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Put To The Test

Advice, Assessment Centres, Interview, Job hunting September 16, 2007


Put To The Test

Put to the test. The number of companies asking graduates to complete psychometric tests is on the increase. Real World asked a leading author about the usefulness of these tests.

More and more employers are using psychometric tests as a way to filter out candidates for a job – so much so that the number of interviews some companies hold has actually started to fall. So it has never been more important to prepare well for tests to make sure you get through to that all-important interview stage.

One of the reasons psychometric testing has become so popular is the advent of the internet. Whereas historically tests were completed using pen and paper, and then had to be scored individually by a member of staff, nowadays technology has changed all that. Typically the employer will send you a test, you will fill it in online, and you will then email it back. All the scoring is done automatically.

The tests themselves can take many guises – they can assess accuracy, intelligence, creativity, personality and even teamwork. Whether you can prepare for the test or not depends on its type.

Tests such as verbal reasoning become easier over time if you practise them and become familiar with the technique needed to do well in them. However, when taking a personality test, rather than second-guessing what kind of answers the company is looking for, you should choose the answers that most honestly reflect who you are.

To find out more, we caught up with renowned author David Cohen, whose book How to Succeed in Psychometric Tests is now in its third edition:

What are the most common mistakes students make when taking psychometric tests?
Rushing. A lot of tests are quite simple, and people should approach them like an exam. You shouldn’t rush; give yourself time to check, especially where you’re concerned that you haven’t put the right answer. People are often worried about tests, especially when there’s a job riding on it. Don’t worry – tests don’t reveal any deep-seated secrets.

What would be your main advice to someone with a test lined up?
Prepare for it well. Be ready to ask questions – often people feel powerless. The British Psychological Society has guidelines whereby candidates are entitled to ask for feedback. This is important; when people don’t get jobs they often think it’s their fault.

How much do you think recruiters should rely on these tests?
Interviews are notoriously bad at telling whether someone can do a job. Recruiters are influenced by endless trivial factors, such as attractiveness and tone of voice. What an interview can do is tell you if someone is entirely unsuitable. Even for a relatively simple job such as bricklaying it is difficult to predict from an interview if someone is going to be any use. Tests are not particularly better, but they do give an indication if someone has numerical or creative ability.

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