The Science Behind Reference Profiles

Reference Profiles are shorthand names (e.g., Strategist, Persuader) that quickly provide a rough description of a person’s PI Behavioral Assessment (BA) scores. By using Reference Profiles as labels, people can easily communicate the general configuration of their four primary Factor scores from the BA, which in turn helps facilitate the communication that is needed for companies to weave the PI Behavioral Assessment results into daily interactions involving engagement, team functions, employee development, and selection decisions.

The Reference Profiles are not, however, substitutes for the Factor scores, and they do not represent a validated output on which decisions should be based. Reference profiles are simple interpretive labels to help communicate the results of the PI Behavioral Assessment, but they are not used for match score calculations, and they should not be used to make hiring decisions.

What is a reference profile?

Reference Profiles are names that provide a general description of a person’s PI Behavioral Assessment primary Factor scores (Dominance, Extraversion, Patience, Formality; or Factors A-D). Specific factors and patterns represent the true power of the BA, but Reference Profiles are descriptive, memorable, and helpful general categories for 17 different types of behavioral configurations. They make it easy to quickly communicate some standard behavioral traits. There are a total of 17 Reference Profiles, each of which is shown in the images below.

The Reference Profiles should be thought of as rough groupings of score configurations. For example, an Altruist Reference Profile is someone who has a high Extraversion score and a low Patience score, typically with moderate to low Dominance and moderate to high Formality scores.

For more information on the various reference profiles and management tools, click here.

The Four Reference Profile Groups

To create an even faster way to understand some basic information about Reference Profiles, they’ve each been assigned to one of four groups — Analytical, Social, Stabilizing, or Persistent. Each group is represented by a different shape behind their icon.

The five reference profiles in the Analytical group are typically more dominant than extraverted and have a low amount of patience. They’re marked by a gear icon.

The five reference profiles in the Social group are typically highly extraverted and are marked with a hexagon in their icon.

The four reference profiles in the Stabilizing group are typically less dominant and extraverted while having a high amount of patience and formality. They’re marked by a triangle shaped icon.

The two reference profiles in the Persistent group are typically more dominant than extraverted with a high amount of patience. They’re marked by a circle-shaped icon. 

How are reference profiles determined?

Reference profiles are determined as follows: each of the 17 options has given plot points. The distance between a PI Behavioral Assessment respondent’s Factor scores and those of each of the 17 reference profile plot points is calculated, and the reference profile with the shortest distance is selected. There is a bit more to it than that, in that we have to “stretch” the profiles to put them on the same plane and calculate the distance using Euclidean distance.

You may occasionally notice that some patterns look very similar to each other, but have different Reference Profiles. This occurs because of the way that Reference Profiles are calculated. Since Reference Profiles are based on the Euclidean distance between the placement of respondents’ factors from the coordinates of each standardized Reference Profile, it is inevitable that some patterns will be right “on the line” between two different Reference Profiles. When this occurs, there is no need to worry. The general behavioral characteristics of each reference profile still apply to these people, but also be sure to take their patterns into account. Reference profiles are broad categories and not specific patterns.

Factor Configurations

Outside of reference profiles, some people tend to have concerns over extreme patterns or factor configurations (i.e., when one’s factors tend towards the extremes of their plot). The configuration of scores on the PI Behavioral Assessment represents the best estimate of someone’s likely behavioral drives given their responses to the assessment. Wider configurations of scores tend to be more clearly and consistently expressed (in other words, the volume is turned up at extremes of the scale). More situational scores (scores near the midpoint) represent more adaptable drives; the respondent may have an easier time adjusting behavior for that factor as needed, but does not strongly express the factor either way.

Do certain reference profiles tend to succeed in certain jobs?

Unlike the PI Behavioral Assessment Factor scores, reference profiles are not valid for hiring, but certain Factors may be commonly related to performance for a given job role, and as a result, one might see some reference profiles being commonly sought out for certain roles. PI provides benchmarks, applicant data, and validity studies that look at roles at specific companies and correlate performance with Factor scores. Remember that the same role might have different behavioral requirements depending on the company or the work environment, and PI does not recommend a “one-size-fits-all” approach of using reference profiles to set job targets, nor should one try to define career paths based on reference profiles. There is so much more to job performance than someone’s behavioral profile and we wouldn’t want anyone to view their PI Behavioral Assessment results as limiting.

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