Psychometric Personality Test
Different types of psychometric personality test
The types of personality tests favoured by recruiters generally take the form of self-reporting questionnaires consisting of questions and statements about behaviour to which test-takers respond by indicating whether or not – or how far – the statements are true for them or apply to them. Kline says that “typical examples are: ‘Do you sleep well in hot weather?’ and ‘I always shut the window at night’”, and notes that recruiters favour this kind of personality test because “such questionnaires or inventories are accurate to score, easy to administer and are much favoured by applied psychologists, especially for selection” (Kline, p. 3 in A Psychometric Primer, Free Association Press, 2000).
There is in fact much debate among psychologists about what exactly “personality” is, and what personality tests actually measure. But what’s important for job candidates is that, debates aside, personality questionnaires of two basic types are widely used by a great many recruiters. These two types are (i) tests that identify you as belonging to a specific personality “type”, and (ii) tests that measure the extent to which you possess various significant “traits” (where traits are aspects of personality).
There are quite a few different personality “type” questionnaires, all of which are based more or less on the work of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist who developed a way to “describe the predictable differences between the ways in which people behave in different situations” (Parkinson, p. 101) depending on how individuals prefer to use their minds. While some recruiters might use a version of this test – possibly the MyersBriggs Type Indicator, which is the best known – it is far more usual for job candidates to be assessed with trait questionnaires, as the results of trait questionnaires are much better suited to recruitment needs.
In contrast to “type” questionnaires, trait questionnaires measure the varying amounts of personality traits (or characteristics) that you possess, and is therefore useful to recruiters interested in comparing you with other job candidates. The test results can, for instance, be used to measure how rule-conscious or emotionally stable you are as compared to other people, including other job candidates.
Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire: This questionnaire, also known as the 16PF and based on the work of psychologist Raymond Cattell, is designed to measure the 16 personality “dimensions” identified in and by Cattell’s analyses. 16PF is one of the most widely used and long standing personality tests available, so you’re quite likely to come across some version of it in your search for employment.
Occupational Personality Questionnaires: This range of tests, also known as OPQ and OPQ32, is also very commonly used by recruiters. Working with the ‘Big Five’ concept of personality traits, OPQ tests are favoured by many employers as offering a speedy way to measures aspects of behaviour crucial to performance potential.
Other personality trait questionnaires you’re likely to come across as a job candidate include the Rapid Personality Questionnaire (RPQ), the Manchester Personality Questionnaire (MPQ), and the Personal Profile Analysis (PPA).
Tests focusing on the ‘Big Five’ are concerned to identify and measure your traits that relate to action, thinking, relating, feeling and conformity. Those based on Cattell’s Sixteen Personality model assess the degrees of the following traits you possess: warmth; reasoning; emotional stability; dominance; liveliness; rule-consciousness; social boldness; sensitivity; vigilance; abstractedness; privateness; apprehensiveness; openness to change; self-reliance; perfectionism, and tension.
Trait questionnaire formats
Although there are many trait questionnaires to choose from, they almost all set out their questions in one of two ways. Test-takers either have to rate a list of statements, or indicate their preferred choice from several different statements.
In essence, these tests measure your ability to understand and use words. Verbal reasoning tests measure your abilities in spelling, grammar, structuring writing, grasping analogies, and understanding and carrying out written instructions. As with numerical reasoning tests, the more complex tests focus on problem-solving, typically measuring how effectively you comprehend written verbal information and can solve problems with the information provided. Those who do well in verbal reasoning tests have a good understanding of what words mean, and of the structure and logic of language.
In practice, this means that questionnaires will
(i) set out a list of statements (e.g., “I am comfortable with unfamiliar situations”) and ask you to indicate whether each statement describes you accurately or inaccurately, or whether you agree or disagree with the statement, or
(ii) set out two or more statements per question, and ask you to indicate which one describes you best, or which one you agree with (e.g., “Do you prefer to (a) spend time with friends or (b) spend time alone?”).
As with all psychometric tests, be sure to read each question very carefully. Pay attention to what precisely you are being asked – especially where statements are phrased as negatives (e.g., “People should not be on time for meetings” rather than “People should be on time for meetings”). Also, be aware that a great many trait questionnaires include “impression management” questions designed to reveal people who are trying to present themselves in an unrealistically positive way. You might be asked, for instance, if you have ever told a “white lie”. If so, you should answer honestly, rather than how you think recruiters “want” candidates to answer.
The MyersBriggs Type Indicator Test
The Myers Briggs type questionnaire is very widely used by psychologists and others to assess personality “type”, but employers use it mostly for training and development purposes rather than for assessing job candidates.
Myers Briggs type tests work on the basis of assigning one of its 16 main personality types, decided on the basis of the personality preferences you make about perceiving and judging; sensing and intuiting, and thinking and feeling, and also factors in whether you are introverted or extroverted. What Myers Briggs shows is how you are most comfortable with behaving – and so most likely to behave – in a variety of situations.
As well as the MyersBriggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, other widely used personality type tests are the Occupational Type Profile and the Jung Indicator. In all cases, though, personality type tests are used more for education, training and development purposes than for recruitment, as they allow more for broad generalisations about character, rather than for pinpointing and comparatively measuring traits appropriate to a specific job or role.