In the world of psychology, assessments often get a bad rap. Given the complexities of human functioning, the rich social world we inhabit, and the myriad of forces which govern behaviours, assessments can be seen as simplistic and reductionist. Humans are complicated. So how can something like comparing abstract shapes under pressure, or answering 20 minutes of questions about yourself reveal anything important? Not only important, but enough for someone decide whether you’re the right fit for a job or not. Measuring human function is not new, but it is becoming increasingly accessible and commonplace. Mostly because it works.

In the short history of modern psychological science, the overwhelming focus of attention was on what’s not working. By looking at the problem areas in human existence, like how addictions arose and what turned people into criminals, psychology was mostly focused on the dysfunctional.

A movement started taking shape in the 1950’s (by amongst others Abraham Maslow, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, and Carl Rogers), that shifted to a strengths perspective and what could be learned from people who functioned at their peak. This focus has steadily grown and now occupies a respectable body of work within contemporary psychological science. Pervading the fields of Developmental psychology, Social psychology and Psychotherapy, this focus on the positive provides an alternative lens through which human functioning can be observed.

In some ways, we can all learn from others who have done well, those who have stood out and those who have pioneered. But has psychometry and the science of psychological measurement, been influenced by this positive departure point? I would argue that it has. Especially in the organisational sense, psychometric measurement is almost exclusively oriented towards the positive.

When clients send us a candidate to be assessed for a role, they are asking us to determine the degree of fit between the person and the role. Observe the careful phrasing in the sentence, “The degree of fit.” Assessments for selection are a carefully calibrated process designed to deconstruct any role into its core competencies, then to measure the competencies of the potential incumbent, and to see how closely they match. This has several positive deliverables:

1. Each role is carefully scrutinized to break it down to its core behaviours. Positive because there is no uncertainty about what someone in the role must do to succeed.

2. An assessment process is set up to measure these competencies — positive because each person is getting assessed against the same scientific yardstick and not the undefined, anecdotal, shifting whims of a biased interviewer.

3. Should there be a fit, the incumbent is likely to succeed in the role, be congruent with the competencies and generally be capable of thriving in the role. Positive because the risk of being derailed in the role is dramatically reduced.

4. Anyone not getting the role because of poor fit, is positively being saved the turmoil of being out of their depth in a role they cannot do and will most likely hate.

Multiply this event by a thousand or a million, and on a macro-scale, helping populating roles in the world of work with people who have the aptitude and interest to do them, helps create a better society. Imagine the frustrations people would avoid if they dealt with people in Customer Service roles who loved Customer Service. Imagine the untold benefits which would accrue to the world if it was only competent bureaucrats, with high attention to detail who worked in administrative roles. Psychometric assessments can play a pivotal role in helping all companies succeed by having the best person occupy the roles most suited to them. This is very positive. For all of us. Do you need to relook your assessment processes, contact

Author Dr. Hilton Rudnick