Some Points about Psychological Tests – particularly in relation to Interviews

Evaluators seek to obtain Evidence by Different Methods

1 In their everyday life, people try to evaluate other people on the basis of (a) observed behaviour and (b) reported behaviour.

2 Sometimes Evaluators observe the actual behaviour when it occurs (during an ); at other times they see the result of behaviour (Answers to a Test).

3 Evaluators must interpret what a piece of behaviour means in relation to (a) other aspects of the person’s behaviour and (b) some criteria outside the person (e.g. success in a job, ability to carry on a successful marriage, etc.).

4 Some situations call for Evaluators to take a systematic approach to the evaluation process (e.g. Personnel Selection). In such cases Evaluators usually try to arrange the environment to obtain particular types of responses (a question to obtain information on why the Applicant seeks a particular position).

5 Without some steering of people towards various types of behaviour, Evaluators may find that whatever they observe provides very little information on which they can draw many firm conclusions. Continue reading

Reasons for asking Job Applicants to do Psychological Tests

Selection involves predicting the Future

1 The selection of Applicants for a position involves an attempt to predict their future behaviour in a particular environment (the Client’s Organisation).

Selection involves taking Samples of Behaviour

2 A selection involves taking various samples of an Applicant’s behaviour and using them to predict his/her future behaviour.

3 A common sample of behaviour involves talking to the Applicant (an in an attempt to get samples of past behaviour (e.g. educational success/failures and what they have done in previous jobs, with which Organisation, and in what position).

But do Samples represent the Whole

4 However with all behaviour samples a critical question exists: To what extent does a sample represent the whole from which the sample comes? Will the Applicant’s behaviour during an interview prove similar to the person’s behaviour in a job situation. If an Applicant has had a number of jobs over a relatively short time does it mean that the Applicant will only stay a short time in the next position?

No One Sample will produce anywhere near perfect Selections

5 Many problems arise in selecting people but these notes will not deal with all of them. However Readers should note one point: We do not believe that any “magical” one sample of behaviour exists which will allow the “taker” of the sample to predict an Applicant’s likely job successes with any high degree of accuracy. Continue reading

The Trap of Numbers in reporting Psychological Test Results

Numbers provide an Aura of Accuracy

1 When Users of Test Results receive the results of Psychological Tests they often receive them in a form which uses numbers. Some Users tend to believe that numbers in Test Results mean a result of high accuracy. The numbers appear to re-assure, and comfort, the User as to the accuracy of the test results.

2 Example. If a Report stated that a Testee had average intelligence, some Users would probably see the result as less accurate than if the result stated: “This person scored as high as 50 out of every 100 adults in the population”. However both statements say the same thing.

3 Some Users also see the numbers in the Test Results as having the ability to separate accurately two different Applicants.

4 Example. A report might say – “Person A scored better than 78% of people, while Person B scored better than 76%”.

5 From this type of information, some Readers will get the feeling of an instrument (say, a test) which can:

(a) measure accurately within single percentages and

(b) distinguishes clearly that Person A (who scored better than 78%) has a higher intelligence than Person B.

Continue reading

Some Points on the Limitations of Personality Tests

Different Views about Personality Tests

1 People have different views about personality tests. Some praise them and rate them as highly accurate; others believe the opposite – personality tests measure nothing accurately or, worse still, they mislead.

A Description of Commonly-Used Personality* Tests

2 Personality Tests have many forms. However the most commonly-used personality tests for personnel selection in Australia consist of a series of written questions – often over a 100. Testees can only answer each question by choosing from a limited number of options – usually two or three. The options depend on the content of the question but usually consist of such answers as — Yes, No; Agree, Disagree; True, In-between, False; or Never, Occasionally, Frequently. Most personality tests aim to measure various factors, traits, or dimensions of personality.

An Assumption of Personality Tests

3 Personality Tests assume that people having a particular factor, trait, or dimension of personality will tend to answer a question in a particular way. Thus if all people classed as Assertive** answer “Yes” (or “No”) to a particular question, the use of this question can pick assertive people.

Specific Limitations

No Perfect Test Item

4 Psychologists have not found such perfect test items as described above. They find questions where a majority of people fit into the pattern – but not all. Thus, using the above example, some assertive people will answer “No” and some non-assertive people will answer “Yes” to the specific question. The fewer the exception to the general rule the better will the test item (question) select assertive people.

5 Psychologists try to decrease this problem of exceptions by including more than one question about each personality dimension or trait. This approach increases the probability that people who answer the group of related questions in a certain way will fall into the class described by the trait/factor.

Continue reading

Types of Errors in Reports of Personality Tests

Introduction – Check the Expertness of your Expert

1 People, who employ an Expert, often seem to stop using their critical faculties when examining the Expert’s reports. For example, they stop checking a report for:

(a) its reality with respect to the world the Reader knows.

(b) the consistency of different parts of the report with each other.

2 The blind acceptance (or, just as bad, the blind non-acceptance) of a Psychologist’s report on a person, based on a personality test, provides a common example.

Some Common Errors in poorly-prepared Reports

3 The following pages list some common errors which occur in poorly prepared reports by Psychologists about people’s personality. Most examples have come from actual reports.

4 Users of Experts should (a) watch for these errors and/or (b) challenge the Experts to substantiate what they report. At the very least they should accept that another possible interpretation exists and/or that the Experts should communicate their ideas more clearly.

Look for -  Remarks classifiable as “Have your cake and eat it”.

