Job tests - details of psychometric and aptitude tests and how to cope with them

Job tests
Depending on the job role you are applying for, the interview process may entail some form of testing.

For example, if applying for a technical role in the IT sector, you may be required to sit a technical skills test.

An increasingly popular form of testing is a psychometric test, or personality test, which is designed to assess your motivation, interests and values, as well as your behaviour and attitudes.
Aptitude tests measure specific skill sets, such as memory or intelligence and give employers an idea of your existing ability and potential to learn skills required for the job.

Psychometric or aptitude assessments are often used by employers to gain a much better understanding of what you can do and how you may fit into their organisation. They can also help you to identify and develop your own skills to match the demands of the job you are applying for.

They provide an alternative way for your interviewer(s) to gain insights into your suitability for a particular job and can offer better value than more standard forms of questioning.

You could be asked to complete some form of aptitude or psychometric test at any stage of the interview process, and this could be during your first interview, second interview or even at the stage of application.

This form of testing is often used as a way of 'screening' candidates before a prospective employer has to give up their time to conduct a face-to-face interview with you. More commonly now, these kinds of tests are integrated into online application forms, or sent to candidates along with an application pack.

The inclusion of these types of tests also helps to filter through those candidates who are really interested in taking up the job offer from those who are applying for many jobs at a time and may not be seriously interested in taking up the job.

Psychometric or aptitude tests are rarely taken in isolation and will usually form only part of the interview test, so if you have not had to do one of these before, do not worry - your interviewer will not rely solely on these when considering whether you are right for the job.

For example, if you are applying for a job in a customer service department or call centre, you are likely to be asked to sit a data entry test, which monitors the speed and accuracy of your typing. However, if your typing speed is a little below the desired limit, your interviewer (once talking to you face-to-face) could still decide to offer you the job based on your performance in that part of the interview.

There are several things you can do to ensure that you are properly prepared for coping with any tests and to ease the worry during an assessment. Below is a list of helpful hints for you to keep in mind:
  • Try to find out what assessments to expect in advance
  • Practise doing things to a time limit
  • Tell the organisation if you have any impairments that might affect your performance, such as dyslexia or poor hearing
  • Consider what skills and abilities the test assessors and recruiters are looking for and try to demonstrate them.
  • Do your research on the company and the job role you are applying for - you may find that this gives you an insight into the type of test questions you should expect
  • During the test itself, don't worry if you can't finish in the time given, as some tests are designed that way and you are not always expected to complete it all.
  • Keep calm and read instructions carefully.
  • Always complete the practice questions at the start of any assessment
  • Ask your test administrator to clarify anything you don't understand before you begin.
  • When assessing difficult multiple-choice questions, start by ruling out those possible answers that are most unlikely to be correct.
  • If you change an answer, make sure it is clear.

With psychometric testing, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' answer, but try not to second-guess what answer you think your interviewer is looking for. Respond to each question honestly as these tests are not only useful in helping your interviewer decide whether you are right for the job, but the outcome will also help determine whether the job is right for you.

With aptitude tests, the result will very much depend on your intelligence or knowledge of a particular topic. To increase your chances of success with these types of test, it's important to do some 'revision'. Look back over any old course notes or training booklets you may have from a previous job, and go over any potential questions and answers with somebody else that is well informed on the subject.

Finally, tests can be undertaken on a computer, via the Internet or using traditional pen and paper, but it is highly unlikely that they will be taken in isolation.

Testing is just one aspect of an interview process and for many interviews may not even be a requirement.

Nevertheless, it's important to know what else you may be asked to do to secure that dream job!

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