Psychometric Testing – what is involved?

The use of psychometric testing is well established when recruiting new staff, although larger companies do tend to employ it more frequently than smaller SMEs.

Psychometric tests are standard and are designed to measure cognitive ability to help employers ascertain the suitability of an individual to do a job.

The tests provide two separate measures:

• maximum performance (aptitude)

• typical performance (personality)


This type of testing is normally split into two; assessing the job seeker’s broad underlying capabilities for numerical and verbal reasoning, and specific factors that are related to this, such as clerical ability for example. The Pensions recruitment process specifically examines the numerical as well as the verbal reasoning aspects to ensure that the candidate has the appropriate cognitive ability to perform the tasks of the role to the desired level.  For example, the ability to perform calculations in a Pension administration role is crucial.

This part of the testing will naturally worry many people.  However, you have successfully developed your career to its present level, which required a minimum level of ability.  The employer is not looking for Einstein reincarnated, and therefore will benchmark the scores against population norms.  When reviewing the role originally, the employer will have already decided what their minimum requirements 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.


The preparation for an aptitude test is really quite straightforward; unlike the personality tests, there is a right and a wrong answer.  Brushing up on numerical skills such as percentages and long multiplication and division will certainly be of help, and it is recommended to take advantage of the practice tests available on line.


Personality tests are different to those that measure aptitude, as there are no right or wrong answers.  Instead the questions are designed to draw out and examine the innate predispositions that a person has to behave and react in specific ways.

The premise behind them is based on the concept that there are five basic personality traits.  These have been classified as a result of considerable research that ranged from 3 identifiable traits to 4,000!  The generally accepted number has been agreed as five, and they are classified 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

It is important to note that each of the categories represent a “continuum between two extremes.”* Most people lie somewhere between the two, not at the extreme of any specific one.


These tests on the whole present an accurate insight on which an employer can base an informed decision.  Whilst it isn’t possible to influence the aptitude tests, it is possible to sway the personality questionnaires; to lean the answers towards a certain direction.  However, a strong word of warning against doing so; this will not benefit anyone long term.  An employer will have carefully assessed the role to establish what they require from its incumbent.  If questions are not answered honestly and instinctively and thereby skew the results, it’s unlikely the job seeker will possess the qualities they are looking for and will not be able to maintain this facade, resulting in poor long-term prospects for both the employer and employee.

Preparation is possible so that the format and style of questions is familiar.  Online testing is available and the Psychological Testing Centre run by the British Psychological Society is an excellent and reliable place to start.