Psychometric testing is becoming increasingly common in the hiring process, so it is crucial to know how to approach these tests

A growing number of recruitment processes now feature aptitude and psychometric testing to help streamline selection and level the playing field. 

What can these tests reveal and are they always appropriate, particularly when candidates are as highly qualified as private markets professionals?

At PER, we believe that there’s no such thing as a ‘standard search’, so we work closely with clients to decide if these tests should be included in the process. Whether you are looking for a role and curious about facing these tests, or embarking on a search process and wondering whether to include this phase, we’ve put together a brief guide with useful links.

Psychometric personality profiling tests

The object of psychometric personality profiling tests is to identify an individual’s interests, values, and motivations. Commonly, these tests present a series of statements describing feelings and actions. The test subject is asked to record how much they agree or disagree. 

There are lots of tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which places you in one of 16 personality groups, and the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ), which tests your personality to check that it fits with the job.

You will usually be presented with statements describing different emotions or behaviours. Your task is to indicate your level of agreement on a scale of two, five, or seven points. There are no right or wrong answers. Personality tests are not typically conducted under timed exam conditions, as pressure can affect accuracy and discourage honesty.

Although there is generally no time constraint, anticipate spending 15 to 30 minutes answering anywhere from 50 to 200 questions, usually online. To prepare, practice with personality tests to become familiar with their structure and the types of questions they include. Ensure you have a clear understanding of the job description, know what qualities the employer is seeking, and understand how the specific test will assess these qualities.
Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test

Ability based aptitude tests

Aptitude tests assess your reasoning or cognitive ability, determining whether you've got the right skillset for a role. Conducted in a controlled exam setting, these tests typically allocate one minute for each multiple-choice question. Your intellectual proficiency is then measured against a benchmark, requiring you to attain a specified score for successful completion. Examples of commonly used tests include:

Take a practice aptitude test:

Abstract reasoning

Gives you the chance to demonstrate how quickly you learn new things. Often these tests involve identifying and collating images. Practise ways in which you can spot similarities and distinctions in similar images.
Error checking

Assesses your ability to spot errors in sets of data or text. The typical questions that arise during these assessments require an effective comparison of correct information alongside an adapted version of the original text.

Numerical reasoning 
Evaluates your capacity to manage and interpret numerical data. This assessment involves analysing and drawing conclusions from data, often presented in tables or graphs. The tests are conducted under time constraints and utilise a multiple-choice format.

Spatial reasoning

Assesses your ability to handle 2D and 3D objects, identify patterns among shapes, and visualise movements and transformations within those shapes.

Verbal reasoning

Requires you to interpret and process information efficiently. Often these questions are asked in long form statements that you will be required to read and answer from. Take your time with these. Don’t read through them with any assumptions, and prepare reading and processing information efficiently and speedily.

Situational judgement

Assesses decision-making and judgment by presenting you with a simulated work scenario and multiple potential actions or responses. You are then required to select your most and least likely responses when confronted with the given situation.

Why are these tests a feature of the hiring process?

  • Reduces unconscious bias
Formalising the interview process in this way helps companies to remove any potential for unconscious bias within the hiring stage. This is becoming more and more important, with an increased focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In effect, these styles of aptitude tests offer a level playing field to all candidates. Many processes are blind at the testing phase; names, prestigious universities, gender etc won’t be revealed – only scores.

  • Highlights cultural fit
Psychometric tests offer insights into a candidate's preferred work environment, aiding in the evaluation of their potential fit within an organisation. Personality profiles, derived from these tests, reveal behavioural preferences, such as being outgoing or emotional or spontaneous. This information guides the interview process, allowing companies to assess how well the candidate aligns with the team and workplace culture. Avoiding the costly and time-consuming mistake of hiring someone who, despite an impressive resume, may struggle to adapt or disrupt the team is a crucial consideration for employers.

  • More predictive than a CV?
Psychometric testing may have a higher predictive accuracy for real-world skills compared to the conventional CV screening process. Traditional methods such as CVs and interviews are subjective and can have varying evaluation criteria from person to person. Psychometric testing addresses these problems by offering a standardised assessment, allowing for a more objective measurement of skills. It also enables benchmarking of candidates, swiftly eliminating those who do not meet specific criteria.

Are there any disadvantages?

Response bias
    It’s possible that psychometric testing, particularly personality tests, may not paint an entirely accurate picture of someone. A candidate could go out of their way to research what an ‘ideal candidate’ for the role would look like and then answer questions dishonestly to please their potential employer.

    They don't necessarily translate into real workplace performance

    Psychometric tests measure abstract, indirect skills - and these types of skills, as well as character traits measured in personality tests, aren’t necessarily indicative of how well someone would actually succeed in a particular role.

    Cultural bias

    Socially desirable behaviour differs between culture. For example, someone from Asia will have a different perspective on desired behaviour than someone from Europe, resulting in cultural bias.

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