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Personality Testing is Part of Everyone's Life

Employers have always tried to learn as much as possible about existing or potential employees. That's hardly surprising, given that few of us are completely truthful at interviews. If we want the job we're hardly likely to reveal elements of our character that put us at a disadvantage.

Intentionally at least.

Many methods have been used by employers to assess the real characters of their staff. In the nineteenth century, handwriting analysis or "graphology" was regarded as a window on psychological make-up, and became popular as a selection tool. The twentieth century saw the advent of IQ and aptitude tests. These performed better, but were still easy to fool; to raise your apparent IQ, you just need to practice IQ tests.

The basis of many tests lies in confusing the subject by contrasting many unrelated preferences. It becomes difficult to give the "right" answer. The responses are then related and analysed, often using a computer program. The personality profile that results is often disturbingly accurate.











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Beating a Test

Given time, application and practice, you can beat most personality tests. But before you do, ask yourself: is that really what you want? Employment is a two-way street; a good employer is looking for the right employee for the candidate's benefit as well as its own. Lever yourself into the wrong job and the result is likely to be pretty miserable.

So use the advice you'll find on this site wisely. By all means try to give the best impression you can, but don't try to give a false impression of your real character. If you take a trial test, look carefully at what it tells you and ask yourself what elements of your personality you could work on. Improve yourself in those areas and you could change your life. How to Pass Tests

Types of Test

It's important to use the right type of test, according to the selection criteria that apply to your circumstances. Each reveals different aspects of the subject, either as an absolute score or as a quotient that compares the subject's performance against those who have previously undertaken the test.

Each type has its own advantages and shortcomings. Almost all are subject to the "snapshot effect" - they show the subject's performance at that particular moment. Stress caused by interview nerves, motivation to prove a point, or even just an "off" day can all distort the results. This means that skill in interpretation is at least as important as the sophistication of the test itself.

The types of test shown below aren't an exhaustive list. They're intended to give a view of the principal approaches in common use.

Personality Assessment

This is probably the most widely recognised form of psychometric testing. It's designed to reveal the psychological make-up of the subject, often revealing elements of character that are commonly hidden.

Personality measurement often asks the subject to express opinions or make statements about his or her attitudes. These may be presented in the form of multiple-choice statements, one of which the subject must choose, even if he or she feels that neither applies. A typical example of this approach might be:

I am easily distracted

I tire easily

This presents an immediate problem: both statements are negative, but which is more damaging? By deciding which to apply to myself I reveal something of my priorities and anxieties about my own make-up. Later in the test I might find one or more of these choices repeated, but contrasted against a different attribute. This makes it more difficult to skew results by giving what I believe to be the "right" answer. Some systems offer more optional answers - often up to four choices. Opinions differ on which approach is more effective. Your choice should be based on your assessment of the provider's ability to provide cogent, easily-interpreted results.

The results from this type of test usually produce multiple scores, each for a different personality aspect. While personality metrics can provide exceptional detail and accuracy, they require considerable skill and judgment, both to produce the metrics themselves, and to understand what those metrics are telling us.

Motivation and Attitude Testing

In establishing someone's interests and drivers, a tester is usually not drilling so deeply into the subject's psyche. The aim here is to understand themes and directions in the subject's career path and life decisions. As a result, motivational testing is a useful tool for a career advisor who's looking to provide advice on future career direction.

The subject's CV may provide considerable insight towards his or her aims, but it can also be surprisingly misleading. People often take a job for the wrong reasons, and then rationalise the choice by trying to invent a career theme that may be entirely specious.

To combat this, the tester will often use a career interest or motivation questionnaire. This will endeavour to reveal the true themes, areas and targets by exploring what a subject finds most rewarding or worrying about a situation.

This type of test is usually easier to "throw" than a full personality test. But before doing so you should ask yourself whether you have more to gain by answering truthfully. Doing so can often reveal ideal career paths that you might not previously have considered.

360 Degree Assessment

This form of testing has become increasingly popular in recent years. It generally provides consistent, meaningful results that are relatively easy to interpret and understand. A 360 Appraisal assessment programme involves electing a committee of colleagues to provide feedback on the subject. This will usually consist of people at various levels: a manager's assessment group could be made up of staff who report to him, peers at a similar management level, and the senior management to whom he reports.

Each respondent is given a multiple choice questionnaire on which they anonymously rate the subject's performance in various situations. The subject is also asked to rate his or her performance in the same areas.

