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personality tests

Personality Tests

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Personality Tests

Personality tests are becoming more and more common in the recruitment process, as they help employers to get a better sense of the people they’re hiring. They’re also proven to be good indicators of aptitude and performance.

What is a personality test for recruitment?

Used across an increasingly varied range of sectors, personality tests have been designed to assess many of the traits and competencies employers typically value.

Your ability to build relationships, your ethics, how you take instruction and how you deal with customers are just some of the things personality tests seek to understand through a series of multiple-choice questions.

The test will normally always be tailored to the job or industry you’re applying for, and the questions will be designed to evaluate competencies that are important for your employer to see in you.

Unlike more traditional aptitude tests, personality tests don’t tend to have a time limit. This allows you to answer in your own time and not feel rushed to put down an answer.

While it’s important to think about the values, competencies and skills that an employer is likely to be looking for and apply that in the test, it’s also important to be honest. If you’re not true to your own values, then you could end up in a job that’s totally unsuitable for you.

Don’t be surprised if you notice that many of the questions feel repetitive. In order to score candidates as accurately as possible, each trait being tested is assessed by asking multiple questions relating to it. This helps make the test more reliable, as it captures the breadth of the trait being measured.

How are personality tests used by employers?

Recruitment personality questionnaires typically assess a number of traits or competencies in their broadest sense, before breaking these down into more specific means of analysing your personality.

Hiring employers want to get to know as much as possible about the pool of candidates in front of them, which is why a personality test is never used in isolation. It’s designed to bring your values and traits to light, but it doesn’t touch so much on your skills and past experience.

They are, however, occasionally used as a means of shortlisting a large pool of candidates.

If, for example, an employer wants to see how well you’re likely to work in a team, they can evaluate how you performed at your assessment centre to form an educated opinion. A personality test would have brought some of this information to light, but when combined with your role play, interview and group exercises and plotted on an assessment matrix, the employer now has a robust and accurate picture of your ability to work with others.

Often, an employer will ask you to take a personality test online, prior to an interview or assessment centre. Your results can then shape the questions they ask you or the things they challenge you on when they meet you in person.

Another reason why it’s good to prepare, but remember to be true to yourself in your answers too.

While there aren’t technically any right or wrong answers in a personality test, there are traits that are more desirable to some employers than others. For example, in a sales role you’d be expected to score highly in your ability to communicate with others and be sociable, but this won’t be as important in roles that are more analytical, such as data analysis.

We all know that our competencies will be scrutinised throughout the recruitment process, and a personality test is just another means of doing so.

How are personality tests scored?

When your test is completed, your score will be compared with a normative group. This comparison group is made up of hundreds or even thousands of people who have taken the test before, and it helps an employer to benchmark you against others across the different traits being assessed.

But it’s not quite as simple as that. Scoring the personality test involves a machine reading your ‘raw score’ for each trait you’re being tested on.

More often than not sten scoring is used. Sten scores lie on a scale of 1 to 10, with the mean at 5.5. So if you score a 5 or a 6 that’s likely to be indicative of the normative group, but a 1 or 10 would be a more extreme score.

The traits you are tested on may vary slightly from test to test, but will normally be variations of:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

These are the broad traits that are then broken down further to help employers explore specific competencies.

The role you’re applying for will require you to possess certain characteristics. So as we’ve said, technically there are no right or wrong answers – but there are certainly things employers are looking for.

For example, if you’re applying for a customer-facing role and you answer questions indicating you don’t like working with people, that could be a problem.

Free example personality test questions

Trying out some different personality test questions is a really good way to prepare for an upcoming personality test.

The more familiar you are with the different question formats and the wording of the questions themselves, the easier you’ll find it to answer in a way that best reflects you as a person and a valuable employee.

Try a free personality test here.

Can (and should) you prepare for personality tests?

When taking any test, preparation is always recommended — and a personality test is no different.

First, try to get as much information as you can on the type of test you’ll be taking. As you’ll be aware from reading this article, there are a huge variety of test providers, and many ways in which the questions can be asked.

Familiarising yourself with the type of test you’ll be taking is a good idea as it will help to remove any nervousness you may be feeling, and ensure you can concentrate on answering the questions honestly and well. We’ve got an article on how to answer personality test questions if you’re unsure, as well as lots of tips for personality tests.

It’s also important to research and use educated guesswork when thinking about the skills, strengths and traits the role and the company you’re applying for are likely to value. This information can help you shape your answers, and is important to keep in mind when you work through the questions.

Just like with aptitude tests, the best way to prepare for a personality test is to work through mock tests and familiarise yourself with the way the questions read and what you understand each one to mean.

Looking at your results is also a good idea, since it gives you an indication of your personality traits, and how your results are likely to be regarded by an employer.

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Different personality test types and formats

If you’ve been asked to take a personality test as part of a recruitment process, researching the type of test you’ll be taking is important, as well as the values and ethos of the company you’re applying to, and the requirements of the specific role. All of this information will help you to prepare yourself.

Below we cover some of the most common personality tests and question types used by businesses across the UK.

Normative questions

Normative questions require you to answer questions based on how strongly you agree or disagree. The full range of options is normally: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree.

You’ll select an answer for each statement you read, within which you will of course expect to find the various traits and competencies an employer is assessing you for.

