they have psychometric tests.

Their importance and use has grown in recent years, because help overcome obstacles associated with measuring soft skills, and they do it in the following ways:

Standardization and objectivity

These tests are designed in a standardized way, which means that, To all applicants, we are going to carry out exactly the same evaluation. This makes it much easier to compare the results obtained.

The psychometric test then becomes a much more effective test than an old-fashioned job interview. Because it is possible to completely leave aside the subjectivity of the recruiter and the positive or negative biases that can affect you.

This means that all candidates will be evaluated on equal terms, and the final decision will be based solely on objective data.

Measurement of specific competencies

There is a wide range of soft skills, but not all of them are necessary to occupy a certain position. In this sense, psychometric tests can be adapt and adjust to the competencies that need to be measured at all times, leaving out those that are not necessary.

This results in tests that are much quicker to perform, easier to interpret, and more effective in detecting certain abilities.

Guarantee of authenticity of responses

Lying successfully on a psychometric test is not easy. Because the questions are designed in such a way that They can reveal whether or not a person is being honest.

The same topics are often asked in different ways. If the answer is not the same in all cases, it is clear that there is no consistency and that the candidate is not telling the truth.

This not only allows a person's soft skills to be measured well, but is also useful when evaluating the candidate ethics.

Adherence to business reality

Some psychometric tests resort to using simulations that reflect situations that a person may encounter in their work environment. These types of tests are especially effective, because they allow them to measure an individual's ability to apply their soft skills in a specific context.

We can analyze, for example, how a person's level of empathy adjusts when they have to face a personal problem with a coworker.

Although the assessment of soft skills continues to pose a significant challenge, psychometric tests have proven to be a very valuable tool when it comes to understanding and measuring key aspects such as emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Because thanks to them you can obtain objective information about a person's capabilities, and make a hiring choice that is as successful as possible.

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