Employers have many ways to screen applicants, from the standard CV or application form to video interviews and assessment centres. If you are applying for an insight week, internship or graduate job, the chances are that psychometric testing will form part of the selection process.
Although it sounds like a scary term for analysing the depths of your mind, in reality these tests can be anything from a simple numeracy test to a situational judgement test to see how you would react in certain situations.
Are you questioning the relevance of psychometric tests to the role you have applied for?
As these tests can form one of the first parts of the application process, often just after you have submitted your initial application, it can seem very disheartening to be rejected on the results of these – especially if you can’t see the relevance of them to the job you have applied for! Although it may seem reasonable to be asked to do a numeracy test for a financial role or a verbal reasoning test for a marketing role, for most roles it can feel like your skills and experience on your CV should be enough to prove you are worth interviewing.
Employers use tests for different reasons and they aren’t always the most obvious. You may not have applied for a role which requires mathematical ability, but the job description may have asked for analytical skills or the ability to process information quickly and accurately. You can tell the employer that you can do this on your CV but they don’t have any way of actually checking that without testing you, so may give you a numerical reasoning test with lots of data to analyse or lots of questions to work through quickly.
The good news is that in this case, they are likely to be interested in your ability to analyse data and work quickly and accurately rather than your actual maths ability. So the tests are unlikely to be harder than the maths you did at age 16 (GCSE level in the UK). Although this might not sound too bad to some people, for others the thought of a maths test of any level may bring on a cold sweat. It is worth doing some practice to familiarise yourself with the types of questions you’ll get, especially if it is several years since you worked out a percentage or added fractions together.
What are the specific tests you may be asked to complete during the application process?
Verbal reasoning tests (where you may be asked for a word definition or given a passage of text to analyse) may also be used to test your ability to process information quickly or understand arguments. As the tests may include passages about unfamiliar topics, it’s worth practising these as well. Have a look at some example questions online or just go and buy a broadsheet newspaper and read an article you wouldn’t usually look at. If you would never normally touch the financial pages then give them a quick read, or maybe choose a book or theatre review if that isn’t something that would usually interest you. After a quick scan through, try writing down or explaining to a friend what the main points or arguments of the article are and you’ll soon become adept at quickly picking out key information even if it isn’t about a topic you are familiar with.
Logical reasoning is another way employers like to test how applicants analyse information. By showing abstract shapes in sequences, they can see how applicants make decisions based on the information provided without relying on their numeracy or literacy skills. As these types of tests are unlike anything you will have studied before, it’s worth practising them to familiarise yourself with the sorts of questions you’ll get. Some people will find these easier than others but practising will always improve your score.
Situational Judgement tests are an increasingly used type of test and unfortunately are the ones you can practise for the least. These usually consist of a description of a situation you might face and then give you options for what would be the most likely and least likely course of action you would take. The only way to prepare for these is to do your research on the company and really understand what their values are as well as what your role would be. For example, you may be given details of a situation where you have a customer complaint and a report due for the CEO as well as staff sickness to deal with. If you are going for an HR role or general management of a team, then the staff sickness might be your first priority to deal with. For a customer facing role, you will probably choose to put the customers first, and for a strategic role then the CEO might take priority. By really understanding the priorities of the company and role, you can start to answer the situational judgement question effectively.
Although all these types of test might initially seem daunting, practice will make perfect (or at least improve your success rate!). There are lots of links to on-line resources at the University of Warwick Careers & Skills website . Employers may test you almost as soon as you submit your application so make sure you start practising as soon as you start writing your applications. Employers may also re-test you at assessment centres so keep up the practice (don’t be tempted to get your housemate to do the online test for you – the employer will easily work this out if they re-test you!).
For more help look out for ‘Practise Psychometric Testing’ workshops through MyAdvantage. Good luck!!