The tests, which use assessment tools designed by psychologists, are designed to reveal the truth about candidates’ abilities or personality traits. Many larger companies and organisations use them to get a more rounded picture of each candidate, rather than rely on the way candidates present themselves at interview.
The complex nature of these tests means that it’s almost impossible for candidates to create a false image by giving answers they think the employer wants to hear. Answers are never right or wrong, but simply reveal what the candidate is like. The employer knows what kind of person they want to appoint, so uses the outcomes to make their decisions.
Recruitment agencies use tests to ascertain which candidates to put forward to certain employers for particular jobs. Employment agencies also use tests to identify which areas of work their clients are best suited to.
You can’t fool or fake psychometric tests, but you can certainly prepare for them. Personality tests are hard to influence, as they simply reflect your character and behavioural traits, but tests geared towards aptitudes can certainly be influenced by the way you perform.
There are two different kinds of psychometric tests. Tests can be undertaken on a computer, via the Internet or using traditional pen and paper while sat at a desk.
The best known type is the personality test, which reveals your personality type and how you behave at work – e.g. whether you are honest, sociable and conscientious, whether you can cope with pressure, are ambitious, whether you work better within a team or on your own, etc. The results will also show whether you’re likely to change or be able to control certain characteristics.
You can easily spot a psychometric personality test because it features a lot of very similar questions asked in slightly different ways, with multiple choice answers for each one. It’s hard to read between the lines when you’re answering them one after another.
Aptitude tests explore how well you can put your skills – such as numeracy, literacy or spatial reasoning – into practice in the workplace. Employers are usually interested in people who can put what they’ve learned into action. They also like to see who will be able to communicate, make strong decisions or understand situations that arise in the workplace. Other aptitude areas that get tested are conceptual / abstract, verbal, mechanical and emotional reasoning.
No employer wishes to take a big risk when it comes to appointing new staff. Getting it wrong and recruiting someone unsuitable can be expensive in terms of both time and cost, relating not just to the recruitment process but also to the work that has been completed poorly or not at all.
Psychometric testing reduces the risk of making a bad appointment by giving the employer some objective information. Used in conjunction with the candidate’s CV, face-to-face interviews and employer references, the test results help to validate the employer’s decision.
The employer can ascertain through aptitude tests whether the candidate is really intellectually capable of performing the role, as well as whether the candidate will fit into the organisation and team. Knowing how someone is likely to behave in certain situations is invaluable, as behaviour determines how well someone performs at work as much as abilities.
While you may initially feel distrustful, it’s worth viewing psychometric tests as being useful for you too. No matter how attractive a job appears and how much you can picture yourself in that role, the truth may be different. If you’re not suited to that organisation, department or position, then it’s likely that you will perform below your potential and may be very unhappy.
You can take psychometric tests without waiting for an employer to ask you to sit one. There are numerous online tests. With aptitude tests, you can learn more about your strengths and suitability for different types of work. Results can help you to identify weaker areas, so that you can take more training and development to make them stronger.
There is no way that you can learn and memorise test questions beforehand. However you can make sure that you’re familiar with the style of these tests and that you know what to expect before the day of your interview.
If offered an interview, always find out what the day will entail. If there’s a psychometric test on the schedule, ask what kind it is, how long it will last and whether you’re allowed to use a calculator or not. The more you know beforehand, the less chance there is of you being surprised and losing your composure for any reason. You may even get to see a sample questionnaire.
Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to take some free online psychometric tests. You can get a feel for them and also read some interesting conclusions. For jobs where aptitude tests are likely to appear, you can practise by completing as many mathematical questions as possible, as well as logical puzzles, brainteasers, crosswords, etc. It’s a matter of heightening your mental agility so that you can work quickly under pressure.
You can’t change your personality, of course. However, being familiar with the kind of results you achieve will enable you to highlight the right aspects of your character during the interview.
Otherwise, try to be consistent with your answers. If you answer quickly and truthfully, your character is likely to come across truthfully – if you try to second guess the answers and manipulate the results, the results will simply show negative characteristics due to your inconsistency. It will not help your application if you come across as devious!
Finally, ensure that you are feeling bright, awake and unhurried when you attend the interview. If you feel confident about being interviewed and already feel happy completing psychometric tests, then your thinking is going to be sharper and clearer.
Always listen to the instructions given at the start of the test. If you are in any doubt, be sure to ask for clarification before the test starts.
Never take your test results to mean that a certain career direction is forever closed to you. Aptitude tests can show you areas of weakness, which you can then improve through additional training or practice. Personality is trickier, as your results may not present the same picture that you have of yourself. Yet self-awareness counts for a great deal and the more you understand how you come across and behave at work, the better equipped you will then be to improve the way you handle yourself professionally.