Psychometric assessments

What are psychometric and occupational tests?

You've probably heard the term 'psychometric' or 'occupational' tests. These are umbrella terms, which cover three main kinds of assessment:

  • ability or cognitive (including aptitude)
  • personality
  • interests.

Ability or cognitive tests can be split into three types:

  • IQ or intelligence tests assess a unitary measure of your general intelligence; employers tend not to use IQ tests because intelligence is difficult to define and IQ tests too broad, making it hard to justify for use in selection into a specific job;
  • attainment tests are designed to assess the results of your formal education and training e.g. exams or driving test;
  • aptitude tests measure your ability in terms of a specific skill, or potential to acquire that skill.

Attainment and aptitude tests are frequently used, particularly by larger employers, as part of the selection process. Some employers use them early in the recruitment process as a way of reducing applications to a manageable number. Others combine them with evidence gained from other assessment processes to determine your ability to do a particular job.

The most common types of aptitude test are verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and logical reasoning. Aptitude tests are designed so the majority of candidates do not finish. You will therefore feel very pressurised, and working as quickly as you can (but without sacrificing accuracy) is important.

Personality questionnaires

Sometimes called business behaviour, situational judgement or cultural fit questions, these are designed to find out how you behave, how you approach tasks and what your attitudes are. These factors affect how you would do the job, and how well you would fit into the existing staff and organisational culture. There are no universally correct answers; the best approach is to respond to the questions according to your first reaction. Don't try to skew your answers, because you may not be accurate in trying to guess the desired personality profile. The most common problem is consciously trying to make your answers consistent rather than truthful. The average, reasonably flexible personality won’t be entirely consistent, the most extreme and rigid personalities will be. If your personality doesn't fit, it's probably better to know earlier rather than later anyway.

Interest inventories

These aim to measure the direction in which you would like to go occupationally. Measures of occupational interest are based on a wide sample of questions about your preferences, covering areas such as hobbies, study and life experiences.

Should the employer give me some examples?

Strictly speaking, employers should give you an example question or two before you complete their tests, just so that the format/type of test isn’t a huge surprise.  In reality this doesn’t always happen automatically so don’t hesitate to ask.  The examples are commonly much easier to do than the real thing, but at least you have an idea what to expect.

Preparation and resources