Psychometric tests: Everything job hunters need to know

Psychometric tests are an increasingly common part of recruitment processes. So, if you haven’t already taken one, it’s likely that you know someone who has.

Many people find the idea of these tests daunting and worry that they won’t perform well. But this is only because of a misunderstanding about the different tests and why companies use them.

In reality, they’re nothing to worry about. After all, they’re simply a tool for employers to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a role; as free from bias as possible.

After all, when you attend a job interview, they’re often coloured by the views and preconceptions of the interviewer; but, no such issues exist in psychometric testing. This means that they’re a particularly fair way of working out who is likely to be successful in a role.

Psychometric tests are specifically designed to identify candidates who have the ability to do a good job in a particular role; so if a candidate cannot pass the test, they’re unlikely to be successful in the position.

This is good news for both employers and candidates as it means both parties waste far less time and heartache from appointing someone to a role they don’t have the intellectual ability to do.

Keen to find out more, below we reveal everything you need to know about these tests.

What sorts of tests are there?

There are two main types of psychometric tests: ability tests and personality tests.

Ability tests

Ability tests are short and examine a candidate’s competence in a particular area; this is usually something that’s important for the role, such as numerical or verbal reasoning. They test how good a candidate’s skills are and consider whether they meet the minimum requirements of the role.

Common ability tests include:

  • Numerical reasoning: for jobs where there is a need to work with numbers or numerical data
  • Verbal reasoning: for jobs where you need to read and understand written materials
  • Abstract reasoning (sometimes also known as inductive or spatial reasoning):  evaluates a candidate’s ability to make sense of abstract information; this then gives an indication of their problem solving ability. Companies often use abstract reasoning tests when there is a need for creativity or working effectively with incomplete or novel information
  • Mechanical reasoning:  for jobs where there is a need to understand how things work mechanically

Personality tests

These psychometric tests give an insight into the likely personality preferences of the candidate. Whilst there are no inherently good or bad personality types, there may be some preferences which are a better fit with particular roles.

For example, if a company wants to recruit an analyst, a candidate who enjoys working with data, is evaluative and conscientious is more likely to be successful in the role than a candidate who isn’t.

Similarly, motivational tests explore what elements of the jobs are likely to be motivating and demotivating for a candidate.

In addition, situational judgement tests consider how a candidate is likely to respond in given situations. This enables the employer to understand how well they are likely to fit with the organisation’s culture and values.

Why do companies use these tests in the recruitment process?

Companies use psychometric tests in their recruitment process because they’re a cost effective way to quickly screen out candidates who don’t have the ability to be successful in the role.

This is always useful; but particularly so for recruiters who receive a high number of applicants for desirable roles. Interviewing is time consuming for both recruiters and candidates. Therefore, they need a way of working out who has sufficient potential and is worth interviewing.

And that’s where these tests come in; they do so in a way that’s fair! Every candidate completing the test has the same opportunity to be successful. This means employers can objectively compare their performance against the set standard for the role.

How should you prepare for psychometric tests?

It’s really useful to understand in advance whether you will need to take psychometric tests. And if so, which ones.

This enables you to prepare ahead of time. It’s particularly important that you familiarise yourself with what these tests are like and the sort of questions they ask. The best way of doing this is to complete some practice tests.

There are lots of free practice tests available on the internet. These often include examples showing how to solve particular problems. There are strategies and techniques that you can use to give yourself the best chance of success. So, it’s worth spending the time learning and practicing these.

It is also important to revise and refresh your knowledge prior to the test. For example, if you were sitting a numerical reasoning test then you may want to ensure you’re familiar with ratios, percentages, and fractions.

The aim is to make sure you know how to solve particular problems without wasting precious time trying to remember basic maths.

How to be successful on the day

Ahead of completing psychometric tests, make sure that you set yourself up for success! Ensure you have a good night’s sleep the night before. And, allow yourself plenty of time to set up and complete the tests; you won’t perform at your best if you’re rushing or flustered.

Make sure you have a quiet environment where no-one can disturb you. You might want to tell people around you that you’re taking the test and remind them not to interrupt. Similarly, turn off your phone and disable distracting notifications on your computer.

Once you start the test, make sure you’re clear on how many questions there are to complete; as well as how much time you have to answer them. If you’re completing more than one test, double check how much time is available for each. This enables you to calculate roughly how much time you have to answer each question.

Work through the questions quickly but accurately. If you get stuck, move on and go back to it. Just check in the instructions at the start that the test to see if you can do this.  If you have time remaining at the end double check your answers. Good luck!

About the author: Edward Mellett is a careers expert from London, England. His interests include AI, Neuroscience and Psychology. He is the founder of Practice Reasoning Tests.