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📋 Prepare for and ace a psychometric test

Although they’re not common practice, you may find that certain employers ask you to complete a psychometric test as part of their interview process. Usually, larger companies and those that work in high-stakes environments, such as FinTech, require their applicants to complete one.

What a psychometric assessment entails

A psychometric assessment consists of questions that measure various aspects of your personality. Generally, their goal is to understand the extent that your personality and capabilities match what the position requires.

The stage at which they ask you to take a psychometric assessment varies, depending on the employer's recruitment process. Some employers prefer to give you one as the first step in their interview process. But generally, they’re reserved for the final stages, just before the culture-fit interview.

The test may also be referred to in the culture-fit interview, where the interviewer asks you to expand on certain aspects of what was assessed.

There are two main types of psychometric tests:

Personality tests

These tests allow employers to evaluate your behaviour and how you approach your work. It helps them determine whether your personality will work well in the role and company.

These tests are usually a questionnaire. Either they present you with a list of statements and you have to rate whether you “strongly agree,” “agree,” are “neutral,” “disagree” or “strongly disagree.” Or they may ask you to select a statement that you relate most to, or there could be direct questions you’ll need to answer with multiple choice options.

Here are some examples of what statements you’ll come across in a personality test that you would then need to agree or disagree with:

  • I prefer to avoid confrontation
  • I pay attention to the little details
  • I make plans and follow through with them
  • I have no trouble starting conversations
  • I have a vivid imagination
  • I love exploring new ideas

The most commonly used personality test is the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator which asks direct questions with multiple choice answers to choose from, such as:

  1. Does following a schedule: a. Appeal to you, or b. Cramp you?
  2. Would you rather be considered: a. A practical person, or b. An out-of-the-box-thinking person?

Reasoning tests

Reasoning tests allow employers to assess how closely your skill set matches the skills required to fulfil the role. There are right and wrong answers, and you want to choose the multiple choice option that best fits what is being asked.

Here are some examples of the questions you’ll come across in a reasoning test:

  • Which image is the odd one out?

Prepare for and ace a psychometric test

  • Which image completes the pattern?

Prepare for and ace a psychometric test

  • Which image completes the statement?

Prepare for and ace a psychometric test

The most commonly used reasoning test is the Differential Aptitude Test which tests various elements, including your verbal, numerical, abstract and mechanical reasoning.

How to prepare for a psychometric test

Besides helping you ace the test, preparing will also help calm your nerves and make it seem less intimidating when you take the actual test.

Ensure you’re in a good space, mentally and physically

You want to try and be as mentally and physically ready as possible before attempting the assessment. Disclose to the tester if you have a headache, you didn’t sleep well, you’re on medication or feeling sick in general.

All of these can have an impact on how you answer the questions. And your answers may not give the employer a proper representation of how well you’d fit into the role and company.

Give yourself the best chance of showcasing who you are by being as healthy on the day of the test as possible. This will assist the employer in making a more informed decision about whether you’d fit into the role and company, but it also helps you determine if they would be a good fit for you.

It may mean you need to delay taking the test, especially if you fall ill or something comes up in your personal life. Try and give the hiring manager a few days’ heads up if this is the case. It’s not a good idea to delay taking the test by too long, try and keep it within a week.

If the employer expects you to take a few tests, such as one personality and one reasoning, give yourself a break in between each of them. You don’t want to exhaust yourself by trying to complete them all in one go.

Start with the more difficult assessment, such as the reasoning or cognitive test, as this will require more engaged mental effort. Then give yourself a break and complete the personality test later in the day.

Practice answering similar questions

Although you won’t require any knowledge or need to learn anything specific before taking these tests, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with what kinds of questions you’ll come across. This will give you a competitive advantage over someone else who has no idea what to expect.

Take a personality or reasoning test online to get used to the types of questions that may come up. Below are some free online psychometric practice tools:

Go through the job spec and research the company

You’ll need to do research on the role and employer before an introductory interview, so depending on when the employer decides to use a psychometric test, you may have already done the required research.

