Ipsative vs. Normative Testing

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DISC: Why It Should NOT Be Used for Hiring

The DISC profile is one of the most popular assessment tools on the planet. In my opinion, it should be a requirement for entry into adulthood. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager or an employee, a coach or a student, a parent or a child… a DISC personality assessment has huge implications that impact every interaction we have with other people. Keep watching.


Our DISC profile also affects how we approach work. It enhances or cripples leadership style. It’s the source of trust and conflict. It makes or breaks salespeople, managers, and has been the source of the rise and fall of many successful careers. It’s the thing that continuously opens up new doors or prompts others to run and hide whenever they see you coming. But even though the DISC personality assessment is a good tool when it comes to assessing communication style, management style, and teamwork, it should not be the primary assessment tool used for hiring.

4 PS of Performance, DISC Profile Testing


Without boring you to tears with lots of psycho-babble, it is important to understand the difference between DISC, an ipsative type of assessment, and a normative test, such as Elite or OutMatch, the type you use for screening and selection. Ipsative tests force the test taker to choose between being either extremely introverted or extroverted or being direct or agreeable, when in fact the vast majority of us are somewhere in between.

In other words, when asked to complete a DISC questionnaire, you are given a choice of words or phrases. Let’s say you choose talkative as the word that describes you the most and shy as the term that describes you the least. BUT…that doesn’t mean you’re the most talkative person on your team or in your family or even in the room. It just means YOU consider yourself more talkative than shy. The same thing goes when given the choice between blunt and agreeable or cautious and reckless.

Whatever choices you make describe your preferences but don’t necessarily show how you stack up to others. It’s like being the tallest person in a room of short people. Or the loudest librarian who doesn’t have a chance to get heard in a room full of salespeople!

The British Psychological Society goes further in differentiating assessments. Normative tests give the test taker the option of an in-between or middle response between the two extremes. With normative tests, you are measured against population norms which give you an idea about how you and other groups of people measure up against one another.

Dr. Paul Kline concludes in the Handbook of Psychological Testing that “normative tests are far superior to ipsative tests as precise measures of psychological characteristics. Ipsative scores are only suitable as a basis of discussion (coaching, personal development, team building.)”

Rather than use a DISC personality assessment, the assessments I recommend for selection and leadership identification are normative type tests. They include Elite or OutMatch as well as a few others.

For more information about the DISC personality assessment, complete the form below or call us at 800-803-4303.

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