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Career Doctor Articles

With the kind permission of the Career Doctor, jfo is able to bring you a series of articles to help you in your work situation and longer term career management

Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests have been around, in a number of guises, since the 1920s and so there will be many people who have had the experience of completing one as part of the process of applying for a job. But what are these tests, what do they do, and how useful and accurate are they?

In this article I will discuss the experiences I have gained from using psychometric tests for the past 13 years in my career consultancy. So what is a psychometric test?

There are a number of such tests on the market - Myers Briggs, Eysenck, 16 PF, etc - and in essence they identify, measure and record the personality profile of the test-taker. Thus the testee can be classified in one of several ways, according to which test is used. Put very simply, if someone’s psychometric profile is categorised as that of “Persuader” then clearly that person would be well suited to work in sales.

Having said that, there are many psychometric categories and people are very complex, so just because you have been psychometrically tested as a “Persuader”, it does not mean that you can only be best employed in sales.

In the test that we use, there are 150,000 permutations, and 18 classic categorisations. This test was selected by our Armed Services to help people leaving the Army, Navy and Air Force identify a potential new career in Civvy Street - so if its good enough for our Armed Services, then its good enough for my consultants to use on our clients.

PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS FOR COMPANIES

These tests are primarily used as an aid to recruitment and I remember reading that 87% of companies use these tests to help identify the most appropriate candidate for a vacancy. That seems a high percentage to me, but nevertheless many readers will have been required to complete a psychometric test when applying for a job.

My consultancy is often asked by local companies to psychometrically test the short-listed interviewees prior to interview. In the test that we use, I can either use the test’s standard profile for a XXX as a benchmark for comparing and contrasting the psychometric profiles of all the interviewees - or we can use the psychometric profile of the company’s top XXX as a benchmark. “We want a clone of Fred, our top XXX” is a request I often hear! If ever it was that simple!

The test results can be seen by the recruiters before the interview begins, so that they are not meeting you “cold”. Alternatively the test results can be used to ask really awkward and probing questions during the interview - “your test shows that you are very autocratic, can you explain that?” As an interviewee you may think that is hitting below the belt.

Companies can also use psychometric tests to help them pick the right types for internal vacancies that are caused by reorganisations - or they can use these tests to help identify the right mix of personality types to make up a particular team.

When I was an Employee Relations Manager I used these tests as a tool to help solve personality clashes and role conflicts - but the one thing I learned was never to rely on a psychometric test as the golden panacea to solve recruitment problems or employee relations clashes. Human judgement, intuition, and experience are just as important as a test result.

Indeed I remember one highly qualified and experienced client who was invited up to London (he lived in Chichester) to an interview for a senior managerial post. Before the interviews began he was given a psychometric test to complete. After that, the secretary was sent out to give him the message that the interviewers did not want to interview him as his test results were “wrong”. I was astounded at their unprofessionalism - as all I have ever been taught is that a test is only a tool and should not be viewed in isolation. I cannot publish what my client said!

PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS FOR INDIVIDUALS

The use of psychometric tests has been extended to help individuals identify the career path they are best suited to. You should find a job you are fit for, rather than one you might be able to fit into. So just because you got into XXX in your early 20s it does not mean to say that you are typecast and must remain a XXX for the rest of your career.

Let us suppose that you are a market researcher, scientist, teacher, secretary or a driver, and that’s all you have ever done. By the time many people reach 25 or 30 they realise that the career they started out in has now changed, or they have changed. They are not challenged enough, have no real prospects, or are bored, under-utilised, or over-stressed. Deep down they know they must find another career, and quickly, but what else are they suited to?

That’s where a psychometric test can be the scientifically-based starting point for someone wishing to change career. And that is our starting point for our many clients who are desperate to change their career path. For example, what else can a teacher do?

My job is to help that teacher (or whatever) identify a realistic and achievable alternative that he or she would be suitable for. It is no good thinking that you would really like to be a driving instructor if, like me, you are not psychometrically suited to be one. Picking the wrong career path is a recipe for disaster and great future unhappiness.

The test we use has a database of 200 profiles of the ideal XXX, YYY etc. These “ideals” are used as a benchmark to compare the profile of the testee against. I have taken our test and the number one comparison between myself and the 200 profiles shows an 85% correlation between my psychometric profile and the “ideal” Company Secretary. As I’m Managing Director, that’s pretty near. I should never consider being a driving instructor as I score a measly 28% when compared to the test’s database.

DO’S AND DON’TS

Like all things there are right, and wrong ways, about completing a psychometric test. The worst thing you can do, by far, is to cheat the test. When faced with a choice of four alternatives, it is very tempting to select the characteristic you think the recruiters will be looking for. So you choose alternatives like “decisive” or “confident” or “caring” because those are good words that will help you pass the test and hopefully get selected.

But of course one cannot “pass” a psychometric test, as it is merely a measure of your personality. Suppose that you are not decisive, confident or caring - you have painted a false picture that will have one of two consequences. Either the recruiters will see that you have cheated and you will be rejected, or you will initially fool them, get the job, and be unsuitable for it. You will be out of your depth and will probably be unhappy and won’t last very long in that job you have just conned your way into.

You are a zebra, painted a picture that you are a lion, and now have to face the consequences of not being a lion. So the best advice I can give is be totally honest and complete the test truthfully, warts and all.

Most psychometric tests have “lie detectors” built into them, and your attempts to paint a false picture will soon be noticed. When companies commission me to test their short-listed candidates I write a report for the recruiters’ attention, giving my analysis of each candidate, and ranking their order of suitability for the vacancy. Of course I never meet the candidates, so I can only judge by their test results.

On one occasion I sent my report and rankings to the company’s MD, who phoned me up, chuckling his head off. I asked what had amused him in my report. He replied that they had got their best salesman to send in his test results, along with those of the real candidates for a sales job. They had done this to test me, to see how accurate my analysis was. Needless to say I had picked their best salesman as being, from a psychometric point-of-view, the most appropriate candidate for the job. So I got it right, and earned my fees.

Good luck!

The Career Doctor is Eric Hearn, Chartered MCIPD and Managing Director of Milverton Career Solutions Ltd, Ascot, Berkshire, UK.

Contact details:
Tel: 01344 624383
Email: milvertoncareers@btconnect.com
Website: www.careerdevelopment.co.uk

 

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