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An insight into psychometric assessment

This page will provide you with guidance and should demystify some of the confusion surrounding psychometric assessments.

What are psychometric assessments/tests?

Firstly, the word ‘test’ generally suggests that you are being tested against a set of right and wrong answers or responses.  Many psychometric tools do not involve you either getting things right or getting things wrong.  They are simply used to help provide more information about predicting your suitability to the job being applied for.

For this reason, we have chosen to use the words ‘psychometric assessment’ rather than ‘psychometric testing’ and we will refer to the ‘tests’ themselves as tools that are being used by the person recruiting you for the job.  Much the same as you would use different tools within the workshop to help you diagnose correctly or use different sales processes etc. to help in other areas of the business.

Eugene Burke, an occupational psychologist at SHL, the world leader in psychometric assessment said: “The term ‘psychometric assessment’ simply means the measurement of a person’s talents, this includes personality, but crucially also covers motivation and aptitudes as well and how these talents best match a role in an organisation.”

Different types:

There are many different psychometric tools that can be used during recruitment and selection and also for later development needs.  Most psychometric assessments fall into the following categories:

  • Personality
  • Ability/Aptitude

Personality tools

A personality questionnaire could involve you answering a series of questions about your preferences, your likes and dislikes or the way in which you would normally behave in a given scenario.  They are different to the exams you may have taken at school or college as there are generally no right or wrong answers – i.e. you cannot fail!

A personality questionnaire will simply provide the person recruiting you with more information about the types of events you handle particularly well and your normal way of behaving as well as the kind of events that may force you to act out of character. 

Three of the most common personality profiling questionnaires are:

  • Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)
  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator
  • Cattells 16PF

All provide information about you as a person and ask you to describe preferences or how you would normally behave in a given scenario.

Ability and Aptitude tools

These are used to predict a person’s success within the job being applied for.  Again, they help measure a person’s ability/aptitude in a number of ways such as:

  • Verbal reasoning/verbal comprehension
  • Numerical ability/numerical reasoning
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Critical thinking/critical reasoning

The most appropriate tool to use on the day will have been carefully chosen by the person responsible for the recruitment of the job holder.  The chosen tool will be the one that most closely matches the skills and abilities required of the job holder and as such will help provide further information on your capability and suitability for the actual job you are applying for.

If and when you do take part in a psychometric assessment you may be asked to complete a verbal, numerical and personality questionnaire or you may just be required to complete one type of assessment.  This really will depend on the type of job you are applying for and the level of responsibility or technical skill involved.

Why do employers use psychometric assessments?

You can probably appreciate that selecting; recruiting and training the right person for a job is a costly and timely investment by any business.  However it is an even more costly mistake if a business recruits the wrong person for the job, which in turn can be a disappointing and often demoralising experience for the individual.

To avoid this type of situation occurring, more and more employers today are recognising the benefit of introducing a more thorough and robust recruitment process into their business.  This recruitment process needs to provide the potential employer with factual, reliable information about all the job candidates, in order that they can make an accurate and fair recruitment decision.  Of course, this also has the added benefit of allowing you to decide whether you think the job role and employer are suited to you as well!

Although interviews themselves are widely used they do not always provide the potential employer with enough accurate information to help them predict future job performance.  Interview decisions alone can also fall prey to the interviewer’s individual perceptions and judgements of the candidate – which might not necessarily be that accurate!

Using other assessment methods, such as psychometric assessments, help to provide a fully rounded picture of the candidate and offer a much more structured approach to recruitment.

Preparing for psychometric assessment.

You will find it useful to ask your potential employer what is going to be involved in the selection process.  They should be able to tell you whether you simply need to attend an interview or whether you will be required to take part in some assessment as well.  You could also ask them what this assessment will involve and whether you need to do any preparation in advance.

If psychometric assessment is going to be part of the selection process, you will always have the opportunity to do some practice questions before the start of the assessment. 

Some tools require the person responsible for the recruitment, to send these out to you beforehand which will allow you to practice in the comfort of your own home before the day.

Other things you can do to help yourself prepare are:

  • Have a good night’s sleep the night before
  • Know the location of the interview/assessment and arrive in good time
  • If you normally wear glasses or a hearing aid, remember to bring these with you
  • Visit the other web pages on this area of the site that offer tips and techniques about preparing for interview and presenting yourself

There are many useful resources available to you to help you prepare for any type of psychometric assessment.

Eugene Burke suggests using the Internet. Web sites have a wealth of information on psychometric assessment, you can practice the tests you are likely to come across at the SHL website: www.shldirect.com

In addition, you may wish to visit www.prospects.ac.uk, which provides a range of assessment questions for you to familiarise yourself with.

Another useful website is www.kiersey.com Simply key ‘psychometric tests’ or‘myers briggs’ into their search engine and click search for a whole range of interesting and useful links.  The Myers Briggs link offers an insight into one of the most popular types of personality profiling questionnaire, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

How can I do my best on the day?

  • Remember all the preparation you have done stands you in good stead for the day!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a question if there is something that is not clear on the day
  • Listen to any instructions carefully
  • Follow any instructions given carefully
  • Most assessments have a set time to complete them.  Try to work quickly and accurately and do not waste time on questions that you simply do not understand.  Complete ones you do understand first and go back if you have enough time
  • Remember, the final job decision will not be based on your assessment scores alone