Employers often use psychometric testing to vet potential employees and help them understand a little more about your personality and ability to fit into the role they are offering – and this type of testing is becoming increasing popular.
Some tests are paper-based, others are computer-administered. Structural engineering firms might create the job and people specifications, and then use personality and ability tests on candidate shortlists; or might use the test to create candidate shortlists in the first place.
Why psychometric testing? Why not just interview?
Recruiting the wrong person can be a very expensive mistake! Conversely, recruiting the right person can transform an organisation for the better. Some personal characteristics, such as team-working skills, reasoning ability and personal empathy, are difficult to assess at interview and testing can be a more reliable indicator. Importantly, psychometric tests can minimise recruitment bias on the basis of gender, race and disability and may also allow the interview to be tailored for the individual. In short, these tests can make the recruitment process fairer to the employer and the applicant.
Types of test ability/aptitude tests
These are designed to assess the skills/knowledge you possess that are important for the job and come in many forms. With technical jobs, they might involve specialist questioning or practical testing. You would probably be told beforehand if this kind of test were to be conducted, so you can prepare by
- Finding out what you will be tested on
- Revising it
- Looking at sample questions
- Doing practice tests
Some aptitude tests may assess your potential to learn rather than testing specific skills. These are usually multiple-choice questionnaires, with definite right and wrong answers, and your work is generally timed. The most common types of aptitude tests include:
- Numerical tests, which test your mental agility and how quickly you understand numbers. It may be worth reminding yourself of times tables, percentages, fractions and long multiplication. You may be asked to complete a sequence of numbers, state the largest fraction or interpret date tables.
- Verbal tests, which may assess how you respond to written text. For example, you may be presented with a paragraph of text and asked to interpret the information.
- Logical reasoning, which usually involves spotting patterns. Practice reading complicated texts about subjects you do not understand. Practice extracting the main points from passages of information and summarising their meaning.
These measure your attitude, motivation and work style. These tests are designed to assess your typical behaviour, preferred way of doing things and how you are likely to behave in various situations. Employers use them to help them find people with characteristics that may be particularly suitable for a particular position.
Tips for psychometric interviews
- Be yourself, as you don’t know exactly what qualities the interviewers are looking for. They may be looking for a variety of different personalities rather than just one profile. Personality questionnaires usually contain checks to test whether or not you are being consistent, so try to answer as honestly as you can.
- Put down the answers that immediately spring to mind, rather than spending time pondering their meaning.
- Do not worry about your answers. Your interview and CV also provide important information about you, so your tests results will not represent the be all and end all.
- As there are no right or wrong answers in personality tests, you can’t revise for them. However, to ensure you don’t suffer from last minute nerves, you can undertake some practice questionnaires ahead of your interview, which are available free-of-charge from many websites.
General advice for taking psychometric tests
- Get a good night's sleep the evening before the test and plan to arrive in good time, with a positive frame of mind.
- Inform the administrator if you are on medication that makes you drowsy.
- Read the questions carefully.
- The test may have some practice questions at the start. Make sure you understand these thoroughly before the test itself begins and, if you do not, ask the administrator to explain them.
- If you have a disability and require special provisions, you should contact the employer in advance.
- If you get stuck on a question, move on to the next one. However, do not abandon a question prematurely, if with a few extra seconds you might have solved it.
- If you change your answer, make sure your final choice is clear.
- Don’t waste time checking each answer thoroughly until you are absolutely convinced it is right.
- If you are not sure of an answer, put down your best guess and move on. However, avoid wild guessing – especially if marks are taken off for wrong answers.
Ask for feedback on your test results. Even if you are not hired, it can be useful to learn a bit more about yourself and how you come across to others. Asking demonstrates that you consider their tests to be important and useful.