To make the test as fair as possible, the traits will be mixed up within the questions and across the test — making it hard to remember how you’ve answered something similar previously. Another reason why it’s good to be as honest as you can.

Ipsative questions

Designed to be slightly more probing than a normative question, ipsative questions require you to look at a few statements and then rank which ones you most agree or disagree with.

They’re occasionally known as ‘forced choice’ questions, as they require you to dig deep and think about your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Ipsative questions are lauded by those that believe this method of questioning makes people less prone to exaggeration, while critics say they make employers jobs harder as it’s not as easy to compare candidates’ results.

‘Trick’ questions

Trick questions sound daunting, but they’re a good way for employers to keep a check on a candidate’s answers, and get a better understanding of whether they answered questions openly and honestly.

There are many ways to phrase trick questions. It could be through nuanced use of language e.g. “I have never been late in my life” (a very unlikely statement for even the most punctual of people).

Other ‘trick questions’ might include statements related to how positively or negatively you see yourself and your performance at work. For example: “Everyone I meet always likes me instantly”. Here, use of words such as ‘always’ or ‘never’ are indicators of ‘trick questions’ and if you answer strongly either way, it might well be something that an employer follows up in an interview.

SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

The SHL OPQ is designed by SHL and is regarded as the most widely used personality test in the recruitment world.

Sometimes scored normatively and sometimes ipsatively, but always using multiple-choice questions, the test is designed to assess a candidate’s competencies. It produces a report on their personality traits and the behaviours they may be expected to show in the workplace.

Predictive Index

The Predictive Index behavioural assessment is designed to probe what you need, personally, to feel motivated and driven in your career. It helps employers to get to know the people they may hire and learn more about what would make them work to the best of their ability.

The test is untimed, and when you’ve finished you’ll be assigned one of 17 different personality categories. While perhaps not a perfect summation of your character, it’s a good indication of what makes you tick.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Often known as the MBTI, this test aims to assess how people make decisions. So questions are usually direct, and will ask things such as ‘how do you prefer to make decisions?’ or what your preference is towards several different personality traits.

Saville Wave

The Saville Wave test combines both normative and ipsative multiple-choice questions, via either the professional 40-minute test, or the 14-minute focused version. Unlike many of the other tests, the Saville Wave can only be taken online.

McQuaig Word Survey

The McQuaig Word Survey assesses both your core personality traits and your temperament. Although you’re not timed, the survey takes most people around 10–20 minutes to complete.

Candidates taking the test are urged to trust their instincts and go with their first answer, in order to provide employers with useful information that can be used to tailor the on-boarding process and even the job role itself. In this way, it aims to ensure both employee and employer satisfaction.

Talent Q Dimensions

This test is designed to measure the fit between a candidate and an employer, to ensure the people that best gel with the company are highlighted in the selection process.

The test isn’t timed, but it tends to take people around 25 minutes to complete. Because it focuses on the relationship between employee and employer, it’s also used regularly in team-building exercises and for personal development.

Other personality test types you might encounter include NEO Personality Inventory, DiSC tests, Birkman method tests and DSI tests.

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Can you fail a personality assessment?

While your answers are subjective and therefore can’t be marked as right or wrong, it’s important to remember your employer will be looking to see certain traits or competencies in order to hire someone. So making sure you understand what skills and strengths are likely to be valued is important.

What are personality tests used for?

Personality tests are used to assess the character traits of candidates applying for a job role. They can help employers to make a hiring decision, and are used in conjunction with an interview, aptitude test or assessment centre.

Are personality tests timed?

No, personality tests aren’t timed – as it’s important to employers that candidates don’t feel rushed or pressured to answer in a certain way. Take your time when answering; ensure you’ve read the question through properly and understand what it means before answering.

What do personality tests measure?

Personality tests measure everything from your attitude and behaviour, to your strengths, skills, and character traits. This information helps your employer to predict your suitability for both the role and the team you’re applying to work in.

Where can I practice personality tests?

At Practice Aptitude Tests we have numerous practice personality test questions you can try your hand at. It’s a great idea to practice before taking the test for real, as it will help you to get used to the different questions you could be asked.

Which employers use personality tests?

More and more employers are using personality tests to get better insight into the candidates applying to work for them. From HR to sales, there are personality tests for every role imaginable and it’s highly likely you’ll take one at some point in your career.

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Personality Tests Tips

1Practice past tests before the one that counts

It will make you familiar with how the tests work.

2Make sure you understand what’s being asked of you

Ask for clarification if not.

3Answer honestly

Going with your gut feeling is always the best way to approach personality tests. If you’re true to yourself, that should mean your answers are consistent and the employer gets a true picture of who you are and where your strengths lie.

4Read the questions thoroughly

Sometimes things are phrased negatively or a trick question may be used. Don’t let yourself come unstuck by rushing, especially as the test isn’t timed. Also don’t skip the introduction: it’s really important to read everything thoroughly and ensure you understand what’s required of you.

5Be confident in your position

Answering neutrally too often isn’t something many employers will be looking for.

6Be honest

Remember that if you’re honest, your answers are likely to be consistent — and employers like consistency

7Check through the test before submitting it

So you don’t miss any questions. By all means come back to any you struggle with, but it’s important to answer everything.

8Ask for feedback

Whether you get the job or not. It’s always good to learn more about yourself and how you come across to an employer.

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