Advice for psychometric tests and assessment centres

Group workingEmployers are all agree they want the best people for the job.  Employees who have the right skills, motivation & values are happy, more productive and stay longer. The company does better as a result  –  happy days!

This is the goal of recruiters, how they get there differs. This is why there are so many differences in the types of applications, tests, and assessment methods.

Employers will measure.

  • Preferences: work preference tests, personality tests
  • Behavioural competencies: in-tray / e-tray exercises, situational judgement tests, role play & interviews
  • Technical abilities: ability tests such as verbal & numerical reasoning, case studies and written exercises.

There are 2 basic schools of thought

The competency method and the strength based method.  I’ll try to show you how you can recognise them and how to prepare accordingly. (BIG caveat here … some recruiters will use a blend of both and if it’s a technical role you should expect technical questions too)

Competency based recruitment

Looks at past performance as a measure of how you will do in the future.

  • Often looks at UCAS points and degree marks and classifications
  • Usually asks you about examples of times when you have used a particular skill
  • May use verbal, numerical, technical tests. (To weed out the bottom 30th percentile. This is recommended practice but some organisations may set the bar higher to get what they need) Often retested at assessment centre to check for cheating
  • Will explore your motivation – why you are interested in the company & the role
  • May use work style preference questionnaires to see if you fit company values and ways of working.

To prepare:

  • Look at the company core values – you need to be a good match. If you are not it’s likely would not be happy even if you managed to get through all the tests.
  • Explore your own motivation why do you want to do this, no really, apart from the money?
  • Be able to articulate your motivation, what have you found out about the company that makes you want to work for them?
  • Research the role – what does it really involve not just tasks like using maths or programming but what are the environment and working conditions like?  Will you be on your own all day and have to motivate yourself? Is it target driven with long hours and lots of responsibility but big rewards? If those things don’t excite you, then consider something different.
  • Practice skills like numeracy, verbal reasoning & logic, by using test books and online tests. You can improve by revising techniques and understanding how the tests feel, but you are not likely do go from GCSE grade C to an A overnight! Practice ratios, percentages, multiplication & division. You may not be allowed to use a calculator! For highly technical roles you may need to revise simultaneous equations and more complex maths.
  • Understand the sector and commercial pressures and how they would impact on the organisation.
  • Always check spelling & grammar.

Strength based recruitment

Focuses on what motivates you and makes you happy as well as your basic skills. Can you do it and love it?  It looks at:

  • Performance – Do well
  • Energy – Feel good
  • Use – Do often

It may be used by companies who want to look at social inclusion as it looks at your potential rather than past performance. So people who have not had the advantage of internships or impressive looking work experience can still do well by using examples from other parts of their life.

  • You may not be asked for exam results or grades.
  • You could be asked about your family background as part of equality monitoring.
  • Situational judgement tests are likely.
  • At interview you may be asked lots of quick questions and there may be little or no probing.
  • You may be asked how you feel about situations.
  • You may be expected to provide brief examples from different parts of your life, education, work experience, interests etc. If you use a behaviour or skill often it probably shows you enjoy it.

How to recognise & practice strengths & weaknesses

Try asking a friend these questions.

  • What does a great day look like?
  • What are you like at your best?
  • What do you not like doing?

When you are talking about things you are good at and enjoy you will be relaxed, energised, passionate and talk quickly.

When you talk about things you dislike, you may struggle to say much about it, have no examples to talk about and appear anxious and down-beat.

Recruiters will be observing these things, even by phone!

Trends in recruitment

  • Strength based is definitely increasing.
  • Companies are looking at retention and fit, so expect more work preference & personality type assessments.
  • Skype, telephone and recorded interviews are increasing as a way to get a feel for candidates early on in the process.
  • Gamification – it’s expensive, but it engages candidates and is a good way to see how people behave and is relatively gender neutral.

 Lessons learned

  1. Really research the company & the role and reflect on your own preferences is it a good match?
  2. Brush up those basic skills like maths.
  3. Understand the company values and ways of working. It might give you a hint of what to expect in a situational judgement test or role play. But if you don’t match it’s unlikely you can fake it.
  4. If you don’t get through – don’t feel too bad. It may not be a good match for you, perhaps you just dodged a bullet!








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