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Why do I have to take a psychometric test for my job interview? And what's it for?

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10-06-2016
Submitted by global_admin on Fri, 06/10/2016 - 14:04
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Business psychologist Anne Hennessy explains what psychometric and personality tests are and how they're used in the recruitment process.

For most the job search is not easy, regardless of the driver. It can feel like a series of endless hoops. You apply for a job, format your CV, do the interview and then you are asked to do a personality "test". 

Last time you did this, you didn't get the job and you are not sure how you did on the personality test. Sound familiar? This is all too frequent the situation after candidates have completed psychometrics – either ability or personality questionnaires.

When working with clients providing psychometrics, supporting the selection process, I frequently come across the above and the sense of trepidation and anxiety that many have regarding the selection process. Candidates frequently explain how they previously did a “test” but they never received feedback – all they know is that they didn’t get the job linking the results to of the psychometrics to the outcome of the recruitment process. 

I view psychometrics i.e. ability or personality questionnaires as providing another lens through which candidates can be assessed. Psychometrics work in conjunction with the interview, professional experience, references etc.  This is how I explain the function of psychometrics to candidates – they support the selection process – they do not make a decision to hire or not to hire. Personality questionnaires are exactly that – they are questionnaires, indicators, assessments, they are not tests. A test infers that there is a right or wrong. Think about it, who has the perfect personality? Who is the perfect flawless person? This doesn’t exist so we assess people’s personality we don’t do personality “tests”. 

So how should the candidate answer the questionnaire?

I always ask the candidate to answer as honestly as possible – this supports both the candidate and the organisation. All well researched and constructed questionnaires have scales built in to assess if someone is trying to create a socially desirable effect – in other words they assess if the candidate is trying to put their best foot forward or trying to create what they believe is the ideal profile for the role by choosing particular answers.

But what’s the advantage of doing this is what I frequently ask candidates. Why try to pretend you are someone you are not? Do you want to be selected to work in a role or an organisation where you are the wrong cultural fit? Do you want to be selected to work in a role or an organisation where you are the wrong fit for the role? This won’t be good for you (the candidate) or for the organisation.  

Questionnaires support the organisation by providing that additional lens about the candidate. They frequently highlight aspects of the candidate’s personality which may have been missed at interview or equally questionnaires can provide evidence to confirm perceptions. 

I frequently use personality questionnaires during internal selection processes. They provide objectivity in a process where all parties already know each other. They add credibility to this process and demonstrate the organisations commitment to promoting talent from within. Following the selection of the successful candidate all candidates receive 1-1 feedback. The provision of such feedback takes away any of the concern that candidates have about what might have been contained in the questionnaire. It provides clarity around the content and what the questionnaire looks like and it also gives the candidate a chance to think about their future development. 

For the successful candidate, the feedback loop helps to start the development process in the new role. The conversation is focused on how they can use their strengths to be successful in their new role and also highlights what behaviours they need to monitor to ensure they develop a legacy in their new position. The feedback can also be linked into formal learning and development structures within the organisation. From the organisations perspective, this is how it can get the maximum from the investment in the completion of psychometrics. Feedback also makes sure that candidates don’t feel like they’ve “failed the test” – something which is too often but needlessly heard. 

For more information, please contact Anne Hennessy, Business Psychologist, Vitae Consulting on 087 979 3402 or info@vitaeconsulting. Anne works with organisations providing personality and ability test in addition to the design and development of both assessment and development centres. 

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