5 Psychological Reports often contain statements which allow the Writer to have a “bet each way”. Continue reading

Planning – Part 1 – List of Notes

The number in the  brackets show the number of pages in the notes

Planning Better 

Planning (Parts 1,2, & 3) (34)
Planning Better (3)
Six Important Objectives to Help Planning (1)
A Major Planning Difficulty (1)

Objectives (Parts 1 & 2) (26)
Choosing Between Objectives (2)
A Classification for Objectives (20)
A Check List for Examining an Objective (3)
When to Set Non-Specific Objectives and
How to Avoid Their Dangers (2)
Re-examine the End Objective Regularly (1)
How to Upset Your Subordinate when Setting Objectives (4)

Decision Making
Questions – to Help Make Wiser Decisions (2)
Some Factors in Decision Making (21)
Changing People – Bases for deciding to encourage
people to change (17)
Decision Making – Some Important Terms (1)
When Should Group Decisions Occur (4)

Samples of Reports on Personality Test Results


1 These notes provide examples of two different types of reports on two (Sixteen Personality Factor Test – 16PF and the Interpersonal Values and Personal Values Test). Thus Clients can choose the type of report which best suits their needs.

2 Users of Personality-Test reports can use the ideas as thought-starters for (a) thinking about the Testees and (b) formulating questions to obtain further information from Testees and Referees.

3 Further, Users should not rate personality tests as particularly accurate (or any selection technique for that matter). They provide one piece of evidence which Selectors should compare with evidence from other sources.

Two Types of Reports

4 The first type of report provides a brief listing of some of the highlights of the test results.

5 The second type of report provides a detailed report. Continue reading

Personality Test Results and Honesty and Self Insight

1 In interpreting the meaning of a Testee’s results on Personality Tests people should consider the following factors:

(a) The degree of honesty Testees use when answering questions. (Honesty Factor)

(b)    The extent to which Testees know themselves. (Self Insight Factor)

(c) The accuracy of the measuring device used. (Accuracy of Measuring Instrument)

(d)    Factors connected with the Test (i.e. the measuring instrument)
such as

(i) Test Validity – does the test measure what it purports to measure?

(ii) Test Reliability – does the instrument measure in the same way when used at different times.

(e) The interpretation which Test Users give to the results achieved. (Correctness of Interpretation)

2 It follows that if Testees know themselves well and answer the test questions honestly and Testers use a valid and reliable test and interpret the results wisely; the testing should prove useful in personnel selection.

3 These notes deal only with the first two factors. However Readers should not interpret this restriction as suggesting that the other factors have lesser importance. In fact, the usefulness of the testing depends on all factors.

4 The following diagram shows an overview of how the two factors operate –

A Memo to introduce a Remuneration Investigation

All Executives included in the Survey from  …………………..

Remuneration Investigation

1 ………………….. (the Client )    has engaged ………………………. (the Consultatn)  to prepare a recommended remuneration package for most of its middle-level and senior-level Managerial positions, including your position.

2 We need some information about each of the positions and some details about the person holding the position. Thus we need help from each position holder.

3 We would be pleased if you would:

(a) Fill in the attached Personal Details Questionnaire.

(b) Prepare a Position Description describing your job – as requested in the second Questionnaire.

4 We find that it helps if your immediate Manager goes over the Position Description with you. Position Holders often find it difficult to remember all their objectives. Their Manager can sometimes remind them of some items.

5 Thus, would you please:

(a) Fill in your Personal Details and Position Description Questionnaire

(b) Ask the person to whom you report to check over the Position Description (not the Personal Details).

(c) Mail both the forms direct to ………………( the Consultant )  We would like to receive then not later than two weeks after you receive this memo. Earlier mailing would help.

6 It would help ……………..(the Consultant) if you had your answers typed. Probably you (the Position Holder) will want to retain a copy – and perhaps you should give a copy to your immediate manager.

7 If you cannot have your ideas typed or it would delay your reply significantly, please write legibly.

8 We have included three copies of each of the forms. We have sent extra copies to the Chief Executive of your Organisation in case you want extra copies.

1 If in doubt about including any information please include it.

2 Include year when qualifications gained.

3 Include any part qualification, e.g. passed two years of an Applied Chemistry Diploma at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in the period 1976-78.Work Experience since about 1970

4 Include your work activities with your present Company (as well as previous Employers) and indicate all the different positions you have held in it.

5 Start with your oldest job.

6 Give more details about your resent Company than the earlier ones. Set out the information in different columns as shown next

     Organisation                   Position(s) & Details                       Dates

                                                                                                   From       To


7 Please include any details about yourself (not covered earlier in this form or in the Position Description) which you believe the Consutant and/or your present Management should know. These matters should relate to remuneration surveys. Probably most Executives will leave this section blank. However the section helps to ensure that Executives can communicate something else if they wish to.

Questions to check Technical Knowledge

Write Six Questions

1 Consider the position for which you have applied.

2 Now change your role from Applicant to Selector.

3 In the role as a Selector, write six questions you would put to each of the final Applicants to check whether they have the technical knowledge to cope with this position.

4 Such questions should have definite answers. Further, the answers should NOT fall into the class of -

(a) a matter of opinion

(b) an answer which just involves a short answer such as (a) “Yes or No” or (b) True or False.

(c) an answer which just asks an Applicant to select from his/her own experience.

5 Example of (c). What experience have you had which would prove useful for this position? Continue reading