With competition for jobs fiercer than ever (the latest figures suggest as many as 150 graduates apply for each graduate-level job) today’s recruiters are swamped with qualified applicants – and that means many are finding new ways to pick and choose.
To sift through the applicant pool, more employers are using online skill-based testing (such as numeracy and problem solving), while others are turning to psychometric assessments in an effort to find the best candidate for the role.
Finding the right fit
‘During the recruitment process, an employer will typically look at a candidate’s background, qualifications and previous experience but it’s also vital to find people who ‘fit’ with the organisation,’ explains Suchi Pathak, an Occupational Psychologist at Thomas International, which provides psychometric assessments to 32,000 businesses in more than 60 countries.
‘For example, if a company is typically a fast-paced, dynamic business that operates with a flat management structure and few operating procedures, an employer will need to find somebody who thrives in that environment.
‘If they recruit somebody who is more comfortable in a steady-paced role, where rules are set down and procedures are clear, the candidate is likely to be unhappy in the role, work ineffectively and probably won’t stay with the company for long.’
And it’s not always just about your suitability for the role, as Suchi explains:
‘It’s also about the team that the new employee will be joining – an employer may be deliberately looking to recruit somebody to counterbalance the team members they already have. For example, a team full of dominant ‘go getting’ personalities may need somebody who is happier planning and strategising.’
What can you expect from a psychometric test?
‘A typical personality questionnaire question may ask whether you prefer attending parties or staying home with a good book,’ says Rob Williams, a chartered occupational psychologist who has worked extensively in the recruitment industry and has penned a variety of recruitment tests and two books on the subject.
‘These personality tests help employers to determine whether a candidate has the right profile for the role. A sales person, for example, would typically need to be an extrovert with a high degree of resilience, whereas someone performing a research role would probably have a very different profile.’
No right or wrong answers
So is there anything you can do to ensure you give the best answer?
‘The best strategy for completing a personality test is to answer honestly, as these tests are carefully designed,’ says Rob.
Suchi agrees. ‘With behavioural assessments, there are no right or wrong answers – instead they provide a non-critical behavioural analysis of a person, designed to emphasise his or her strengths in the work place. It is not a test. You cannot pass or fail.
‘There’s no benefit in trying to second guess what your employer is looking for and our assessments have been designed to prevent this from happening! If a candidate answers honestly they are more likely to be matched with a role they will enjoy and thrive in.’
And while you can research the kind of questionnaires you might come across, there are ever-more sophisticated ones being devised, many of them created specifically for a company.
‘With a bespoke psychometric test, organisations can design the content of their test(s) to match their own industry sector,’ explains Rob.
Situational judgement tests (SJTs)
According to Rob, employers are increasingly using situational judgement tests (where the candidate is presented with scenarios and asked to select the best and the worst thing to do next) as a way to learn more about their character and attitudes to work.
Rob gives an example: Over lunch with a colleague, you mention financial risks that you believe are involved with a recent investment product about to be launched to customers. In a team meeting later that week, your colleague shares this information with your manager – without giving you credit. How do you react?
You are then asked to select your most preferred and least preferred responses
(a) Apologise on your colleague’s behalf for their poor explanation.
(b) Suggest that your colleague does their own research.
(c) Ask your colleague to give you some credit in future.
(d) Check that your manager understands the risk involved.
By using real life scenarios, the idea is that employers will get a better understanding of how you might operate in the work place.
Emotional Intelligence assessments
Aside from the standard behavioural profiles and SJTs, you may also come across ‘emotional intelligence assessments’.
Thomas International’s TEIQue questionnaire comprises 153 questions – for each, there are seven possible responses, ranging from 1 for statements where a candidate ‘Disagrees Strongly’ to 7 when a candidate ‘Agrees Strongly’.
You’re asked to respond to statements such as ‘I’m usually able to influence the way other people feel’, ‘I normally find it difficult to calm angry people down’ or ‘I generally hope for the best’.
The candidates score will be compared to the responses of a representative UK working population sample to give a number that indicates where their score lies in relation to other people e.g. if the score is in the 75th percentile, the applicant’s trait is stronger than 75% of the sample population – giving an employer an idea of a candidate’s emotional intelligence.
‘As with Personal Profile Analysis (PPA), there are no right or wrong answers, no bad scores, but simply facets of emotion that may or may not be relevant to a particular job role,’ says Suchi.
‘The best way to answer these questions is to work quickly and intuitively and avoid thinking too long about the exact meaning of the statements.’
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