How to Handle Psychometric Tests

Financial News, December 23, 2003 | Go to article overview

How to Handle Psychometric Tests


Byline: Sarah Butcher

Is it better to be an introvert or an extrovert, to be creatively disorganised, or to plan ahead and be ultra-rational? More importantly, how can you convince an employer that you are one thing when you are in fact the other?Such is the dilemma faced by anyone taking a psychometric test. Designed to probe the inner recesses of the mind, psychometrics consist of a barrage of questions ranging from the innocuous, 'Do you enjoy familiar food?' to the more intrusive, 'Do you like people to act in a close and personal way with you?'

Investment banks are keen to know the answers. Anna Barton, a senior consultant at OPP Limited, applied business psychologists, says she has various investment banking clients and that they test everybody from graduate trainees to senior staff. 'Banks are very interested in personality tests. They usually combine different types of personality assessment to increase the chance of getting a good picture,' she says.

Barton says different banks look for different results: 'Some are more laid back and easy going than others. This is reflected in the kinds of results they look for in tests.'

When investment banks use psychometric tests, it is usually for one of two purposes: selection or development. Andrew Pullman, head of human resources for capital markets at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London, says personality tests sometimes play a role in identifying candidates. However, Pullman says the bank mostly uses them as tools for boosting managers' self knowledge during management development courses.

Tests used to aid management development typically assess overall personality types. Most are based on the Myers Briggs type indicator, pioneered by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The Myers Briggs indicator works on the basis of sixteen personality types, which are gauged from questions about preferred ways of behaving. Individuals may be introvert or extrovert, judging or perceiving, thinking or feeling, for example.

Conversely, tests used to select candidates are usually trait based: they look for particular personality traits and attempt to quantify how much an individual has them. Under a trait based test, a candidate might be assessed on his or her degree of boldness, shrewdness, emotional stability, or radicalism.

Learning that you are an intuitive feeling extrovert during a management development course can be interesting. However, facing a trait best test during a selection process is a different matter. Not only is an employer asking you to bare your soul, but you are liable to be rejected as a result. …

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