Demystifying Psychometric Assessments

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It can feel pretty daunting to be advised you have to complete a psychometric assessment when you apply for a job  – particularly if you haven’t ever faced one before! But take heart - this blog aims to take some of the fear out of the process by explaining what the assessments cover and why organisations use them.

Employers use psychometric assessments to make sure they’re choosing the right candidate for the job. Whilst there is no single trick to passing psychometric assessments, understanding what assessments measure and why employers choose to use them will help you put your best foot forward.

Student Employability and Careers Specialist Emma Spires provides answers to the questions that students commonly ask Employability Lab staff about psychometric assessments.

What exactly are psychometric assessments?

Psychometric assessments are a way for organisations to gain a better understanding about a potential employee over and above what they can discover from a CV and an interview. Psychometric assessments are tools to measure a person’s intellectual ability and their work style preferences. There are a variety of assessments that you might face:

  • Ability based assessments – these assessments measure six areas of intelligence, of which five are designed to measure reasoning - verbal, numeric, logical, spatial and mechanical. You may also do an ability assessment to measure how competent you are with checking information (commonly used for positions with a high proportion of data entry duties).
  • Knowledge & skills assessments – these allow hiring managers to ascertain your level of knowledge and skills in areas such as Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Data entry.
  • Personality and motivation assessments - these assess your work based preferences and motivations. This information will help a hiring manager ascertain whether you will enjoy the work setting on offer and whether you will be a good fit. For example, if your preference answers indicate you’re someone who enjoys working with numbers and analysing statistical information then you are not likely to be suited to a role that deals with opinions and people’s feelings, rather than facts and figures. This doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’ the test; it just means you’re not the right candidate for that particular role.
  • Situational judgement assessments – these online assessments will present you with a variety of workplace situations and different courses of action that you could take to resolve those situations. Your task is to select the action you would most likely take. Hiring managers use these assessments to get an idea of how you would respond to common workplace scenarios in their organisation. It provides a ‘try before they buy’ opportunity that helps hiring managers limit their recruitment risk.
  • Simulation based exercises – simulation exercises are similar to situational judgment tests, except the organisation is assessing live behaviour as opposed to looking at your responses to a questionnaire. You usually do simulation based exercises when an organisation invites you to attend their assessment centre. These activities include group exercises, role play and/or presentations. There are also some online simulation assessments such as the “customer contact virtual scenario assessment”.

Why do employers want to use psychometric assessments?

Employers use psychometric assessments to help them ‘match’ people to jobs. Understanding your ability, skills and work place preferences helps hiring managers ensure they are selecting a candidate who is suited to their organisational environment as well as best qualified for the role.
Bear in mind that assessments are not only helpful for organisations but they are also beneficial for you, the candidate. For example, if you do well in the assessments then that confirms you have the skills and preferences that suit the role and/ or environment you’re applying for. Conversely, if you do not do well in the assessments then you will have avoided going into a job that you may have found a struggle.

How do I complete psychometric assessments?

Most assessments are completed online (with the exception of some simulation exercises).  Organisations generally provide you with access to assessments via a link in an email. It’s very common for organisations to ask you to complete assessments prior to meeting face to face. This is because hiring managers will generally only want to invest time interviewing you if have already met the assessment criteria.

Quick tip

If you are thinking about asking a friend to complete these assessment(s) for you – don’t do it! Companies are savvy about discovering cheats. They often request candidates to do a shorter version of the full test when on-site to check alignment in the results.

How can I prepare for assessments?

Practicing common assessments online is a good way to ensure you put your best foot forward (you can practice assessments here). It is particularly important to do this with ability assessments where your answers are either ‘right or wrong.’

With ability assessments you commonly get a set amount of questions (typically 20 or 30) and a set amount of time to complete the tests (i.e. 20 or 30 minutes).  It’s important that you work through the assessment quickly and accurately; if you spend all of your time answering 8 out of 20 questions in detail and correctly, but leave 12 questions unanswered, you still will not receive a high score!

Find out more

If you want to explore the use of psychometric assessments in more detail, book into Employability and Careers fortnightly workshop How to succeed with psychometric assessments.

Written by Student Employability and Careers Specialist Emma Spires