Psychometric Tests and Personality Assessments
Employers are using psychometric tests more frequently to assess candidates' abilities and aptitudes in certain areas. The results are presented in a standardised way, which helps employers make accurate and objective comparisons between you and other candidates.
- What are tests looking for?
Tests vary from one company to another and will usually be carefully constructed to test skills that are relevant to a particular job or working environment. They might assess one or more of the following:
- verbal reasoning
- spatial or diagrammatic reasoning
Many tests will include a selection of maths, English and logic exercises to test your ability to work quickly and accurately.
Psychometric tests are often used in conjunction with other selection methods and it is your overall performance that matters. Many employers use online psychometric tests both prior to and at an assessment centre, as part of a range of selection activities.
- How do they work?
Tests can be computer or paper based. You might sit them individually or in a group. You might also work one to one with a trained administrator.
Questions are often multiple choice, with definite right and wrong answers. They may also get more difficult as the test progresses. Tests are strictly timed and there may be more questions than you can comfortably answer in the time available. Manage your time well, answering as many questions as possible without sacrificing accuracy. Pay attention to all instructions so that you are clear on how the test will be marked.
There is usually no pass or fail mark as such, but selectors will have in mind a norm for the type of candidate (e.g. student or graduate) or job. Your mark will be assessed in relation to this norm.
Sitting some practice tests will help you to feel more comfortable with the real process. There are links to practice test resources available and some employers will send out sample questions before your interview.
- Should I answer as many questions as I can?
Speed is an important factor for many people. Timed tests are designed so that you will be unlikely to both complete them and to get everything right, so don’t be too stressed if you don’t finish the test. However, if you are unable to finish the majority of a test, it will be difficult to achieve a high score.
Getting the balance right between speed and accuracy is important.
While some employers do use untimed tests, the majority of those used in graduate recruitment are timed. Quickly guessing answers to complete the test could work against you, as negative marking may be used (the instructions will inform you if negative marking is being used).
- What should I do if I have a disability, such as a visual impairment, or a condition such as dyslexi
If you have a disability and may need additional support or extra time to sit a psychometric test, let the employer know as soon as possible. Employers will then be able to make suitable arrangements in advance to ensure that you have a fair chance to perform well in the test. The sorts of adjustments employers might make include:
- Allowing extra time
- Providing a personal reader/ writer or signer
- Adjusting the pass mark
- Providing specialised equipment, such as loop systems, or braille keyboards
- Practise, practise, practise.
Practise can help your confidence in dealing with questions and your speed in tackling them. In particular you might wish to revise some basic mathematics, particularly if you have not recently studied a numerical subject. Practise general arithmetic and calculating percentages and ratios, as well as reading charts and graphs.
- Aim at completing all the questions in the numerical reasoning test, but don’t stress too much if you don’t. The test is designed so only 1% to 2% of test-takers can correctly answer all questions within the time limit.
- The most difficult questions in the aptitude tests are typically placed at the end of the test. However, every question in the aptitude tests is worth the same number of points. There's no bonus for figuring out a hard question.
- When doing an aptitude test, don't stop working until the time runs out. Rather, go back (if allowed) and re-examine the questions you were unsure of. Double-check your answers to the very first questions - these questions are generally very easy and people tend to make simple mistakes with them.
- In some aptitude tests, you can't skip questions. In this case, if you hit a mental block, you have to guess the answer to the question in front of you. Most test-takers waste more than a third of their time stuck on a handful of tough questions. You have to learn how to guess, move on, and cut your losses after spending more than a few minutes on a question.
- Get familiar with the basic functions on your calculator. The numerical reasoning questions are designed to measure your ability to interpret numerical data and use this data to make informed decisions. They are not measuring your math skills. Typically, you should be allowed to use a simple calculator but check the instructions.
- In most cases, you will be asked to take a series of psychometric tests including timed and non-timed tests. While you are allowed to complete them in one sitting, it is always recommended to have a break in between each test. Having a break to rest will help you to build up your mental capabilities and avoid the tiredness effect which impairs your performance.
- Practice makes perfect. As with any other test, practising reduces stress and other factors which impair your performance.
Personality assessments are not used in isolation but as part of the wider picture of evidence that the employer collects about you. There are no right or wrong answers, and you cannot pass or fail. Employers may use your results as a starting point for discussing your experiences and interests in an interview, to see how you would fit with the role they have open.
- When do personality assessments take place?
The personality assessment might take place before your interview or assessment centre, or on the day.
- What will it involve?
You cannot prepare or revise for a personality assessment, but you can familiarise yourself with what is involved. It may also be helpful to have an idea of what the results will say, as part of your research into the work areas and environments that might be interesting or appropriate for you.
Be honest with your answers. It is in your own interest to know whether you really are suited to the job. Work through the questions reasonably quickly and go with your instincts. If items seem similar or even the same, don't be put off. Answer honestly on each occasion. The profiles are designed to identify inconsistencies in your responses, and there is no point trying to guess the answer that the employer is looking for.
- Putting the results to use
You can use the assessment results to give examples of how your personality affects the way you work. What role do you tend to take on when working in a team? What situations bring out the best in you? What are your weaker areas? Candidates who are able to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses will impress employers. They are likely to learn from their experiences, rather than repeating mistakes.
You can ask the person overseeing the assessment how to go about getting formal feedback. A trained assessor may provide a written report. You will find it useful for your self-development whether or not you are offered the job.
- What if I am rejected because of this assessment?
If your personality profile does not reveal the appropriate characteristics for a particular role this is a mismatch, not a failure. You are unlikely to be rejected on this evidence alone if you did well in other tasks. If your profile has contributed to your rejection, it is worth seeking feedback. It may help you get a better match with your next application.