Just What are Psychometric tests, and Why Might You Have to Take One?

Recruiters and Employers See the Value

Today there are well over 5,000 different types of psychometric tests that measure a variety of mental skills and processes – math aptitude, abstract reasoning, verbal proficiency, spatial skills, personalities and behavioural patterns.

So, why have they become such a major part of the employment selection process?

  • Applications and CV’s provide a history of education, employment, and often, exaggerated statements about achievements and responsibilities. Most candidates spend a great deal of time crafting their CV or use professional services to have a document that showcases their backgrounds and qualifications for a specific position. While these are important for the initial screening, they are only one factor in the hiring process.
  • Interviews usually include basic questions, which candidates prepare for before the event. Interviewers have subjective biases, albeit unconscious, and excellent candidates may be spurned as a result.
  • References are somewhat unreliable, and legal ramifications often prevent those references from relaying negative information about a candidate to a potential employer.

Obviously, potential employers want to use as many tools that might help them make better hiring decisions, and psychometric testing has become one of those tools. They provide more objective information about candidates in several areas.

Plenty of our Top 100 Undergraduate Employers use psychometric tests during their recruitment process.

Types of Psychometric Tests

There are two general categories of psychometric testing – aptitude and ability and personality/behavioural. These are further broken down as follows:

    • Numerical Ability: The basic ability test evaluates simple mathematical skills, along with decimals, percentages, and some work problems. This test is given to clerical and low level administrative candidates. Higher level tests in this category will require more complex math skills and mathematical reasoning and analysis. Obviously, these tests are for specialised STEM positions.
    • Verbal Ability: Grammar and spelling are a large part of these tests, but understanding and interpreting text, drawing analogies, reasoning and deductions are included in testing for managerial positions.
    • Abstract Reasoning: Most of us have seen these types of tests before. The purpose is to evaluate general reasoning. Questions include patterns – numerical, physical, and verbal, and the applicant will be asked to reason what should come next. While they are used for highly technical positions that require working in the abstract, they are also used to gauge general intellectual abilities.
    • Spatial Reasoning: This test is comprised almost entirely of diagrams flowing in some type of pattern. You will be asked to determine the diagram that will follow three sequential diagrams. These are used primarily for applicants for design and other technical positions – architecture, engineering, surveying, for example. There are also three-dimensional versions of these tests.
    • Mechanical Reasoning: Candidates in skilled crafts will often be given this test – it tests knowledge of basic physical laws, electricity, etc. Candidates for skilled labor apprenticeships and sometimes for engineering positions will be given this test.
    • Personality/Behavioural Tests: They are used to determine a psychological “fit” for specific positions and are used to evaluate interests, motivations, and personality characteristics, ability to handle stress. These tests usually involve a large number of questions, in some instances as many as 500. The reason for the large number is that the same question content may be asked in several different ways to get a more accurate assessment. Applicants are presented with questions or scenarios and then asked to select the answer that most coincides with how they think, feel, act, etc.


How Important are Psychometric Tests in the Hiring Process?

Psychometric test results provide a raw score which is then compared with the “norms” that have been established through the testing verification process. They are one more indication to an employer of the fit and skill levels of applicants.

But, they are by no means the only determinant. Usually, they are used as one step in the entire selection process and may often come early on in that process. Employers do not want to waste time interviewing candidates who are clearly not a good fit, so these tests can serve as another method of candidate selection

How Does an Applicant Prepare for Such Tests?

The short answer is they don’t. The longer answer is that they can find sample test questions all over the web, and can thus get an idea of the types of questions that will be asked.

As an applicant, the other thing to remember is that these tests are timed, and the test-taker is not expected to finish the entire test.

The Future Role of Psychometric Testing

As already stated, there are well over 5,000 psychometric test, and as new ones are more widely recognised, employers will expand their use. Many are now given orally as a part of a telephone interview in the initial screening process.

Answers are recorded and scored afterward. Most applicants can probably expect some form of testing in the employment search process, and many employers who are not on board should consider them.

Sylvia Giltner is a freelance writer for Study Clerk and for some different recruiting sites. She makes CV editing and helps people to land a desirable job. To find out more about Sylvia - check out her Twitter or find her on Resumescentre.