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Individual Psychological Assessment

Hiring, promoting, and developing the right people for specific jobs represent some of the most important decisions that companies make.  Many organizations use individual psychological assessment to help them make such decisions.  Individual psychological assessment or individual assessment is a phrase used by many people.  Often, that phrase means different things to different people.  The following questions and answers are presented to clarify this phrase. 

1. What is individual psychological assessment?  

Individual psychological assessment is a tool used to help organizations make decisions about hiring, promotion, and development.  A typical individual psychological assessment consists of professionally developed and validated measures of personality, leadership style, and cognitive abilities among other things. The process often includes an interview.  

Ideally, the tests and measures used in an individual assessment have been validated for the current positions in accordance with legal and professional guidelines (see APA Standards and SIOP Principles).  While the small number of individuals evaluated for certain positions may make obtaining certain kinds of validation evidence more difficult, other types of evidence should be accumulated to support the use of individual assessments.   

2.  How much time does a typical individual psychological assessment take?   

Depending on factors such as the length of an interview and the number of tests and simulations that are included in the assessment, the length of the process can vary.   The level of the position (e.g., entry level, executive, etc.) can also affect the amount of time an organization chooses to spend on the individual psychological assessment process.  The process varies from less than an hour to two days. 

3. Who are the primary users of individual psychological assessment?  

Organizations of all sizes may include individual assessment as supplemental information for making hiring, promotion, and development decisions.  

4. Who is qualified to conduct individual psychological assessments?  

There are different roles that are part of the individual assessment process, and different people can perform these roles.  For example, paper-and-pencil tests vary in their requirements for administration, scoring, and interpretation (i.e., some can be administered and scored by trained administrative staff members while others require a background in testing for administration, scoring and interpretation).  Typically, for an individual psychological assessment, the assumption is that a qualified psychologist combines and interprets the data from the various assessment tools to make an overall evaluation of an individual. 

5.      How is individual psychological assessment information generally used? 

Individual psychological assessment information is usually intended to supplement data on a candidate obtained from other sources (e.g., interviews, references, and prior work experience).  The results of the individual psychological assessment are often considered as information to be explored further with the candidate and with his or her references. 

6. When is individual psychological assessment typically used?  

Due to cost and time, the individual assessment process is usually implemented as a final hurdle when the candidate pool has been narrowed down to the top candidates.  Many organizations assess at least two individuals for comparison purposes.  Assessing at least two candidates can provide a back up in case the preferred candidate declines the job offer. Comparing two or three candidates with one another also provides the company with the additional advantage of determining relative fit with the culture and the potential for coaching and development. Also, because of time and cost considerations, individual assessment is more often used for high level or critical positions in the organizations, where the costs of  wrong employment decisions are high.   

7. How much does a typical individual psychological assessment cost? 

Fees for individual assessment are typically based on several factors, including the number of tests used, the length of the assessment, the professional training and experience of the psychologist, the reputation of the consulting firm, and its geographic location.  Companies are more likely to spend more on higher level positions where the stakes are high.  

8.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of individual psychological assessment relative to other employee screening and evaluation methods?   

The primary benefit of individual psychological assessment is that it provides additional data on a candidate that is not easily obtained through using only one or two assessment tools. Another benefit of individual psychological assessment is that it can provide a candidate with detailed, developmental feedback for the new position. However, developmental feedback is often optional in individual assessment and is not always provided. The data can also help the candidates new manager gain a better understanding of how best to coach and mentor his or her new direct report.  However, depending on the organizations policy and the appropriate use of the assessment information, the data may or may not be shared with the supervisor.  

The primary disadvantages are the time and expense associated with the assessment.  Also, the process may alienate or turn off some candidates who do not understand the process or who do not see it as relevant to the decision.