Are You Using the Right Assessment for Hiring?


Over the past twenty years, more and more progressive organizations are choosing to use personality assessments to develop employees and identify the best job applicants to hire to fit both the job and the organizational culture.

But not all tests are alike, and it is important to understand the differences between the two main types — Ipsative and Normative. These differences affect how the tools should and should not be used in human capital decisions, such as screening, selection, and employee training and development.

Are You Using the Wrong Tool for the Job?

Using a test in a manner for which it was not designed has consequences:

  • It may lead to common hiring errors such as poor job fit, sub-standard job performance and productivity, and misguided career decisions.
  • Use may result in missing potential high-quality hires or in excluding diverse and under-represented groups.
  • It has potential legal risks if hiring or promotion/demotion decisions have to be justified on a group or individual level.

Selecting the right type of assessment is critical to get the most out of your investment and know the results are valid and reliable. But how can you be sure you’re using the right type of assessment?

Understanding the differences will help you choose the most effective and defensible tool for your needs.

Top 5 Differences Between Ipsative and Normative Personality Assessments:

1. Question Choices

Ipsative assessments frame their questions as a forced choice. The participant must choose one option over others. Questions are presented as two or more statements and the user is asked to select the one that best describes them.

Normative assessments frame their questions as a rating-scale choice. The participant is only asked about one statement at a time. The answer they provide is on a scale, allowing them to indicate how much they agree or disagree with the statement.

2. Type of Results

Ipsative assessments display categorical results. This means that assessment-takers are given a ‘category’ or label based on the corresponding answers that they selected most frequently. Depending on the assessment’s model, this can be a color, a number, a name, etc.

An example of this could be classifying people as introverts or extraverts on a sliding scale. People who fall in line with categories “A” and “B” would be classified introverts, where as people who fall in line with categories “C” and “D” would be classified extroverts. However, person “B” is far more similar to “C” than they are to “A” and is only 1 point away from being classified as an Introvert themselves. Yet A and “B” would receive the same description and be expected to behave and react in similar ways based on these results.

Normative assessments display dimensional results. This means that assessment takers are provided their score on a number of scales that reflect different personality traits.

Normative results do not indicate whether you are Introverted or Extraverted, but rather how much you are introverted vs. extraverted. This provides a more holistic picture of an individual’s personality instead of fitting their personality into a box.

3. Comparison to Others

Ipsative assessments cannot draw comparisons between participants, but instead indicate a person’s orientation and strengths only within oneself. There is no context that allows you to draw meaningful conclusions or make comparisons to others.

However, Normative assessments represent the participant on a bell curve. Since conclusions are drawn from a normative scale, the scores are transformed into percentile ranks based on a normative distribution (bell curve) where the majority of the population fall in the middle. Therefore the score is relative to all other assessment takers and allows for meaningful conclusions and comparisons to be drawn.

4. Reliability

Ipsative assessments have low reliability when re-testing, so participants’ scores are likely to change over time. Due to how the forced-choice questions are scored and given categorical results, Ipsative assessments can have a significant discrepancy in results depending on the day the participant takes the assessment.

Normative assessments however have a high reliability when re-testing participants, so their scores will remain stable over time, and re-testing is not likely to change their scores significantly.

5. Use in Organizations

Due to the key considerations highlighted, Ipsative assessments are not suitable for hiring or employment-related decisions. They can be useful for personal development or even team-building, but there are legal ramifications that can arise when using an Ipsative measure for selection procedures.

Normative assessments that are valid and reliable, are legally defensible for hiring and selection, and other employment-related decisions. Dive deeper into the science by reading TalentClick’s Whitepaper: Ipsative vs Normative Personality Tests: Which is the Right Tool for Hiring?



Within the area of industrial psychology, Stephen Race has specialized in the sciences of psychometric, behavioral assessment, personality assessment, and cognitive testing for over 20 years, and has been a valued Canadian National Research Council Subject Matter Expert for 7 years.

Stephen develops TalentClick’s proprietary assessments which help organizations in over 100 countries predict and improve employee performance by measuring the fit between employees, job requirements and organizational culture.

TalentClick is globally recognized as a leader in predicting risk-related behaviors. To learn more, register for TalentClick’s  Managing Safety Self-Awareness online certification course with CPHR (2 CPD hours) on November 23, 2021.

For the latest HR and business articles, check out our main page. 

Reader Feedback

We want to hear from you!

Do you have a story idea you’d like to see covered by PeopleTalk?

Or maybe you’ve got a question we could ask our members in our People & Perspectives section?

Or maybe you just want to tell us how much you liked the article.

The door is always open.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 2.2 / 5. Vote count: 5

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.



Enter your email address to receive updates each Wednesday.

Privacy guaranteed. We'll never share your info.