Providing psychological assessment feedback: Introduction

October 22, 2021 | By Maretha Prinsloo

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“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.” Carl Jung

This blog is aimed at psychologists and other professionals or practitioners who provide assessment feedback to candidates.

The primary goal of individualized assessment feedback is that of greater self-insight for the test candidate. Those who provide the feedback will undoubtedly learn from it as well. The purpose of the assessment will define the context and nature of the feedback.

Other critical considerations revolve around:

  • the assessment instruments used,
  • the confidentiality of personal information,
  • the constructs focused on,
  • the knowledge and experience of the practitioner,
  • the capability and attitudes of the candidate,
  • the rapport between the parties involved and
  • external factors.

The Purpose

Assessments can be conducted for various talent management objectives including personal development; optimally positioning people in the work environment; catalysing team integration and effectiveness; integrating a possibly diverse organizational culture; and ensuring the strategic viability of the organization – all of which heavily rely on the self- awareness and motives of the role players.

As cogently put by Deepak Chopra:
“By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life.”

The candidate

Not many people in the work environment get the opportunity to discuss their psychological functioning with a professional. The outcomes of such a discussion may have a lasting impact on the self-image and future of the candidate.

However, when providing feedback, the practitioner must navigate their way through several complicated issues to maximize value to the test candidate. Of particular concern here are invalid test results due to the candidate’s denial of their shadow side, as well as their intentional manipulation of test results to ensure certain outcomes.

The impact of denial on personality test results

Most people are to some extent in denial about some or other psychological characteristics. However, practitioners who provide assessment feedback should tread lightly where it comes to deeply ingrained self-deception, which may just be a prerequisite for the person’s everyday functioning. Such aspects should therefore be approached with the greatest care, compassion, and awareness by the practitioner.

The prevalence of denial is in fact one of the key contributors to the lack of validity of conventional psychometric tests - which largely pose transparent questions and rely on the self-insight of test takers. Questionnaires may trigger defensive or manipulative responses - with or without the awareness of the test subject. An obvious example would be a question such as: “are you defensive” which would invariably be responded to in the negative by defensive candidates whereas non-defensive candidates are likely to agree with the statement.

Conventional personality self-report questionnaires often step right into the trap of denial which fundamentally compromises the integrity and validity of the results. However, where false test results are clearly visible to seasoned practitioners, they need to guide the candidate to greater self-awareness without triggering even stronger resistance.

The practitioner

Those who have the opportunity to touch another’s life through feedback should approach it with the necessary respect, humility, wisdom, and the intention to benefit the person. An in- depth knowledge of the constructs being discussed, self-insight, compassion and openness are required.

Without self-insight a practitioner can make serious mistakes. As Foulout El’krazo points out:
“With great intentions you can tear away at the very fabric of a person’s humanity, with no knowledge of doing so.“

Awareness of one’s own feelings – be that of superiority or inferiority, pity, disinterest, or irritation should thus be monitored, as should the tendency to project own issues onto others. As Carl Jung stated:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

The practitioner should also clearly define their own role: do they see themselves as: playing the role of:

  • a parent praising or criticizing a child,
  • a decision maker who has the power to determine a person’s career progress,
  • a bringer of good tidings, or
  • a collaborator who wants to explore available information to find the best options for a candidate.

In-depth knowledge and experience of the information imparted is critical. Only when a practitioner has a deep level of understanding of the constructs measured can they package it in a flexible manner to the benefit of the candidate; provide developmental guidelines; and spell out potential interpersonal and contextual implications.

The feedback process

The results to be shared with the candidate should be appropriate and sufficient to inform the purpose of the assessment. A holistic approach in this regard is important.

Practitioners are at times tempted to soften the blow of what they regard as undesirable results, by praising a candidate for certain findings. This should be avoided as it may well come across as patronizing. Praise and labelling are also unlikely to create self-insight and well-founded self-confidence. Instead, the practitioner should keep a check on their own feelings, defensiveness, motives, and projections. No candidate should ever be under- estimated as people are complex beyond imagination. This awareness is well captured by Emerson Pugh’s quote that:
“If the human mind were so simple that we could understand it, … we wouldn’t.”

With the assistance of assessment tools, we can only perceive aspects of a person’s psychological functioning which we can explore and capitalize upon with the assistance of the candidate.


The data security of personal information such as biographical aspects and assessment results remains crucial. This aspect is also legally enforced. A candidate’s consent is thus required before sharing any personal information with a third party such as an employer.

In conclusion

Few techniques are as effective in creating self-insight as that of the skillful, assessment- based feedback of a practitioner. An understanding of the “what”, “how” and “why” of one’s own functioning, is empowering, as:
“when things change inside you, things change around you.”Anonymous.

The self-awareness of candidates tends to optimize personal and career decisions, inform interpersonal approaches and attitudes, and increases work satisfaction and effectiveness.

Feedback may thus sow the seeds of long-term self-talk and self-fulfilling prophecies. Its purpose is to put the reigns of a candidate’s life into their own hands.