Psychometric what?

by 16 Feb 2010

Many job hunters may find they are up against psychometric testing, Ralph Laughton describes how they work and how you can prepare for them

Psychometric testing refers to an assessment process intended to assist an employer's strategic talent acquisition plan by aligning the organisation's business needs with the employee selection process. The tests are designed to provide objective unbiased insight into a candidate's potential strengths and weaknesses related to aptitudes and personality. Typically, the prospective employer is interested in determining the individual's leadership potential, decision-making ability and general personality traits. The result of a psychometric test is reviewed and considered together with a candidate's resume, personal interview with the employer's recruitment representative and comments received from the candidate's referees.

Although commonly used within corporations, psychometric tests for employee selection are still not widely used in law firms - but this may be changing. A small number of firms have either begun utilising psychometric testing to evaluate graduate recruits or have begun reviewing the possibility. Moreover, experienced solicitors who consider an in-house role as part of their potential or desired career path should be prepared to encounter a psychologically based screening process.

Numerous behavioural tests from competing organisations are now available to assess a wide range of traits including verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning; openness to change; ability to work in either a structured or unstructured environment; willingness to work within a team-oriented group; emotional intelligence; and leadership ability.

Personality assessments measure an individual's behavioural tendencies and preferences as a component of their personality. They are not actually tests and do not consist of questions which have right or wrong answers and you cannot practice for one. Instead, you should respond to each question honestly and avoid the tendency to try and second-guess what you believe is the correct response.

Tests related to a person's aptitudes such as verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning evaluate a candidate's ability to deal with verbal and numerical concepts and how quickly a candidate is able to assimilate new information. Although a person's verbal and numerical reasoning can improve over time, there is little one can do to improve this at the point of testing. However, undertaking some practice questions can assist in familiarising oneself with the types of questions asked and reduce levels of anxiety.

If you haven't already encountered a combination of psychological tests as part of an interview process it's probable that during your career you will. With the legal employment market becoming increasingly competitive it is important to gain an edge wherever possible, including by understanding how psychological tests are used and being prepared.

Keep the following test-taking tips in mind:

When testing, make sure there are no distractions;

Try to relax prior to beginning the test;

Read the instructions carefully before proceeding;

Take all introductory practice tests if they are offered;

If you don't know the answer to a question, skip it. Tests are often timed. Return to skipped questions later if time and the test format permits;

Reading and comprehension scores may be improved by first reading the proposed answers and then reading the test paragraph for clues to the best answer.

Ralph Laughton is the Managing Partner of Dolman Legal Search & Recruitment