Employers are expanding the range of selection methods they use in the recruitment process. The key drivers behind this are the need to eliminate subjective judgements and the desire to strengthen team dynamics and avoid conflict.
It must be stressed that selection tests are not used as an alternative to the interview, but rather as a supplement to that process.
Such tests are designed to provide companies with further evidence of the capabilities and potential that you have. In some tests, for example, verbal and numerical reasoning, there will be a minimum score, which you must exceed. Other tests provide evidence that is qualitative rather than quantitative but are no less important in a company's decision-making process.
It is therefore important that you understand the different methods used so that you can prepare yourself accordingly. We will be able to guide you through the process.
Personality and behaviour questionnaires
These set out to provide a profile of your personality and motivation; providing an insight into your character.
The selectors will then decide whether your personal profile matches the requirement of the particular role for which you are applying.
They are easy to sit and are generally multiple choice.
You tick the box that most accurately describes your preference in a given situation.
The questions are set out to identify specific personality traits.
Your results can be compared with averages taken from the general population or any selected peer group.
Further analysis and other tests establish broad personality patterns.
Occupational personality questionnaires
These are designed to assess your typical or preferred behaviour as it relates to work.
For example, are you orientated towards introspection or team building?
One might suppose there are no right or wrong answers, and therefore, you should not pass or fail these tests.
However, would a potential employer wish to recruit a tense and introverted person into their sales operation?
The warnings that go with these tests invariably suggest that if you attempt to lie in your responses, you will be found out: your results will reveal inconsistencies, invalidate the test and to the extent you can fail, you will.
Emotional intelligence questionnaires
This is an objective method of measuring emotional competencies in the workplace.
They are a good predictor of performance, demonstrating how well you understand and manage your emotions, how well you interpret and deal with the emotions of others and how you use this knowledge to manage relationships.
The questions ask you to rank statements through seven options from ‘completely agree’ to ‘completely disagree’.
There are no right or wrong answers, simply facets of emotion that may or may not contribute to a job role.
These attempt to assess your general abilities, benchmarked against similarly graded employees.
Tests that benchmark your general skills and intelligence are many and varied and include reasoning, perceptual speed, number speed and accuracy, spatial visualisation and word meaning.
Numerical and verbal reasoning tests are the most common and are almost invariably multiple choice.
From simple tests, they can move onto more sophisticated ones like critical reasoning tests where inferences need to be drawn from data or diagrammatic tests of logical reasoning presented in the form of abstract shapes and diagrams.
Other tests will require you to read a narrative under time pressure and answer a series of what may appear to be ambiguous questions.
Under this category, some tests are more task orientated.
In-tray and out-tray exercises expect you to react efficiently to a flow of paperwork and directives that make conflicting demands.
These set out to assess skills and experience that are specific to the role for which you are applying.
Presentations and role-plays are two formats used to test specific skills:
Presentations and role-plays are often used to assess the qualities of candidates applying for posts which require a complex set of skills, together with specific professional knowledge.
By asking candidates to prepare and deliver a presentation on a given subject, and in some cases to participate in a discussion afterwards, selectors can asses the individual's written and oral presentation skills, analyses and reasoning, as well as attitude and professional knowledge.
Role-plays are usually enacted impromptu, whereby you are required to demonstrate a particular skill in a given scenario.
Again, a discussion may ensue after that.
Case study analysis
As with presentations, case studies can be a valuable way of assessing candidates' knowledge of a particular subject area, and their likely approach to handling a particular situation.
This selection method is sometimes used for candidates for managerial posts, or posts requiring knowledge of specific procedures, regulations or legislation.
You may also be tested on your ability to think through and react to complex challenges by reviewing case studies from other industries.
An assessment centre is a standardised selection method which uses a variety of different tests, interviews and exercises to evaluate a candidate's potential performance in a particular post.
The assessment centre programme usually spans several days, during which time the participants are observed, and at the end of which they are given feedback on their performance.
This selection method is extremely effective but costly.
It is generally used when large numbers of candidates are being assessed.
How reliable are psychometric tests?
All these tests are designed to provide companies with further evidence of the capabilities and potential that you have.
Very often you are benchmarked not just against skills required for a position in internal auditing, but against a norm for a management grade. In some tests, for example, verbal and numerical reasoning, there will be a minimum score, which you must exceed.
Other tests provide evidence that is qualitative rather than quantitative but are no less important in a company's decision-making process.
Psychometric tests can cause suspicion and bemusement in equal measure.
Some people consider them to be ineffective and think the results are very much dependant upon your mood on the day.
However, the fact that the percentage of employers using such tests is as high as 80% indicates that their value is now generally undisputed; provided they are always used in conjunction with standard interviews.
An employer will not found their entire decision based on your test results, so do not panic; they are not designed to catch you out.
You are well within your rights to enquire what the employer is assessing you for and whether there will be a chance to discuss the results of the assessment.