Psychometric testing – what is it and how to approach it

What is a Psychometric Test?

It’s an instrument attempting to find out about individual differences: personal characteristics underlying actions, possible future behaviour, how good you are at something compared with other groups of people.

What do they measure?

If you’re going for a job you’re likely to be given one of three types of test:

  • Ability Tests: Old IQ tests claimed to give one number that expressed your intelligence. Nowadays we know that there are lots of different sorts of intelligence. The most common tests assess verbal, abstract, spatial and numerical intelligence but there are many others: emotional intelligence for example. People may be good at some, not so good at others. Jobs require different mixes of intelligence.
  • Knowledge or Skills Tests: Do you know something (‘What is meant by R.O.I.? ‘ for instance ) or do you know how to do something ( Cut and paste text in WORD for instance ) ? These tests are most like school and college tests.
  • Personality: Good personality tests are based on theory and many years’ research in which they’re tried on millions of people to build up profiles of the sorts of people who are successful in different jobs. They don’t claim to sum you up or predict how you’ll act in any given situation; they measure your tendency to behave in a certain way.

You might get tested for other things – ethics, values, integrity for instance – but ability and personality are the most often measured aspects of people during the recruitment process.

Will the test decide whether I get the job?

Not on its own, if the test is being used well. Good tests are supplied only to people trained in their use and they know that tests should NEVER be used on their own to make a decision. Tests are used as part of a process, each part of which – interviews, references, work simulations – provide different parts of the jigsaw. Tests only measure specific aspects of people and are often used to challenge subjective feelings and people’s prejudices with more objective, scientific information on your human qualities.

When will I be tested?

Tests are used at different stages in the recruitment process. Sometimes they’re used in conjunction with other information ( i.e. CVs ) to shortlist candidates; sometimes they’re used as part of a first interview, sometimes to generate questions for a further interview. The information they generate might be used to plan training for a potential candidate. Increasingly, you’ll find that access to the test is given via pass worded sites on the internet or even on web recruitment sites. But be careful: there are some very bad tests on the internet.

What should I look out for?

You should take the test in a good environment where you can concentrate on it without disruptions. If you’re taking test at a company’s offices, the test administrator should put you at your ease and be happy to explain anything you’re not sure of. Check that the test looks good – it’s not a photocopy or a cheap print out. Ask questions about the test; what it’s for, how it’s being used in the process.

If you’re taking the test on the internet, make sure you chose a place and time where you feel comfortable, you won’t be interrupted and you have the time to finish filling it in.

Finally, all good test users are trained to give feedback to you on how you performed once the test has been interpreted. This should always happen because recruitment is a two way process and you have a right to understand the decision and learn a bit more about yourself.

Should I be nervous?

A little bit of adrenaline helps in a lot of activities including testing. But there’s no need to be worried. Strangely, research shows that a lot of people enjoy a well-run testing process because the feedback gives them more information about themselves. Basically, tests are there to help you and the employer make good decisions.

What the employer thinks of you

Read how a company may interpret your results and what decisions they may come to before they even see you. It may seem unfair however it is better to know in advance of your interview what conclusions they may draw.

Employers will draw conclusions about you from the results of your personality test even if they have not met you.

Your report contains an interpretation of your results and a typical HR professional thought on them.