Lunatic or genious? Rob Moore of The Career Management Organisation in Edinburgh gives us an insight into the ins and outs of psychometric testing
Assuming you’re not a lunatic and, if you’re anything like us, not a genius either, the prospect of being psychometrically tested can be a daunting one.
The word ‘psycho’ probably doesn’t help, yet psychometric testing has been used for decades now. In fact, psychometrics can be traced back to Charles Darwin.
But what do psychometric tests involve and how can they help you to develop your career or recruit better staff?
Psychometric testing – what is it?
For most people, ‘psychometric tests’ mean ‘personality tests’, designed to measure what kind of a person you are, and also how your personality ‘fits’ with that of a potential employer.
In more basic terms, it might be useful to think of how a footballer ‘fits into the dressing room’. The key skills, whether of a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder or forward, are all varied and different. Yet how the team of individuals gels – their personalities, team spirit, work ethic and desire to ‘do it for their mates’ – plays an extremely important part in determining the success, or otherwise, of the club which employs them.
No right or wrong answers
What then does a psychometric test involve? Well, the clue is in the name. You do have to sit down and do some tests.
There’s a range of different tests (the Myers Briggs type being one of the best known), provided by different companies, but all, in essence, can provide useful insights into an individual’s psychology.
Multiple-choice questions are frequently used and the individual’s responses can be assessed to see which personality ‘type’ he or she fits. For example, you might be asked ‘do you enjoy meeting new people?’ and given a range of five responses, from very positive to very negative.
And in case anyone thinks they can game the system, there are checks built in to the questions which show up those who try to give what they, wrongly, think are the ‘right’ answers. You have been warned!
How psychometric testing is used
It is also important, for both employer and potential employee, or even for someone just taking a test as part of a career development programme, to remember that the results are not the be all and end all.
No savvy assessor would use the results to make a final decision: instead, they are often used to highlight areas of strength as much as weakness but also to give the person conducting the test the opportunity to find out more about the you and, if necessary, to ask further questions or bring you back for a further meeting to discuss key outcomes.
The last word should perhaps go to an acquaintance of ours who, many years ago, did his first personality test. His tester was an occupational psychologist who had carried out the testing for Britain’s first person in space (Helen Sharman).
At the end, after getting the results, our friend, who had been, to put it mildly, sceptical, admitted to the tester that, “yes, what you have just told me about myself is spot-on. That’s me alright!” He got the job!