On completion, the responses are mapped to give a detailed picture of the areas that require improvement. The technique appears intrusive at first sight, but when applied simultaneously across several people it is usually accepted with enthusiasm, especially if the results are used positively to everyone's advantage.

How Testing Works

Whom should we regard as the inventor of psychometrics?

It's probably an unanswerable question. Certainly much of the theory behind it comes from the thoughts and writings of ground-breaking psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Of these, the latter has arguably more validity in modern psychometrics. Jung was a free thinker, preferring to categorize people less rigidly than Freud. He believed more in individuality, and the ability of the human mind to change, adapt and evolve.

This is a crucial consideration; we are all products of our environment. While separating our attitudes and motivations from our education and social privileges might be a useful equaliser, it has less relevance when we apply it to an employment situation. An employer engages the total person, who will act according to his or her upbringing and education, overlaid on top of his or her core psychological structure.

Jung didn't have the advantage of computer analysis to help his observations. He understood the complexity of the human mind, and endeavoured to make it measurable by identifying a small range of identifying components.
These he divided into categories as follows:

Attitudes: Extroversion or introversion

Rational preferences: Thinking or feeling

Irrational preferences: Sense or intuition

The basis of his theory states that we each make decisions biased towards one or the other of these mutually exclusive poles. Do we interpret the world based on our senses or our intuition? Do we make decisions based on rational thought or "gut-feeling"? In theory it should be possible to map a person's personality based on these criteria.

But Jung observed that this view was too simplistic; it ignored our ability to adjust our behaviour according to circumstances and experience. Put a marginally introverted person in a group of more introverted people and we'll see apparently extrovert behaviour. An intuitive person who's made a series of poor judgment may learn to become more rational.

The interview is an exceptionally false situation. Everyone acts to some extent out of their normal character - including the interviewer. Here we see Jung's observations on adaptability in action. Each person involved is modifying his or her base behaviour to suit an unusual set of circumstances. Once the unusual circumstances are removed, he or she will revert to a more normal behavioural pattern.

Psychometric testing endeavours to peel away as much as possible of this circumstantial overlay. We want to know the natural behaviour patterns of the person underneath. There's no right or wrong, no superhuman or poor performing profile. But there can be certain drivers that are important - positively or negatively - in a particular job. If a candidate needs security and reassurance, he or she may well be able to operate in a high-risk business environment, but at what personal cost?

The Role of the Computer

As we've already stated, Jung didn't have access to computers. This made analysis highly subjective, a shortcoming that he tried - with commendable success - to avoid by creating his measurement system. Now that unlimited processing power is widely available, the computer is an obvious tool to remove that subjectivity.

But computers aren't human. They may be superhuman in their ability to process information, but they have no insight or understanding. They're morons with a fast brain and a great memory.

As a result, most analysis systems don't make any attempt to obviate the human factor. The computer is used to classify the response data and organise it in a format that's easy for a human expert to interpret.

The Limitations

It is therefore an important and useful tool in choosing the right person for a given circumstance. We can use it to estimate how a candidate will react under pressure, as well as their normal behaviour in everyday work. It may even give pointers to a person's basic honesty.

But all of this power carries the strongest possible caveat. Psychometric testing is not a panacea. It should never be used for more than a relatively small part of the selection process. Around 25% of the decision can safely be based on the results of the testing; the remainder should come from the interview and personal assessments of the candidate.

The importance of expertise in the person or process that interprets the results can't be over-stated. Before choosing a provider you should satisfy yourself fully that you are being presented with properly interpreted results - and that you understand fully how to process the results you receive. A good provider will usually assist you in this last and vital element of the exercise.

Development Tool

So far we've looked most at psychometric testing as a tool in recruitment. But concentrating on this area ignores another powerful application; the development of key personnel.

If psychometric analysis gives us detailed information about strangers at an interview, it can give even more compelling data on people we already know. By understanding the psychological make-up of our key business people we can do much to make them more comfortable and productive, reducing staff turnover and increasing their effectiveness.
Anyone considering a programme of staff development should look at psychometrics as a method of matching development activities to the specific needs of the people to be developed.

Take a PHD Certified Test

If you are thinking of changing your job or career, taking a test can prove invaluable. As an estimated 65 per cent of employers now ask candidates to take one, taking a test now will help you to know what to expect during the recruitment process.

It will also help you to decide what career or type of job is best for you.

Just a few test questions that may change your life.

How to Pass a Psychometric Test



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