A Guide to Psychometric Testing

by Admin 1. June 2004 14:57





Over 70% of big companies often use psychometric tests in recruitment. We have all been tested and examined throughout school and beyond so we might ask why any of us need any more stress and what, if anything, are these new tests telling people about us?

What are Psychometric Tests?

The exams we took at school tested what we had learnt. Psychometric tests are different in that they look at a number of different things. They are instruments used to find out about individual differences. They might investigate our personalities, looking for factors that cause us to act the way we do and to predict future behaviour. They might also be used to try and find out how "good" we are at a certain task compared with other groups of people.

But often they look like quizzes in magazines

The difference between a good psychometric test and a quiz is what lies behind the test. In some cases this is over 100 years of theory and data gathered on thousands or even tens of thousands of people. In a good psychometric assessment, the 'questions' are presented in a precise way and complex statistical analysis is used to generate meaningful interpretations of the results.

So what do they measure?

Anything going on underneath the surface of an individual. Recruitment tests usually assess one of two areas:
  1. Old IQ tests claimed to give one number that expressed your intelligence. Nowadays you're liable to be assessed on specific areas: verbal, abstract, spatial and numerical intelligence. Jobs require different mixes of these: For example; people involved in structural engineering may tend to have a good ability to work with numbers and shapes.
  2. Personality: Good personality tests are tried out on thousands of people to build up profiles of the sorts of people who are successful in different jobs. There are never 'right' or 'wrong' answers in a personality test.

Will the test decide whether I get the job?

It really shouldn't. Good test users get training and know that tests should never be used on their own. Tests are used with interviews, references and other information to provide different parts of the jigsaw.

When will I be tested?

Sometimes they're used in conjunction with other information to shortlist candidates; sometimes they're used as part of a first interview, sometimes to generate questions for a further interview.

Should I cheat?

There is little point. Many of the best tests are constructed to spot people second-guessing what an employer wants. More importantly, getting a job you're not suited to will make you unhappy and probably lead to a short stay! Mind you, there's nothing wrong with practising. Ability tests are designed to get your best performance and there's evidence that the more relaxed you are with the format of tests, the better you'll perform.

What should I look out for?

You should take the test where you concentrate on it without disruptions. The administrator should be happy to explain anything you're not sure of. Check that the test looks good - it's not a photocopy or a cheap print out. Ask questions about the test; what it's for, how it's being used in the process. After testing, ask for feedback. This can be useful whether you get the job or not.

Should I be nervous?

A little bit of adrenaline helps. But there's no need to be worried. Strangely, research shows that a lot of people enjoy a well-run testing process because the feedback gives them more information about themselves.



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