Psychometric tests - and how not to fear them

Psychometric tests - and how not to fear them

Interviews have long been the method used by employers to see whether jobseekers are the right fit for them but, with increasing competition for almost every role, many companies are finding they need a little help to whittle down the longlist - and that's where psychometric testing can come in.

What are psychometric tests?

This type of assessment aims to gather a deeper insight into a candidate's personality, competency, working style and motivation, which might not always come across accurately in a traditional, face-to-face interview.

Employers often like them because they provide a better chance of improving the quality of candidates, which can reduce recruitment costs in the short term and also improve employee turnover rates in the long term.

While interviews tend to be subjective and can depend on the panel's reaction to particular people, psychometric analysis is more scientific and objective. Not only can it get around the fact that good candidates can sometimes perform badly if they are nervous, but it can also eliminate those entirely unsuitable for a role from the offset.

What will psychometric tests entail?

Psychometric tests can come in two forms: an aptitude test and a personality test. The former can involve diagrammatic reasoning, error checking, spatial awareness and verbal reasoning and allows you to demonstrate skills in the field for which you are applying.

For example, anyone applying to the pharmaceutical industry may have to perform tests related to dispensing drugs. They will likely be timed and carried out under examination conditions.

Meanwhile, personality tests are designed to forecast how a person might react in certain, simulated workplace conditions. For these, there won't be correct and incorrect answers, so candidates will need to go with their instinctive reaction in order to answer them.

For personality tests, employers want to explore the results in terms of values and motivations to see if you will be a good fit at their organisation.

How to prepare for psychometric tests

The best way to get ready for psychometric testing is to do some practice tests, just as you would for any exam. Many organisations offer sample psychometric tests online, including the Institute of Psychometric Coaching and some universities, so it's worth looking them up and trying some well in advance of an interview.

By practising online, you'll get a better idea of what the questions might look like and you'll gradually train yourself on how best to answer them for good results.

On the day of the test itself, don't overtax your mind by doing practice tests. However, you could ensure you are sharp and in a logical frame of mind by doing mathematical puzzles or word games rather than just looking at your phone.

Once in the assessment, remember to thoroughly read each question in order not to get tripped up about meaning and carefully check diagrams, figures or graphs if you need to interpret them.

Stay calm and work out roughly how long you should be spending on each question to avoid dwelling on any too long or rushing through unnecessarily. If any are stumping you, move on and forget about them, since these questions will be designed to test even the brightest candidates.

Finally, remember to be yourself in the personality tests - employers want to get to know you, not someone you think you should be to get the job.

Psychometric tests needn't be scary

It's worth keeping in mind that employers aren't trying to catch you out with psychometric tests - they're just trying to get a better idea of how you tick and attempting to simplify their own recruitment process.

You can also use them to your advantage by looking at what the job might entail if you get it - a test heavy on mathematical problems suggests the real role will also require this on a regular basis. Is this what you want?

In addition, psychometric tests can allow you to shine if you hate interviews but used to demonstrate flair in exams at school - the on-the-spot pressure to come up with a verbal answer is off, which might suit you better.

Don't spend too long revising for these tests at the expense of refining your interview technique - but remember that they can be a really good way for you to show off your strengths and perhaps land that dream job.