How many Psychologists does it take…?

Posted on August 14, 2015 by


Latest blog from Julie McDonald, Chartered Psychologist, Director of Assessment / Development and part-time Comedienne at The Urquhart Partnership.

lightbulbYou know the old jokes…

How many Psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change…

A man was walking down the street one day and he was mugged. As he lay on the pavement, a Psychologist, who happened to be passing by, rushed up to him and exclaimed, “…Oh dear…whoever did this really needs some help…”

One of Pavlov’s dogs to another, “Watch this!  Every time I salivate… Pavlov smiles and scribbles something in his notebook.”…

Ah yes, we Psychologists are an easy target.

GP’s tell me that when they’re out socially and people find out what they do for a living, they start showing them random bits of their bodies (!) and utter the phrase every GP on a night out dreads… “Ah, you’re a GP…could you just take a wee look at this please?” Alternatively, they describe every ache and pain they have or begin reciting their medical history over the starter and finish with their most recent ailment over pudding.

Being a Psychologist is a bit the same; you get some interesting reactions. Over the years, I’ve had many responses from people when they have found out what I do for a living:

  • They ask if I can read their mind.
  • They suddenly become very self-conscious about their body language and ask what it means if they scratch their nose or fold their arms.
  • They ask if I have a couch they can lie on…
  • They say, “Oooh, I better watch what I say in case you psychoanalyse me”.
  • They look startled and start backing away ( ..not really, I made that last one up…)

Anyway, the other day someone asked what I did for a living. I told them and waited for one or more of the most likely responses. However, instead of looking around for a means of escape from the “psychoanalysis”, they asked, “What’s the best psychometric assessment to use?”

Interesting question.

So, we had a chat about the different Psychometric tools which are available and their various uses. You can assess a multitude of different aspects of human behaviour: personality, motivation, emotional and social competence, numerical reasoning, abstract reasoning, managerial judgement… the list goes on and on. It can be a daunting prospect for organisations to know where to begin if they want to start using Psychometrics to add value to selection and development processes.

The secret to finding your way through the Psychometric maze is:

  • To be clear precisely what you want to measure – it’s no use if you mean to measure something and, through the wrong choice of tool, you don’t quite hit the target.
  • To understand that different tools might be better for selection, outplacement or personal development. For example the Myers Briggs Type Inventory can be used for development but not for selection.
  • To do just what’s needed and no more – no need to over-egg or to over-analyse. You don’t want to frighten candidates off!
  • To select the right Psychometric tool for each situation: if you are considering an ability test – is it at an appropriate level for the role? Does it measure the right ability? If it’s a personality profile – does it look in detail at the particular traits which are of interest to you?
  • To consider how the output fits within your organisational culture – would a DiSC profile, a Belbin Team Roles Profile, an OPQ32 or a 16PF5 “feel right” for the particular need in your business and sit well with your organisational culture?
  • To ensure that feedback is delivered in a professional and supportive manner by a qualified, experienced practitioner.

So, there’s not really a “best” Psychometric assessment; it’s what’s “best” for your organisation. The real skill comes in knowing which tool will add most value to your selection and development processes and in carrying out the process professionally.

PS – How many Psychologists does it actually take to change a light bulb?  Three…one to change the bulb and two to collaborate on a paper entitled “Coping with darkness”.   ( …I’m here all week.. I thank you)

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