If you’ve already collected insights, run through what you know about the role and company. Identify the company culture and what kinds of employees they hire. This could help you in tackling the test.

Don’t use your research with the intention of changing your answers to suit what the company is looking for. It’s essential to be yourself and answer honestly. Otherwise, you may end up in a company and role that you don’t fit well into, leaving soon after joining which can be disruptive to your career growth. It also may block potential future employers from reaching out, as often hiring managers will prefer to interview candidates that have spent longer periods within a job.

Ask the hiring manager any questions you still have at least a few days before you’re expected to take the test. It’ll showcase your proactive attitude to taking this assessment, as well as your interest in the opportunity. It can also help you stand out from other candidates.

Ensure you have a good space set up to take the test

As is essential with any assessment you complete for an interview process, ensure you have a good space set up where you can take the test.

If it’ll be done remotely, choose a quiet room in your house where you won’t be disturbed. Avoid any distractions and find a quiet space with a comfortable desk as you may sit there for an hour or two at a time. If you already have a remote workspace set up, use this.

If the employer requires you to travel to their offices to take the test, plan your route the day before to avoid being late. Take some water and a snack or lunch with you that you can consume during a break. If you’re doing the test from home, ready some food for yourself ahead of time. Keeping your energy levels up will be vital to answering questions with a clear and engaged mind.

These tests can be quite exhausting. So you want to limit distractions, such as hunger or thirst, as much as possible in order to focus on the assessment.

What to remember during the assessment

Before you start the assessment, take a deep breath to calm your nerves. Remember that the test aims to get to know you better, so there are no incorrect answers.

Staying calm is essential to giving the employer the best indication of who you are and how you work.

Plan how long you’ll need for each question

Once you’ve opened the test to complete, if it’s possible, have a glance through all the questions you’ll be required to answer. Set time limits for how long you think you’ll need for each question and take note of this so that you can refer to it throughout the test.

If you get stuck on a question and start to run overtime, rather leave it and come back to it at the end if you have time left. Rather focus on answering the questions to the best of your ability than frantically trying to answer all of them. Since you’re not being scored according to how many questions you answer, leaving a few out won’t count against you.

You can give the hiring manager feedback on questions you aren’t able to complete: Explain your thinking around the question clearly and why you struggled to answer it. This will give the employer further insight into how you think, thus fulfilling the need for the test.

Be yourself

As previously mentioned, it’s essential to be your honest self when answering questions in a psychometric test. It helps determine if there’s a legitimate fit between you and the employer.

However, remember to be your professional self. Some people act slightly differently in a work setting as opposed to how they act at home or with friends. If this is the case with you, try portray your ‘professional persona’ when tackling the assessment.

Think of yourself in a work context and how you would usually think, feel and behave in work environments. It’ll give the hiring manager a better sense of what it’s like to work with you and if you’d fit into the role and company.

You have rights with your psychometric tests

The results from psychometric assessments are considered sensitive personal information. Employers are obligated to handle them securely and privately, and they should not be shared with unauthorised third parties.

Also, giving your informed consent is important before taking a test. This entails fully understanding what test you’ll be required to complete, how your data will be used, and who will have access to the results.

Prior to giving your consent, you have the right to request more information about any of these topics. An employer cannot administer a psychometric assessment without comprehensively explaining all the required information and making sure you understand all of this information.

You do have the right to access your psychometric test results. If the hiring manager doesn’t specifically give you access, you should be able to message them and ask.

You can also ask for feedback on the findings of the psychometric test, which can include explanations of test results, analysis of findings, and instructions on how to comprehend and make use of the data.

Keep in mind that companies may have their own guidelines for providing feedback, such as running through the data with you in the culture-fit interview. It’s best to ask the hiring manager how they specifically handle feedback before taking the assessment.

If you’d like to understand more about the rights you have to your personal data in South Africa, see here. For the Netherlands and Germany, see here.