Demystifying The Psychometric Test

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Psychometric tests are often the Achilles heel of many a promising candidate. When we inform them that they are part of the process, we often hear a sharp intake of breath followed closely by the words…. “What does that involve?”

The field of psychometric testing is highly specialized and as such we invited an expert – Dr Brad Dolph of RightPeople to answer a few of the most common questions that our candidates have. His responses in the text below should be of interest to a wide range of people – from interns to executives.

What are psychometric tests?

“There are two types of psychometric test – cognitive and non-cognitive assessments. Cognitive assessments include problem-solving tests (usually verbal, abstract, working memory and numerical aptitude assessments). Non-cognitive assessments such as behavioural and attitudinal tests are often also included. These are commonly known as personality and values assessments.”

What do people fear about psychometric tests?

“Most people fear exposing their weaknesses. Candidates often don’t know what to expect, and that’s why it’s important to give them as much information as possible about the process and what’s involved. It’s also important to offer candidates feedback as part of the process. This should typically be handled by a professional organisational psychologist. Part of the problem with fear around psychometric assessment stems from how candidates have received feedback from previous exercises.”

How useful are they in predicting how successful someone will be in the job?

“Psychometric assessment has been found to be a better predictor of job performance than many other commonly used selection methodologies such as interviews, reference checks and even educational achievement. It is particularly powerful in predicting performance in more complex and senior jobs. One particularly interesting assessment is called the Multi-tasks test. This is a test designed by RightPeople that involves a candidate doing two tasks at once.  Research has shown that multi-tasks successfully predicted seniority in the workplace.”

Are employers using testing more or less, these days? Can you explain the trend?

“There is definitely an upward trend in the use of psychometric assessment particularly at management level. We are also seeing an increase in psychometric assessment in volume recruitment exercises such as graduate recruitment and in positions where organisations hire hundreds or thousands of candidates  per year in customer facing  positions. I think this increase is partly due to candidates becoming more accustomed to the job application process. Increasing numbers of candidates are hiring professional resume writers, undergoing interview coaching, and there have been numerous publicised instances where candidates have faked their qualifications in order to successfully obtain a job. Psychometric assessment is one of the few objective sources of information about a candidate that can be obtained during the recruitment process.”

What factors can negatively affect an individual’s performance on the day?

“Typical things include stress or illness and lack of preparation. It’s important that candidates prepare themselves in terms of their environment. Tests should be undertaken in a quiet, distraction-free environment. It’s important to give the candidate an estimated time for completing an assessment. Not reading instructions is also another problem.”

How can candidates prepare for the verbal, numerical and abstract thinking tests?

“Completing online brain exercises can certainly help keep their mind sharp. However, I’ve not been able to find any strong evidence to support this practice is beneficial for improving specific test performance. Unless they were doing exactly the same type of test or, very closely related to the tests they will be completing, I’m sceptical that it’s of any significant benefit. It can sometimes give candidates a false level of confidence especially if the practice items are too easy.”

How can candidates prepare for the personality questionnaire?

“Practising on personality type questions would in my opinion have little benefit. Trying to play the system is a very dangerous practice because modern personality assessments are quite good at picking up inconsistent or erratic answers, and profiles can be flagged as invalid because of this.”

During the testing, are there any strategies the individual can employ to help improve their performance?

“I think that mindset is very important when completing an assessment. Normally a candidate will complete a series of assessments, some harder than others. Each assessment piece should be treated as independent. Just because you feel like you haven’t performed well on a previous piece, it’s important not to get down on yourself. It’s also helpful to keep in mind the tests aren’t being scored for just right or wrong answers. Candidates are being compared against other candidates. Chances are if you find the test difficult many others have as well.”

In summary, Psych testing is certainly on the rise and is here to stay; some preparation would be beneficial, but having a positive mind set and a quiet environment in which to sit the tests are essential. Make sure you read the instructions and pay heed to testing time frames – and remember these tests are only one tool of many used to assess capability and fit.

Tell us about your experiences with psychometric testing. How do you feel about taking tests as part of a recruitment process? Did they accurately reflect you, your skills and personality?

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