The mysteries of psychometric assessment revealed

After all of the hard work and rigour of getting your degree, master’s or PhD, there is a special kind of irony in facing even more testing in order to get a job. Dr Ambroz Neil explains…

Increasingly employers are deploying psychometric testing as an integral part of their hiring process. So what are psychometrics and why are they used? Psychometrics are tests or questionnaires to assess and compare, relative to a normative group, your abilities or preferred behaviours under likely conditions. Think of them as employer compatibility tests. While they do give your potential employer an idea of how suited you are to the position and the company’s culture, they also work in your favour. Psychometrics help you weed out the less desirable positions, those you will most likely grow to hate, and those organisations that will frustrate you to no end.

Interestingly, when you look in the mirror who do you see? Psychometrics can help you better understand how others see you. Or more eloquently put by Robert Burns: “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.” This by itself is invaluable to you.

Do you prefer to work alone, in a team or a healthy mix of the two? Do you micro manage or are you a ‘big picture’ thinker? Do you prefer jobs involving analysis and problem solving or maybe communications and customer service? Are you a meticulous planner or somebody who prefers to deal with issues as they arise? Do sudden changes throw you off balance or can you roll with the punches? These are a handful of considerations that both you and a potential employer should seriously consider. Psychometric testing is all about helping to get the match right – getting a roundish peg into a roundish hole.

We all have aspects of a job we enjoy less, but it’s about getting that fi t as good as possible. Ultimately, people who experience job satisfaction, or who genuinely like their work, do so because the core requirements of the job are in alignment with their most authentic selves.

The trick is to remove the concept of ‘test’ from the equation. There are no right or wrong answers. Only answers that aim to reveal your true competencies, strengths, and motivations. While it can feel scary to you, the applicant, remember that the profile only helps the employer understand how you would likely respond in situations that may occur.

This is not unlike being asked a ‘what if’ question during an interview, only the pressure of responding face to face has been removed.

You might be asked to make difficult choices: would you rather do this or this? Behave this way or that? Don’t be daunted by these. They are designed to tease out what your strengths and motivations truly are. What makes you unique compared to all of the other applicants with similar skill sets and backgrounds? Will your unique and authentic self be a good fi t for the role?

This Machiavellian quote springs to mind: “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” Psychometrics is an attempt by employers to see who you really are deep down.

Typically, a questionnaire, like the popular Quest Profiler (, probes relationships with people, approaches to thinking and problem solving, feelings and drives. From it, employers can infer which roles you are likely to prefer in a team situation, what especially motivates you and how well you can see things from others’ point of view. They might infer what you are likely to be better at but will probably probe this with further interview questions.

In the end it’s all about getting to know you better, to diagnose your potential and, if all goes well, to offer you a job in which you’ll be happy, comfortable, and able to shine. And if you’re not successful, maybe it was just not a good match. That doesn’t mean that you’ve failed – just that this particular position probably wasn’t for you. A different role with a different set of requirements could yet prove the ideal match, so keep trying.

Remember that there is no incentive to lie on such assessments. Telling the employer what you think they want to hear will only frustrate you both in the end. Job satisfaction and the foundation of a great career is built on not just finding a position, but the right position.

Article written by: 

Dr Ambroz Neil

Managing principal consultant,

Alexander Partners

Dr George Sik

Consultant psychologist,

eras ltd