News & Blog

The Psychometrics of Compliance

  • May 26, 2016

Alexander Lloyd's Compliance department take a look at psychometric testing and what a job seeker might expect.
Psychometric testing is a well-established tool in the process of recruitment, although you do tend to find it more frequently employed by larger companies as opposed to smaller SMEs.  

The standard tests of cognitive ability that are most commonly employed to examine Compliance professionals provide two separate measures:

• maximum performance (aptitude)

• typical performance (personality)


This style of testing is generally divided into two; assessing broad underlying capabilities with numerical and verbal reasoning, and specific factors that are role-related such as clerical ability. 

The Compliance recruitment process tends to examine the numerical and verbal reasoning aspects to establish that the candidate has the appropriate cognitive ability to perform to the desired level.  This part of the testing should without doubt, be viewed in a positive light; whilst you will naturally worry, you have successfully developed your Compliance career to this stage, which required a minimum level of ability.  

The employer is not looking for Einstein reincarnated, and as such will benchmark the scores against population norms.  The employer will have already established what their minimum requirements for the role are, so if you score 22 out of 30 for example, you will be assessed as being in the top 30% of the UK working adult population.  


We frequently get asked what a candidate can do in preparation for an aptitude test, and the preparation is really quite straightforward.  Unlike the personality tests, there is a right and a wrong answer to these questions.  

Brushing up on numerical skills such as percentages and long multiplication will certainly be of assistance, and there are plenty of practice tests available to take on line that will get you used to the format of the test and requirements for the verbal reasoning.


Personality tests are somewhat different to the aptitude ones as there are no right or wrong answers.  Rather the questions are designed to draw out and examine the predispositions that someone has to behave and react in specific ways.They are based on the premise that there are five basic personality traits that have been established as a result of extensive research that ranged from 4,000 identifiable traits to 3!  

The generally accepted number has been settled at five, and are defined as:

Extraversion – including excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness

Agreeableness – including trust, altruism, kindness, and other pro-social behaviours

Conscientiousness – including goal directed behaviours, impulse control and methodical thinking

Neuroticism – emotional instability, anxiety, irritability and moodiness

Openness – including insight and imagination

One important point to keep in mind is that each of the categories represent a “continuum between two extremes.”*  Most people lie somewhere between the two.

The five factor approach has significant research to support it, and reams of statistical information that back up the actual test itself such as reliability and variability.


These tests on the whole provide an accurate picture on which an employer can make an informed decision.  Whilst it isn’t possible to influence the aptitude tests, it is possible to do so on the personality questionnaires; to lean the answers towards a certain direction.  However, a strong word of warning in doing so; this will not benefit you long term.  An employer should have carefully analysed the role to establish what they require from the individual.  If you do not answer the questions honestly and instinctively thereby skewing the results, it’s unlikely you will possess the qualities they are looking for and will not be able to maintain this approach, resulting in poor long-term prospects for you both.