Psychometric Instruments – Use Wisely

The Seattle Times published an article on 13 Apr 2013 titled “Myers-Briggs personality test embraced by employers, not all psychologists“. You can read the article here:


I am not a certified MBTI administrator, meaning I cannot administer the tool nor interpret the results of the assessment. I am a qualified DISC trainer, but that’s beside the point. Let me say right now that I have nothing against psychometric tools, and that although I am of course more familiar with DISC, one tool is as good as another, depending on context. For example, although DISC can be used to assess leadership styles, it is not as useful if leadership development is what you’re after. For that, what you want are 360° leadership profiles. You can buy those off the shelf, or you can also develop your own. It depends on what your client’s needs are. In another case, Harrison reports utilize paradox instead of bipolar scales and are very comprehensive, but might be too complicated for some. I am obviously not familiar with many tools out there on the market, but from what I have seen, all of them are pretty accurate depending on what you want to measure and what kind of  resolution you want to have. If you want a good view of a forest canopy, using a microscope might not be a very good idea! You get the point.

My own experience with psychometric tools tells me that they are best used as “snapshots” of a person. Snapshots can be taken from different angles with different types of lenses, different settings, lighting, etc. Even X-ray photos are snapshots. Granted, you could construct a 3D picture of a person’s body if you take Homer-Simpson-X-ray-Scanmultiple X-ray snapshots (better if the person is dead) or using ultrasound technology, but it would still be just the physical aspect of the whole person. Since it would be rather uneconomical for most companies to have their people undergo a barrage of psychometric/ leadership 360° assessments, it makes sense to use whatever assessment is selected and use that as the starting point for people/ leadership development.

Psychometric assessments, as with all things, are subject to misuse and abuse. I suspect that many companies use them as part of their bureaucratic processes because genuine people development “takes up too much time and effort”. It is easier to say “Your assessment results show that you are not a good fit for this appointment, so your immediate Boss’ application to have you promoted has not been accepted”. The poor candidate for promotion does not even have a chance to talk to somebody about how he/ she could have done better. Worse, some other less qualified person might be promoted to the position simply because he/ she is in the “In” group. You know what happens after that!

So, don’t sweat about which psychometric tools are better, ad nauseum. Just go with what’s been chosen, and move on from there! If you use them as part of personnel development or for hiring purposes, remember that they are just one of the tools you should be using anyway. If you don’t know what the other tools are, you had better give me a call. You might be in the wrong job.

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