Psychometric Testing: A Survival Guide For Managers & Executives

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psychometric testing for managers
Steven McConnell
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August 30, 2021

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Chris, a candidate for a senior VP position with a well-known global organisation, has made it through several screening rounds with the recruitment firm and company. The next step: a psychometric test to delve deeper into Chris’ psyche to determine his fit.

Chris is excited about the role, but a little nervous about the psychometric assessment – and wants to understand more about what psychometric testing is, how the results are used and how he can prepare.

What Is Psychometric Testing?

The Psychometric Institute defines psychometric tests as “a standard and scientific method used to measure an individual’s mental capabilities and behavioural style.”

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They’re often used during the hiring process to help the employer get a better sense of how well a candidate will “fit” within the organisation – and to uncover relevant traits lurking under the surface of one’s personality.

(Related: How To Get Noticed By Executive Recruiters).

For executive-level positions, psychometric testing allows recruiters to take a deep dive into behavioural qualities that impact leadership aptitude such as empathy, the ability to influence others, adaptability, and the ability to cope with ambiguity.

Is it effective? In short, yes.

While this type of testing is decades old, new psychometric tools (discussed later in the article) offer employers higher levels of insight – and a sharper ability to predict candidates’ future job performance.

Psychometric Testing In Executive Recruitment.

Recruiting at the executive level is expensive and risky. Psychometric testing is used to curb some of those risks.

For some candidates, this may mean that – while they may have exceptional qualifications and references – they may not land their dream leadership role – at least in part due to the results of a psychometric test.

For those who are unfamiliar with the science of psychometric testing, the process may seem subjective. Such perceptions can undermine trust in the outcomes.

Are these concerns valid?

Marie-Hélène Pelletier, MBA, PhD, RPsych, is an executive coach, work psychologist and professional speaker who works regularly with executives. Her clients frequently ask her about psychometric testing, she says.

“It’s critical to keep in mind that psychometric tests are considered as only one type of information gathered during the recruitment process to assess candidates’ competencies and attributes relative to the job,” Pelletier says.

Pelletier says that she often has who, after taking these types of assessments and not receiving a job offer, are concerned about what they perceive as “personality faults.”

She emphasises that it’s important to understand the results in the context of the specific position and organisation.

Not every individual is a great fit for every position.

That’s particularly true the higher one moves up the corporate ladder.

Just because an applicant isn’t the right fit for the CFO role at ABC Company Ltd doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. They might be a great fit for the same or a similar role at a company with a different culture just across the street.

From an employer’s standpoint results of psychometric tests reflect potential fit – not flaws – and that’s really a mutual benefit.

While applicants generally would like to land the jobs they’re applying for, if the fit isn’t right, being passed up for a job might be a blessing in disguise.

Studies show that executives who aren’t a great fit for their organisation or role tend to be less engaged and have decreased job satisfaction, which can easily translate into a short tenure.

How To Prepare For A Psychometric Test.

You’re not going to like my answer.

While it can be tempting to Google “psychometric testing tips” and spend the afternoon learning how to beat the test, the best way to prepare is to simply be yourself.

Most tests have built-in mechanisms that ensure that only trait – not state – aspects of your personality are measured. Similarly, most have “lie scales” designed to detect inconsistent (untruthful) responses.

This is often done by asking very similar questions in different ways. For instance, the APA offers this example:

  • “I never regret the life decisions I have made.”
  • “I’ve never done anything I later wished I could take back.”

Respondents answering questions based on how they think the potential employer wants them to answer are more prone to providing responses inconsistently.

“Bringing your best to the testing context is probably your best preparation,” says Pelletier. “This may include, for example, making sure you optimise your state of mind and health by exercising, eating well, sleeping, avoiding alcohol, and limiting coffee,” she says.

While you can’t prepare for a psychometric test in the same way you prepare for an exam, there are some steps you can take to hone your reasoning and logic skills which certainly come into play when taking these types of assessments.

(Related: How To Answer Why Do You Want To Work For Us?)

For instance, SixDegrees, an executive coaching firm, suggests spending time doing “word games, brainteasers, crosswords, maths puzzles and Sudoku. Reading, they say, will also help to improve vocabulary and comprehension.

On the day of the test, they suggest that candidates “read instructions carefully and try to balance speed with accuracy.” Don’t labour over questions, move on, and come back to those you were initially unsure of.

Types Of Psychometric Testing Instruments.

Some popular assessments include SHL, LSI, Prevue, Leadership Circle, Chandler McLeod, and McQuaig. Some executive search firms, like Korn Ferry, also use their own proprietary assessments.

Korn Ferry points to five broad categories of assessment:

  1. Personality questionnaires. These are designed to measure personality characteristics known to be aligned with successful performance in specific areas, like executive leadership.
  2. Ability tests. These can reflect verbal, numerical, logical, and checking competencies. They “have been found to be the strongest predictor of future job performance,” Korn Ferry says.
  3. Situational judgement tests. Candidates are given real-life scenarios and asked to indicate the courses of action they would take given the circumstances.
  4. Motivation and values-based assessments. These assessments measure what motivates and energizes executive-level candidates in a work setting.
  5. Competency-based assessments. Usually used in the initial stages of recruitment, these assessments are designed to determine whether candidates are suitable for the executive-level position they’re applying for.

These tests are most likely to be used when recruiting senior candidates or seeking individuals with highly specialised skills.

Chris is an avid reader, a Sudoku master, and an emotionally intelligent leader who is comfortable with change and ambiguity. Chris is also comforted in knowing that, if offered the position, it’s probably going to be a good fit for him – thanks to the power of psychometric testing.

 
– Irene
 

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