The term "psychometric test" has a similar effect on jobhunters as "redundancy" has on workers. Kate Crockett takes a look at the personality probing that you may come across rather sooner than you thought
PSYCHOMETRIC tests strike fear into many a jobseeker. The thought of a prospective employer probing your innermost thoughts, testing your maths and questioning your verbal reasoning skills is no fun at all. What if this nasty personality questionnaire reveals that you're a self-obsessed loner with poor communication skills? But, if you thought psychometrics were the sole preserve of management and senior-level job candidates, and that you could avoid them for a while, you'd be wrong. Graduate recruiters now use psychometric tests as standard, and more and more high-street recruitment agencies are trading in regular candidate questionnaires and typing tests for psychometrics, or a combination of the tests, to provide standardised competency information.
All potential employers are interested in your numerical and verbal reasoning ability, your aptitude for learning and your personality, and, as such, these are the key areas you are most likely to be assessed on if psychometrics are involved.
The tests are designed to help employers establish which candidate's skills best suit the job requirements and to assess how he or she would fit into the organisation's work environment and values.
Test results are used to supplement information from applications and interviews and should always be carried out by trained administrators.
Laura Frith, head of assessments for recruitment firm Reed, says: "We have been assessing candidates in a structured manner for the 40 years the company has been in existence, so in one form of assessment or another we have used psychometrics for a very long time."
For the past few years, Reed has assessed all its clerical candidates with a series of specifically designed tests (a battery), known as Destiny, which is made up of tests on numeracy, language and grammatical knowledge, document and information checking skills and speed and accuracy of filing; all crucial competencies for administrative personnel. In addition, the battery combines a quick but comprehensive personality test, assessing areas such as competitiveness, sociability and temperament.
"We run them in branches as a matter of course, so it's quite a large-scale operation," says Frith. "Most of our clients value the fact that when a candidate walks in the door for an interview, the client already knows he or she matches the minimum requirements for the job."
A great deal of research went into the development of Destiny to tailor it to the very specific needs of support staff, explains John Hackston, principal psychologist (product development) of Destiny's creators, OPP (formerly Oxford Psychologists Press).
"We wanted to produce a set of exercises appropriate for people working in clerical, administrative and secretarial roles, in an involving and interesting format," he explains. OPP came up with four key competencies required in such jobs and developed tests to assess those skills. The personality test was included to add a further dimension to understanding the candidate.
Hackston says: "Reed is using the personality questionnaire not to say someone can or can't have a job, but because organisations differ and it can help find what sort of person would fit best."
Finding the right person for the job is the most important task for the agency, which is why it offers additional tests for specific roles. …