Introduction to the PI Behavioral Assessment

What is the PI Behavioral Assessment?

The PI Behavioral Assessment (BA) is a self-report measure of adult work-related personality based on prominent theories of workplace behavior. It has been developed and validated extensively and exclusively for use in the workplace. The BA is untimed, takes an average of six minutes to complete, and is available through an easy-to-use online format.

The assessment uses a free-choice response format: participants are presented with two questions, each followed by a list of adjectives. The first question asks participants to select adjectives which they feel describe the way they are expected to act by others (Self-Concept). The second question asks respondents to select adjectives which they feel really describe them (Self). 

Each of the adjectives on the PI Behavioral Assessment is associated with one of five factors: Dominance, Extraversion, Patience, Formality, and Objectivity (referred to as Factors A, B, C, D, and E respectively). Dominance, Extraversion, Patience, and Formality are primary factors that determine the participants’ preferred behavioral drives in the workplace. Objectivity is used as a secondary factor describing a participant’s decision-making style in the expression of the four primary factors. Scores are presented graphically as behavioral patterns. The patterns are then interpreted by trained PI practitioners, who utilize the BA data for hiring, coaching, motivation, and development of employees.

Sample Behavioral Pattern

The degree to which an individual seeks to control their environment.

The degree to which an individual seeks social interaction with other people.

The degree to which an individual seeks consistency and stability in their environment.

The degree to which an individual seeks to conform to formal rules and structure.

The degree to which an individual relies on objectivity when processing information and making decisions.

How do I score and interpret the BA?

On the BA, respondents have free choice amongst the adjectives provided—in other words, this is not a forced-choice assessment. BA scores represent relative differences within people rather than between people. This means that the focus is not on how one’s personality compares to other people, but instead on the relative dominance of how they express the behavioral factors themselves.

While factors are scored independently, the overall factor pattern is the best estimate of someone’s likely workplace behavior based on their assessment responses. What is the respondent’s highest factor? What is their lowest factor? That combination can be used to determine likely work-related behaviors.

The width of a pattern can also be meaningful. Wider patterns tend to be more clearly and consistently expressed (in other words, the volume is turned up at extremes of the scale). Scores closer to the midpoint (which we call “situational”) 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.

What are Reference Profiles?

Before we had the 17 reference profiles, we had 47 “patterns,” some of which had names. Patterns were thought of in terms of their shape, with the midpoint and factor combinations playing key roles in determining which pattern someone fell under. When we moved to 17 official reference profiles, we had to find a way to condense those 47 patterns down, as well as find a way to objectively define a pattern. This meant we had to broaden the way patterns were defined, and we developed a more sophisticated approach that looks at the configuration of the entire pattern.

Each of the 17 options has been given a prototypical factor pattern (some of which are based on the old named patterns PI used to use). 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. We recommend visiting the Science Behind Reference Profiles for more information.

What is M?

M is simply the count of the number of adjectives a respondent selected in the Self or Self-Concept domain. The BA only functions properly with a minimum M score of 6. If the respondent chooses fewer than six words in one of the checklists, their results are not valid. For example, if a person had a M score of 1 and picked one Extraversion (Factor B) word, their Factor B score would appear very high. The same can be said for M scores above 80. In sum, selecting too few or too many words on the BA leads to results that are uninterpretable.

For more information on M visit this Learn Page.

How is the BA used in practice?


The BA is valid for use in making hiring decisions. Hiring managers can set a BA “job target” through a guided process to answer the question: what does the factor pattern of a strong performer look like for this job? Candidate results are compared to the job target via “match scores” to gauge an individual’s behavioral fit. Our software also produces a unique interview guide for each candidate to tap into their potential strengths and areas of opportunity based on their BA results.


Training plans can be created based on an individual’s BA factor pattern. We recommend looking at factor differences rather than the reference profile as the differences will provide better insights as to the development needs of the individual. The Personal Development Chart available in the software will provide a great starting point to developing individualized training plans.

Change Management

Practitioners advise leaders managing change at a company by helping them understand how their employees’ behavioral drives might impact their readiness for a change, their reactions to the change, and their desire to be engaged with the change process. 

Growth Strategy

Practitioners also use the results of the PI Behavioral Assessment to consider how behavioral drives and needs play a role in training employees and leveraging their awareness of their behavioral drives to help them succeed in new roles.

What else should I keep in mind when implementing the BA?


Participants are free to use computers, tablets, or mobile phones to take the PI Behavioral Assessment online. Based on our research, the choice of device has no impact on the accuracy of someone’s scores or behavioral patterns. Participants should use whichever device they feel most comfortable with.

Respondent Age

There are no restrictions on how old a respondent must be to take the BA but since it is developed and validated only with working adult samples (age 18 and older), clients should exercise extreme caution when using or interpreting results collected from minors (e.g., high school students). 

Has the BA been reviewed by third parties?

PI employs a team of experienced scientists and researchers who develop, maintain, monitor, and document PI’s assessments to ensure that they are valid, reliable, and fair. The PI Behavioral Assessment has been in widespread commercial use since 1955, and the validity and reliability of the PI Behavioral Assessment have been investigated by numerous PI researchers and third parties.

The most comprehensive third-party review of the PI Behavioral Assessment was conducted from 2017 to 2018 through the certification company DNV-GL. In that review, the PI Behavioral Assessment was reviewed by two psychologists and independent auditors who evaluated the assessment against the guidelines published by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA, 2013). This audit covered validity, reliability, fairness, development, norms, reporting, supporting documentation and training, and even pricing and distribution. The PI Behavioral Assessment passed this review and was certified under the EFPA model in September 2018. PI continues to maintain this certification through periodic reviews.

To inform us of a typo or other error, click here. To request a new feature, click here.