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How To Pass A Personality Test

Published: Tuesday 18th July 2017


Male being interview by a male and a female

Personality (or Psychometric) Tests have been part of the recruitment process for many years. They are popular with employers because they are another element to their tech-driven arsenal of recruitment tools that both saves time and weeds-out less suitable candidates. From a candidate’s perspective, they are another hurdle over which they must jump to land the job; at least with personality test, they are usually done from the comfort of your own home.

Still, which candidate hasn’t thought about answering the test in a way that will put them through to the next round? Like any test, we want to do well, especially if we’re interested in the job. As you’ll see, we think the way to pass a personality test is remarkably simple.

Of course, for all their popularity there are notable cases where candidates who excelled in psychometric tests end up bringing the company to its knees (Paul Flowers, the disgraced head of the Co-operative Bank, is one such case). Does this mean they are flawed and playable? Definitely not: psychometric tests all have built-in checks, and any blatant gaming in the test will show up like a sore thumb. For instance, you may notice that a certain basic question repeated but with slight differences; inconsistencies in your answer to this will be noted. Even the time you take over some questions maybe flagged as unusual.

But notable cases like Paul Flowers emphasise that these tests are merely part of the process, and that fact should ease any nerves you might have.

There have also been cases where people use ‘ringers’ to take tests for them. This is another no-no: unless the person helping is an exact clone (and then, what’s the point?), you will be found out eventually. You want a job you are comfortable in; challenging, yes, but not one you’re out of your depth because someone else took the test.

It’s possible that the tests might be repeated further down the interview-line, so answering as best you can is the only option since any other course of action could trip you up. Also consider that you may have to take the same test again, both for this company or by the same testing body or company. Blatant cheating could well be noted and be retained on file

One suggested an approach to personality tests is to employ a ‘central tendency’ – taking the middle ground with all answers. For instance, if you’re asked to rate a question on a scale of 1 to 5, chose the 3 marks for an answer rather than an extreme point on the scale. However, while this approach won’t get you flagged as a psychopath, nor will it get you flagged as the best, most outstanding candidate for the job.

The McQuaig Word Survey is one of the popular personality tests. It’s a short (10-20 minutes) test that asks you to rank a series of words that you think best describes you; and another series that your co-workers would use to best describe you. By rank, we mean ‘put in order’ rather than assign a number to. In these tests it might be that the question cries out for a ‘maybe’ or ‘well, sometimes’ when that choice is not an option. You’ll have to fudge the answer to that question. In a way, you’re not answering truthfully, but that’s a drawback to the test, not your fault.

Having said all that, you should be clear in your own mind at the start of a test: what is the persona of the candidate they are looking for in this job? We’re not asking you to think like a leader and answer all questions in a Napoleonic frame of mind, but rather remind yourself frequently what the role is, and how you</em. fit into it.

In fact, studies show that people are frequently honest in personality tests because people are proud of who they are. The introvert, for example, is proud of their quiet strengths, though if asked in an interview they may be less than forthcoming about their personality for fear it will harm their chances.

To summarise then:

– don’t answer with what you think they want to hear
– don’t have someone else take the test for you
– do try some practice tests
– do think about desirable character traits for the job in question
– do put yourself in the persona of the job
– do answer as your professional self
– do read the questions carefully
– do relax

Remember this is just part of the interview process, not the final hurdle to be scrambled over at all costs. You are who you are; when you land the job the employer will get the complete package, warts and all.

Start your job search now and worry about the interview process later.

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