As part of their recruiting process, many employers want to know a bit more about their candidates – they want to see for themselves how a potential employee might react in certain situations, where their values will take them, or what their instincts are.
These aren’t always clear from a CV or interview. To dig deeper into their candidates’ personalities, employers sometimes use psychometric tests.
What is a psychometric test?
It’s a (usually) short test, completed online or on paper, that measures skills and personality tendencies related to the job. Because the same test can be given to any number of candidates, and their outcome depends on raw performance, not interview skills or the impression they make on first meeting, they are usually considered more objective than questions asked at interview.
Psychometric tests consist of one or more tasks, measuring important skills and behaviours that the employer has decided are key to the job. Some of them, such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, are widely popular and used in many companies. Other tests might be developed by a single employer for a specific job.
There are, broadly, two kinds of psychometric tests: aptitude and personality. Aptitude tests are designed to measure your ability to carry out tasks associated with the job, employing skills such as mathematical or verbal reasoning, logic or attention to detail. Personality tests instead look at your behavioural tendencies – how you’re likely to act in certain situations, or whether your values are compatible with the company.
Common Features of Tests
Many tests are timed and have a set number of questions for you to complete. You need to complete as many as possible within the time limit, but often, a test might have more questions than it’s realistically possible to work through properly within the time given. Just do as many as possible and make sure you read all instructions carefully.
Employers will often set a minimum pass score on their tests and will discard any applications from candidates who score too low. However, some organisations will look to compare candidates’ performance directly and prefer to take the very highest scorers. Alternatively, they may analyse scores by skill or area, and take candidates who show a combination of skills they like.
Types of Psychometric Test
Most psychometric tests fall into one of two categories: aptitude or personality. However, within these there is greater variation. Aptitude tests include:
- Numerical reasoning tests measure capability, though not necessarily knowledge, of dealing with mathematical problems. Typically, the only things they expect you to know are how to add, subtract, divide, multiply and calculate percentages.
- Verbal reasoning tests involve deduction of information from statements, as well as understanding logical arguments. Often, they present you with a short text and you must answer questions based only on information you can deduce from it.
- Abstract reasoning tests require observation and application of rules to new situations. They often feature numerical or spatial patterns which you must detect and apply to a further sequence
- Situational judgement tests examine your ability to respond to hypothetical events in a productive manner. In these tests, it is often empathy, pragmatism and foresight that is being looked for
Personality tests might include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a widely used test that places people into one of 16 general personality types. Alternatively, the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) may be used – this test examines your work style and preferences to see if you would fit well within the organisation you’ve applied to join. These tests can tell nothing about ability, only about general work behaviour.
How do employers use these tests?
CVs and interviews provide only limited information – the former includes only ‘official’ qualifications and verifiable work experience, while the latter gives only a snapshot of a candidate’s behaviours and ideals. For a full-time job that could test an individual’s abilities and patience, employers may desire more detailed information about a candidate. The tests can provide insight into how the candidate may interact with co-workers and tasks in an office, and suggest whether or not they will be a suitable fit for the company.
Psychometric tests will usually be combined with other methods, such as interviews or group exercises, where they are used. The totality of information about an applicant provided by these means can then be used to make a decision. Employers want to know if the candidate is capable of performing all tasks given to them, and that they will be a good fit for the organisation. Most companies do not want to have to replace employees who aren’t up to the demands of the job, and applicants generally prefer to keep their CVs clean of quick redundancies that are due to a lack of suitability.
For employers, one advantage of psychometric tests is that they provide quantitative, intrinsically comparable results. It can be difficult to judge which of two applicants has performed better at interview, especially if their answers were similar or both made good, important points. The results of numerically scored tests can be easily compared and ranked, showing at a glance which candidate has done best.
Passing the test
There are numerous online resources to help people practice and score well on psychometric tests. Some organisations provide sample questions from tests they give to applicants, while many websites exist purely to provide advice for doing well. There are also a few basic pieces of advice which apply for any test:
- Read the instructions. Since many tests are timed, it is important that you are working to a useful response from the start. Avoid spending part of the time looking for the wrong answer – read the question carefully and make sure you understand it.
- Prepare. If a test allows a calculator or other equipment, make sure it’s ready before the test begins. Similarly, paper for notes or working out, as well as pens and pencils, are useful to have to hand. You may also wish to have a glass of water.
- Make sure your working environment is quiet and comfortable.
- Try to be honest if the test is, for example, asking what you would do in a certain situation. Dishonesty will make things difficult in the following interview.
Sites that offer further information and practice tests
- Job Test Prep– offers several kinds of free practice tests, plus more advanced practice with paid subscription.
- Psychometric Institute – source of information and advice about psychometric tests, as well as a few practice tests
- Graduates First – information about different kinds of tests, as well as some practice
- Assessment Day – lots of different practice tests