How Psychometric Tests Affect Your Job Search
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More and more recruiters are using technology tools to test job candidates and match them to jobs. But what do they actually do with those tests? It’s a nerve wracking experience taking a personality test wondering what someone is going to think of you. Is a psychologist going to discover some deep seated flaw? At best, will this eliminate you from the job? At worst, will men in white jackets will take you away to a padded room? Your personality test isn’t going to get you committed but it could mean you lose the job. Here’s how they work and how you can prevent yourself from “failing” a personality test:
Quick shout out to those people who prefer a human to help them negotiate the job search minefield: If you’re interviewing, get an interview coach to administer your psychometric test and provide customized interview guidance. Link here
Readers, read on (note how this is an example of adjusting your message to different personality types):
Why do recruiters use them?
Because making a hiring mistake is expensive. But hiring the right person for the job makes a massive difference to company performance. We know that certain types of people suit certain types of jobs and personality tests are designed to test this. These tests can also identify how job candidates fit into a team, how they fit into a corporate culture or what they are like to manage.
Will they lock me up?
Recruitment tests don’t test for narcissists, "psychos", delusional tendencies, bipolar tendencies or a number of other psychological disorders. Although I bet we’ve all worked with people we suspect need serious psychological help. Statistically a large proportion of the population has a mental health problem. So don’t worry: those thoughts in your head are safe. In rare cases recruiters go a little overboard with the testing for highly sensitive jobs like trauma counselors, special services etc. But I’m pretty sure you’re name isn’t James Bond so you don't need to worry about anything embarrassing being revealed.
What is being tested?
Recruitment personality tests (more properly called psychometric tests) don’t test for good or bad, they test for characteristics on a scale. For example someone can be task focused or people focused. Assertive or submissive. Detail oriented or big picture. These are opposite characteristics on a scale. There’s nothing bad with being task focused or people focused, a personality test just measures where you are on the scale.
Can you fail a personality test?
It depends on the company. Of course people with certain characteristics will naturally be better at certain jobs. On a basic level we all already know that most accountants, engineers, IT people are task focused. And teachers, marketers are more people focused. Leaders & managers normally suit assertive people and you wouldn’t want a counselor who didn’t listen. But this is a simplified generalization.
Sometimes the best leaders are the quiet listeners. Sometimes the best accountant is the one with the people skills to explain financial accounts to a non-financial audience. And that is where the “depends” comes in. A good recruiter will consider concerns raised from a personality test as another data point. And they will ask you questions designed to further test if these concerns are real or not.
But in the real world many recruiters will disqualify you if your personality test conflicts the “ideal” candidate profile. But there is something you can do about it.
Do I try manipulate the test?
This could backfire and eliminate you because some tests have controls. Plus think about it. As much as a recruiter is matching you to a job, you should also match yourself to a job. You will not be happy if you end up in a job that doesn’t suit you. Because you will constantly have to fight your natural tendencies to do well. Or worse, you could manipulate the test in a way that ends up disqualifying you.
What can I do about personality tests?
You’ve started doing it already and that is to learn more about it. If you haven't done a test before then find out your own profile. As they say forewarned is forearmed and the sorts of things the test is going to say include:
- What are your strengths are,
- What warning signs should recruiters have,
- How you will get on with other team members.
This is very powerful not just for interviewing or work but a very important life skill. Yes you do know yourself pretty well and you’ll be surprised at some of the insights and powerful recommendations that these tests surface. My personal story is that I tested very extreme – this identified why I got on really well with some people and really badly with others. Now I'm ready for interviews to explain any weaknesses and provide a compensating answer. I would be immediately eliminated from certain jobs if I didn't know that.
Better psychometric tests also give you recommendations for more effective behaviour (similar to a coach). This has enabled me to be more effective by using my strengths and being aware of my weaknesses. I now adjust my behavior to my audience better and as a result of this I am much better at communicating, being engaging and being persuasive.
Understanding someone’s personality profile allows you to understand how they will respond and what to say to get them to do things. It’s like a super power.
Interviewing and personality tests
A personality test could raise concerns that result in you being disqualified from a job. To prevent this from happening you need to know what the concerns are and how to address them. The first step is to do your own psychometric test. Imagine if the recruiter has the results of your personality test but you don’t. You will be at a disadvantage and feeling rather exposed. Once you’ve taken the test, match the strengths identified to the job requirements and address any weaknesses.
If you are a curious self-learner like me then I encourage you to read more about DISC. This has been a transformational experience for me. IMHO it’s not a hugely complicated area but does take a bit of time. If you're not comfortable with psychometric models or have an important interview coming up soon then the best way to integrate personality tests with better interviewing is to use a professional coach. (But make sure you get one who knows about psychometric models).
How to fit this into an interview:
1. Answering the "Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses question"
You can be guaranteed that interviewers will ask you certain questions. (Reference: interview questions recruiters expect you to be prepared for)
This includes the “Tell me about yourself” question or the “Strengths and Weaknesses” questions. It's one of the questions interviewees hate answering but a psychometric test practically answers the question for you. For me this sounds like: “My personality tests as extremely detail oriented and task focused. This can cause me to isolate myself until I have perfected my work. This is not always the best way to get things done. What I’ve learnt is that it’s incredibly powerful to get other people to help. So I’ve learnt to talk to people about the challenges I’m facing which often results in getting expert help.” It’s one thing to have a problem and another thing to be aware of it and working on it. And if I was interviewing you I’d give you extra credit for self-awareness and a demonstrated desire for self-improvement.
2. Connecting with the interviewer
Wrong or right it's a simple fact of life that people hire people they like. We go into interviews worried if we will get our answers right but what matters more than that is how well we connect with the interviewer. More than half of the hiring decision is based on how well you connect with the interviewer. This is why strong job candidates get rejected in the interviewer's head before they've even asked a technical question. Psychometric profiling is a great way to find out what interviewers will think of you and how you can form better personal connections.
Next steps – how you can use Psychometric testing to get a job
If you’re on the job search you can use psychometric testing to secure a job offer. The process is:
- Find out your personality profile by doing a DISC assessment,
- Use the profile to understand your strengths to formulate your own Unique Value Proposition. Use the profile as a basis for answering interview questions,
- Use the profile to connect with the interviewer and answer questions the way they want questions answered (do they want long detailed answers or high level results? Do they want facts and figures or do they want stories? These are the sort of things you adjust) and
- Use profile to identify any risk areas that may eliminate you from the job and prepare responses.
The last two steps fits into what I call advanced interview techniques. So you may want to use an interview coach to work with you the process. I have resources to guide you to interview success below this article.
I confess that I find some personality types pretty annoying (self-centered, aggressive people, I’m talking to you – but you probably aren’t listening anyway!). But there is great strength in diversity. This diversity is what makes people so good at an incredibly wide range of things. But diversity also creates challenges to find a job that suits you and to convince recruiters that you are the best person for the job. Psychometric tests are an incredibly useful tool to use to find and communicate your strengths. If you are looking for a new job then see the helpful links below.
Have you ever been asked to do a psychometric test? What are your comments, tips or questions? Please help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.
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