Wednesday, 9 September 2015

How do you prepare for psychometrics?

Recently a former client posed this question, "I'm through to the last 5 for a role and part of the process involves completing psychometrics.  Can you point me in the direction of some good practice samples please?" 


Psychometrics measure personality preferences.  Additionally, some organisations may administer questionnaires that seek to determine what your energising strengths or your motivators are.  In some instances, an organisation may also administer cognitive ability tests.  

There is no way to "prepare" for psychometrics or other questionnaires, other than to
make sure you are well rested and feeling refreshed, not harried, when you take them. If they are online personality or motivation questionnaires that you can take at home, plan a time in your day when you typically feel at your best.  Answer each question honestly and don't deliberate on any one answer; just keep moving through the questionnaire. Avoid second guessing the questions--that will make things worse, not better, as most questionnaires have a built in "fake" scale.  If you try to second-guess what answers the interviewers may seek, you will likely end up with invalid overall results. Essentially, the administrators of the instrument will know you fudged it.

Bear in mind that personality questionnaires are measuring the strength of your response.  For this reason the questions can seem quite repetitive.  Do NOT purposefully try to answer with unfailing consistency.  Also try not to get too irritated with the repetition.  Simply answer each question afresh, without thinking of your answers to previously similar questions.  By doing this, your results will be most accurate.

If you are asked to take a cognitive ability test (for example, something that measures your numerical ability, pattern recognition, or verbal reasoning), these tests will always have sample questions that you answer first before you take the real test.  If anything is unclear about these sample questions, be sure to ask the test administrator before proceeding with the test.  Cognitive ability tests usually start with the easy questions and progressively get harder.  These tests are timed and most people do not complete all the questions.  When I worked at an assessment consultancy, I only ever saw one person who managed to complete an entire cognitive test and get only one wrong answer.  It is really, really rare.  And the threshold for doing well enough on a cognitive test is typically lower than you may expect.  

If telling you that you can't prepare for psychometrics seems a bit defeatist, it may help to know why and how organisations use psychometrics in hiring.  The best predictor of future performance is past performance.  For this reason, companies want to have some valid and reliable ways to see how you might be inclined to behave.  While personality isn't an absolute predictor of performance, personality does inform our behaviour.  But our experiences and learning are mitigators of our behaviour.  Think of a shy person who learns to become good at public speaking.  Their personality might continue to be a bit reserved, but they have mitigated their behaviour when it comes to the act of public speaking. 

A good interviewer will ask you questions based on your psychometric results, so prepare for that by using your self-knowledge of your weaknesses. For example, perhaps you have had feedback that you tend to be too rigid or overly structured at times.  That will probably come through in  your psychometrics.  In your interview, therefore, you might find an opportunity to reference your tendency to be quite structured in your approach and also give an example of how you have learned and demonstrated an ability to be more flexible.

Nobody can completely change their personality, but you can make different choices in your behaviour, by knowing your predilections and tendencies. Let your self-awareness (and the actions you take to mitigate any weaknesses) show through in your interview.  You interviewers will most likely be more interested in a self-aware individual who is a continuous learner than they are in finding the needle-in-the-haystack perfect match. 

Victoria Hall, Executive Coach

Founder of Talent Futures


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