ETalent Blog 16 Sep  Blog

The importance of using Normative rather than Ipsative tests in recruitment

Scientific pre-employment personality testing has been recognised for some time as important to identify not only the best people for the available roles but also to identify the current and potential future top performers in your organisation.

As long as they are well-designed and scientifically validated, tests are one of the most objective ways of assessing candidates and predicting both in-job performance and potential fit with your company culture.

Tests can also give you extra information about candidates’ overall talents – to properly assess their fit for a specific job.

Types of test

There are two types of test – Normative and Ipsative. They use different types of scales frequently used in personality assessments. The biggest difference is that normative tests compare individuals, while ipsative tests look solely at the individual.

Normative tests

Normative tests measure quantifiable personality characteristics on scales, generating a score that is then compared against the range of scores across the population. In the recruitment scenario, the comparison is with the scores of other applicants taking the test.

Normative tests display each statement and offer typically three or five options on a scale to choose as the candidate’s answer to express to what degree they agree with each statement.

This kind of rating system is very straightforward and enables a quantitative analysis of candidates’ perceptions and feelings on a set idea against the typical scale of responses. That’s why this type of test is recommended for recruitment and selection, as well as for individual development and training.

Because normative tests allow candidates to be compared to other people, it allows them to be compared to employees previously tested in the same way and gone on to a set level of success in a role. So a normative test can identify candidates with the best chances of success if hired or promoted. Normative tests are therefore well suited to recruitment and selection.

Ipsative tests

Ipsative tests, such as Predictive Index, Myers-Briggs and DiSC, by contrast, give candidates options of equal desirability to choose from and force them to indicate which are most true of them in their everyday behaviour and which are least true.

Unlike normative tests – which measure clearly identifiable traits, ipsative tests indicate only orientations and the relative type of person being assessed.

What an ipsative test doesn’t reveal or predict is how two or more people with similar patterns or types will actually perform in a job.

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