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Tips for psychometric testing

Construction firms are increasingly turning to psychometric testing techniques when considering applicants. Discover what is involved
Written on 5/28/08

What are psychometric tests?

They are tests designed to help potential employers build up a better picture of you than can be gleaned from an interview. The aim is to find out your strengths, weaknesses, teamwork skills, natural aptitudes and so on, but the format varies.

How are they performed?

Some tests are paper-based, others are computer-administered. Some firms employ specially trained, in-house personnel, others use outside experts. It is not an examination: the questions may not be intellectually demanding, but they are designed to reveal information about you.

Why not a traditional interview?

Academic research shows that appointments made on the basis of an interview alone have a one-in-nine chance of success. Testing increases this by a factor of six.

Some important personal characteristics - teamworking skills, reasoning ability and personal empathy - are difficult to assess at interview. Tests are a more reliable indicator of aptitude, especially when the test has been designed for the job in question.

Will tests replace interviews?

Tests are not a substitute for interviews, but a tool that enables the employer to understand the candidate better and thus tailor the interview to the individual. This makes the recruitment process fairer for the employer and the applicant.

How accurate is this picture of the applicant?

A professionally constructed test, used appropriately and administered under guidance, can build up a highly accurate picture of a candidate, as anyone who has sat a psychometric test and heard the results can usually confirm.

How can psychometric testing help employers?

It will save money, as you are less likely to employ the wrong person. Also, people who are not up to the job create stress for other people.

Secondly, employment legislation increasingly requires employers to make recruitment decisions that are not subject to racial, sexual or other discrimination. Psychometric techniques should help minimise recruitment bias.

Any valuable tips when taking the test?

Do not panic and do not try to outwit the test designers by giving the answers you think they are looking for.

There is no right or wrong way to answer. This is particularly important if the test is being used to assess your personal development.

Alex Burnip is managing director of human resources specialist SHL.