Help! A potential employer wants me to do a psychometric test!

Planning job seeking activity and getting a new job - useful blogs

Any employer’s successful recruitment plan can range from a simple, informal chat to a full-blown character assessment which might include presentation(s), interview(s), assessment centre(s) and, possibly, a psychometric test. Used properly by the employer, this ‘test’ should act either as an endorsement of their already-held views (i.e. after meetings and interviews), or as a means of assessing the individual’s suitability at the outset.

Either way, it’s part test and part of measurement of things such as cognitive abilities, numerical and verbal reasoning, problem solving and personality traits. In other words, you can’t actually ‘fail’ a psychometric test; but it could provide you (and others) with a very revealing insight into your cognitive abilities and character.


People often worry unduly about having to undergo a psychometric test. But let’s start by destroying the myth: they’re not actually ‘tests’ as such. However, they are a form of assessment – i.e. standard scientific evaluations and measurements of areas of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits.  They’re well-recognised methods used to measure an individual’s cognitive abilities and behavioural preference. For recruitment purposes, they usually take the form of personality profiles and they produce an amazing amount of information from, often, a very short list of questions. (NB: To be credible, only evaluations that are accredited by the British (or American) Psychological Society should be used.)

Essentially, there are two types of evaluations:

  1. “Ipsative”: designed to measure how you tend to respond to: problems, people, work speed and processes.  It does not compare you to other people’s personality traits. 
  2. “Normative”: will assess measurable personality traits on individual scales and your ‘score’ is measured against that of other people (i.e the norm’)

So, if you are asked to complete a psychometric test, don’t worry; it’s not unusual and most are very user-friendly. They’ll usually have a set of questions or statements that take between five and fifteen minutes to answer.

For example, you may be offered a set of four words and be asked which ones apply most or least to you. Alternatively, they may give you a statement to read and you’ll be asked, on a scale of one to five, whether you strongly agree or disagree with it.

This is important because your first answer (i.e. the intuitive one that immediately enters your head) is the ‘real you’.  If you over- think it and take too long, you’ll be trying to give an answer that you think the evaluator wants! Don’t try cheating, as they’re very well designed and will pick up immediately any ‘subterfuge’ by you. Besides, why would you not want to have an accurate profile?

No test - psychometric or physical - is ever 100% reliable. But most professionally made tests meet stringent reliability standards, which ensures consistency of the measure. So, use the results as a means of selling what you have on offer. 

Employers use psychometrics to support a robust recruitment plan and, ultimately, to make sure they have the right people in their business doing the right things. However, good employers don’t rely purely on the tests to measure a candidate’s suitability, more likely they will be used in conjunction with interviews or face-to-face assessments to arrive at a good all-round view of the candidate. And as a job applicant, this provides you with another view of your character. For example, if you tend to be nervous at interviews, these evaluations will show that it’s not your normal default behaviour.

They are genuinely in place to help you be the best you can be during the recruitment process. 

So yes, the ‘worry’ of the Psychometric Test can be seen as a myth; a myth created more out of misunderstanding and misinformation than anything else. Some people may attach blame for not being offered a job on the fact that the psychometric was a key player. And they may indeed be right, but then the accuracy of the assessment probably right too and so they will have avoided the almost certainty of being landed in the wrong job.

Used properly, and sympathetically, it remains an extremely effective way of assessing someone’s character, personality and suitability; the results should speak for themselves and be useful to everybody.


Key Points

  • What are psychometric evaluations – and what are they not?
  • Why do employers use them?
  • Are they accurate?
  • What can you get from them?

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