Psychometric tests and aptitude tests - The Student Room

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When looking for a job it is very easy to concentrate entirely on what YOU can get out of a new position, and how YOU should prepare. Instead try looking at the recruiting process from an employer's point of view.

Recruiting personnel is a long and expensive process. It is very important that a company gets it right, if the company hires someone that turns out to be unsuitable then it costs time, money and potential new clients.

Why Have the Tests?

If a new recruit causes personality conflicts within an established team or department then other members of staff become unhappy and under-perform. To reduce the possibility of hiring an inappropriate candidate employers use several filtering methods. Traditionally these have been the CV, covering letter, and interview. However respected companies recruiting a large volume of people can receive hundreds of CV's and covering letters for each position they advertise, they are finding that traditional candidate elimination techniques do not go far enough and are not cost effective.

Not only are CVs time consuming to read but there is also no consistency in the type of information they show and they can fail to include vital candidate information which the employer is looking for. It is also known that people exaggerate their qualifications and experience on their CVs and tell the employer only what they want to hear.

As a result employers are using psychometric testing more and more in addition to the traditional selection methods.

What Are the Tests Like?

A psychometric test usually comes in the form of approximately fifty questions or statements, for example:

  • 'My friends say I'm a good listener'
  • 'I have always been a quick thinker'
  • 'I like to take risks'
  • 'I am not a very determined person'

For each statement there is usually a five-grade answer bar ranging from 'strongly agree' to 'strongly disagree'. You have to read each statement carefully and circle the response that best represents your opinion, for example you if a statement contains an element of truth but you do not strongly agree with it then you would circle a four out of five.

Your results are scanned into a computer for interpretation after which the employer will print out your profile. By varying the type of statements included in a test the employer can get a general overview of your personality, whether you are a good team player and what motivates you in the workplace.

It is also possible to base a test around a specific role, for example you could be tested to see if you possess the innate qualities required to be a good sales person.

Aptitude Tests

In addition to psychological analysis employers can use aptitude tests designed to measure your capacity to perform in a particular way. They include aptitudes for manual dexterity and speed, mechanical ability, spatial awareness, reasoning, abstract reasoning, clerical work, and your numerical and verbal skills.

This type of psychometric testing also has a place outside of candidate selection. Employers can use them to assess whether their staff need any extra training, or to evaluate an individuals suitability for promotion.

School leavers and those without career direction can use aptitude testing as a guide to see which jobs their skills lend themselves to. If you undertake a test for your own purposes your results may highlight strengths and areas of weakness. As an example if you do not meet a certain standard of numeric proficiency then perhaps a career in accounting is ill advised.

However it should be noted that just because a psychometric test tells you that you would make a lousy bank manager, that doesn't mean that you have to reassess you career objectives if bank managing is what you had your heart set on. Reason why the test showed that you would not be suitable and try to address those issues.

Personality Tests

A personality test can be used to get a generalized overview of an individual's character, for example their anxieties, whether they are sociable, assertive, extroverted or introverted. Their suitability for the job can be judged from their responses. For example successful sales staff should be outgoing, financially motivated, confident and persuasive.

It is questionable how much value personality testing has in offering personal career enlightenment. If you don't know what your character is like and where your skills lie, what chance has a computer got? However it is a good way of focusing your thoughts and often when in career limbo that is exactly what is required.

Faking it

It is possible to cheat the personality psychometric test by putting answers that may not be your true responses but instead are the replies you think show the employer that you have what it takes to excel in the role to which you are applying.

Yes this approach could work in your favour but you will not be recruited solely on the results of your test, as it is likely that you will also have to submit a CV and be interviewed. There is no point in deceiving the employer because if you are not really suitable for the job and get it you will underachieve, disappoint your employers, you will not be happy and will probably have to leave.

Tests try to guard against intentional manipulation by posing the same question more than once but wording it differently. For example 'I find it difficult to work with others', and 'I enjoy team work', if there was a discrepancy between your replies then the chances are you are faking it.

Online Psychometrics

The latest trend in psychometrics is towards online testing. Candidates applying through an online recruitment site can complete and submit their test and an employer will have the results well in advance of the interview. As with hard copy psychometrics, the online versions usually come in the form of statements and instead of circling your response you tick the relevant box. You can take your time over your answers and should you make a mistake there is no need to cross anything out, you can simply tick a different box or press the 'back' button in your browser.

Do they work?

Psychometric tests can cause suspicion and bemusement in equal measure. Some people consider them to be time wasting psychological mumbo jumbo and think that the results are very much dependant upon your mood on the day. Until you have actually completed one and witness the accuracy of the results then you should not judge them as a means of interpreting personality traits and aptitude.

A recent study concluded that 87 percent of employers use psychometric testing in conjunction with interviews to select their employees, their value is now generally undisputed.

An employer will not found their entire decision on the basis of your test results so do not panic, they are not designed to catch you out. You are well within your rights to enquire what the employer is assessing for, and whether there will be a chance to discuss the results of the assessment.

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