Employers invest large amounts of time and money into attracting good people, who will not only be committed and competent at their job but will also be a ‘good fit’ within their organisation.
Personality tests are becoming increasingly popular with employers wanting to do everything they can, to ensure that they are picking the right candidate for the job.
Trying to fake the answers to a personality test is a risky strategy. By understanding how a personality test works and why employers use one, you can give honest answers, while ensuring you aren’t answering any questions in a way that could lower your chances of getting the job you want.
Why Do Employers Use Personality Tests?
Making interview candidates undertake a personality test can help employers to gain a deeper understanding of each candidate’s personality and decide which one of them would be best for the job.
Understanding what employers are hoping to get out of these tests is the key to making sure that you perform well.
How Are Personality Tests Developed?
Good personality tests are developed using many years of research and analysis, sometimes involving thousands of ‘representative’ members of the public.
In order to make sure that each personality trait is measured accurately, there will often be a number of different questions designed to measure just one trait.
Are There Any ‘Wrong’ Answers?
Many people say that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to personality tests.
However, while there is no ‘wrong’ personality, there can be wrong answers, depending on what job you’re taking the personality test for.
Take two very different jobs: a nurse and an accountant.
Although both of these jobs require candidates with qualifications in their respective industries, to be successful at their jobs requires some very different personality traits.
A nurse, for example, would probably be better at their job if they were more extravert, because they would be spending a lot of time with people. Being an extravert probably wouldn’t matter as much for an accountant.
Extraversion is one of the things that personality tests often measure.
This is a very crude example but you can start to see that different jobs utilise different personality traits more often than others.
What Personality Traits Is My Potential Employer Looking For?
Different employers will be looking for different personality traits.
Many employers will take an in-depth look at their ‘key competencies’ (often seen on the person specification) and then decide which personality traits would fit best with each competency.
This means that, unlike numerical reasoning tests, for example, not all employers are looking for the same answers when it comes to personality tests.
How Do Employers Score Personality Tests?
Most personality tests are scored by scoring your answers for each ‘trait’ and then comparing your scores with the rest of the population who have already completed the questionnaire – known as the norm group. This way, an employer can gage how your creativity, for example, compares to the rest of the population, if this is important to them.
There will usually be some kind of ‘score check’ involved, so that the employer can see things such as how consistently you answered the questions or whether you just went for the neutral option on most of them.
Do Employers Make Decisions on Employing Someone Solely Based on Their Personality Test?
Not usually, no.
Most employers use your personality test in conjunction with other aspects of your interviews, such as team work exercises, to make a decision about whether you would be right for the job.
However, there are instances when employers use personality tests to ‘sift out’ certain candidates, especially if there are a lot of applications for one job.
Are All Personality Tests the Same?
No. There are a variety of different tests out there and within the tests employers usually choose a certain number of traits that they want to measure.
Some employers choose to measure over 30 traits, while others will only decide to measure 10. It depends on what they decide is important to them. This can sometimes come down to cost or just how relevant the traits are for their role.
What Types of Questions Do Personality Tests Ask?
There are a variety of different types of questions that you may come across on a personality test:
- Ipsative questions
Ipsative questions are questions that ask you to make a decision about which statement in a particular section you agree with most and which statement you agree with the least. These type of questions force you to make decisions that you may not feel 100% comfortable with and for this reason they are sometimes called the ‘forced choice’ scale.
- Normative questions
Normative questions are the questions that ask you to rate statements from ‘disagree completely’ to ‘agree completely’ or ‘completely untrue’ to ‘very true’. Each normative question can actually test a variety of different traits as the statements are completely independent to each other. This can make it more difficult to consistently answer questions in the same way, if you’re trying to prove yourself to be strong in one particular trait.
- Trick questions
These type of questions are designed to measure things such as your ‘social desirability’ and how negatively or positively you see yourself.
If you see words like ‘never’ or ‘always’ this can be a sign that it is a ‘trick’ question.
For example, you are asked to rate this statement:
‘I have never made a mistake.’
Not many people could decisively say that this was completely true. Make sure you think carefully about how you answer these questions.
Is There Any Way That I Can Prepare For a Personality Test?
There are a few things that you can do to prepare for your personality test:
1) Read the person specification
Read through the person specification carefully and think about which personality traits would fit well with the competencies that the employer specifies. Does this sound like you?
2) Research the test
Some employers will give you the name of the test they’re using. This is your chance to research it beforehand so that you’re prepared for the questions it asks (such as whether it is ipsative or normative) and the traits it measures.
3) Keep calm
On the day, make sure you ask if there’s something you don’t understand.
Read through the statements a couple of times so that you completely understand what they’re asking of you – double negatives like answering ‘completely disagree’ to ‘I don’t like working in a team’ (this would mean that you do like working in a team) can sometimes cause confusion.
Make sure you answer every question. Even if you’re unsure at first, think about it and put an answer down.
4) Put yourself in your ‘work mode’
Go into the test in ‘professional’ mode and complete the test this way. Answer questions as if you were talking to someone at work.
If you answer the questions as honestly as possible and aren’t taken to the next stage in the interview process, maybe the job wouldn’t have been right for you in the long run anyway.