Employers often include a personality test as part of their recruitment process to gain insight into whether a candidate will be a good fit within the role and organisation.
Personality tests consist of an often lengthy series of questions exploring an individual’s working behaviour and preferences. These questions tend to comprise statements for which you will be required to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree (on a numbered scale).
The test results in the production of a personality profile. From this profile, employers gauge whether a candidate’s personality traits are likely to translate into good working performance.
These tests can be daunting, as they do not rely upon aptitude. You can, however, still prepare for the test to ensure you create a strong impression. Taking stock of our ten top tips for passing a personality test below will ensure you are aware of how to avoid the potential pitfalls.
1) Answer honestly but from a professional perspective
When sitting a personality test, it’s important to answer the questions truthfully, so they give an accurate reflection of your character traits. Trying to second-guess the answers your prospective employer will show preference for is not recommended, as it will lead to overthinking and a confused personality profile.
You should, however, consider standards of professional behaviour and ensure that your answers are reflective of a good work ethic. Approach the questions from the point of view of your working behaviour, rather than how you conduct yourself in personal or social situations, as employers are interested in how you will operate in their company environment.
2) Review the instructions carefully
Before starting the test, take time to read all the information available. Personality tests can vary in structure and question style according to the publisher, so do not assume you know the format of the test because you have taken a practice assessment.
It’s sensible to double-check how answers should be logged and whether more than one response may be needed – some questions may require a rating on a scale or for you to select all options that apply, whilst others may be multiple choice.
Check also whether the test is timed. While there is rarely a time limit for personality tests, if your response time is tracked then be aware and move at a considered pace through the test.
3) Don’t pick too many (or too few) extreme responses
When answering the questions in the test, aim for a balanced approach. This will result in a consistent and realistic personality profile. It is not advisable to pick too many extreme responses (eg selecting ‘strongly agree’ for all statements that convey positive traits and ‘strongly disagree’ for those that suggest negative behaviours).
You must also be wary, however, of selecting all your responses from the middle of the answer spectrum. Over-choosing the neutral option or answers with weak sentiment may convey indecisiveness to employers. It may also suggest that you are trying to pass the test by playing it safe, giving little personality information away.
4) Keep the job role in mind as you go
To prepare for the test, consider the traits and behaviours needed to excel in the role for which you are applying. It may be helpful to list them out.
Some employers have their own personality tests crafted to reflect their specific company values, so look for this information online and review the key points. When completing the personality test, ensure you are reflecting the characteristics and values you have highlighted.
Before submitting each answer, take a moment to consider whether your answer correlates with the strengths needed for the role. If it does not, review your selection and see if there is a more accurate or appropriate option available.
5) Don’t try to game the test
Personality tests are designed to pick up on candidates who are trying to anticipate and select the ‘ideal’ answer for every question. Whilst it is important that your character strengths and traits align with those best suited for the job role, it will be noticeable if your answers reflect what you think employers are seeking rather than your true personality.
To create a positive impression, don’t overthink or try too hard to come across as excelling in all areas. Answer honestly and let the personality test convey your balanced strengths.
6) Be consistent in your responses
It is crucial that your personality test results in a coherent and consistent personality profile. In fact, some tests ask clones of questions to check that the answers related to certain key traits are truthful and accurate.
You want to convey that you are well-balanced and suitable for the role in question. Providing contradictory responses due to question fatigue or lack of interest will lead to a weak impression of your personality, so keep alert when answering the questions.
Check each new answer is consistent with the ones you have already logged.
7) Take your time
Unlike other common psychometric tests, personality tests usually have no time limit for completion. This means there is no benefit from racing through the test to achieve a fast time. Rather, rushing the test is likely to be detrimental, since accurate and consistent responses are key to a strong personality profile.
Read each question and the answer options carefully, choosing the one that best reflects you and matches the demands of the open job role. Don’t dwell too much on each answer – aim for a steady, considered pace. A particularly lengthy completion time may suggest indecisiveness to an employer.
8) Be aware that there will be some ‘wrong’ answers
Whilst it is often flagged that a positive of personality tests is that there are no wrong answers, this is not strictly true. A personality test assists employers to streamline candidates by matching personality traits to the job role and organisational culture. Hence, those with well aligned behaviours will pass with the highest scores.
If you are applying for a customer service role and a question asks, ‘do you like helping people?’, there is an obvious answer being sought. Look out for these questions and double-check that you are answering with the job role in mind.
If you cannot honestly select preferences that align you with the key traits sought for the job, it is worth considering whether you would be happy working in that role.
9) Aim for answers that suggest positive traits
When completing the test, think about the impression each of your answers gives and select options that indicate the presence of appropriate traits. For example, being agreeable, conscientious, dependable, innovative, curious, determined, optimistic and responsible (to name just a few).
Employers will want to hire someone who is strong in the necessary traits for the role, but who also comes across as friendly and good-natured. Do not exaggerate positive traits though, as this will be flagged in your personality profile and undermine its legitimacy.
Also, be aware of the potential negative suggestion of possessing a trait too strongly (e.g., assertiveness or perfectionism).
10) Prepare for integrity questions
Integrity questions are commonly included as part of a personality test for roles that involve dealing with finances, merchandise or confidential information. They may also be administered as a separate test.
Integrity questions aim to gain insight into your level of acceptance for dishonest behaviour, and therefore your propensity for such action. They may ask you to select multiple-choice answers to national statistics regarding integrity in the workplace or rate statements according to a scale.
Be aware of the personal inferences that may be made from your answers to general scenarios. For example, if you are asked to rate misdemeanours and suggest you do not view lying as a major issue in the workplace, your own honesty may be called into question.
Answer the integrity questions proportionally, taking the time to consider your responses. When it comes to integrity, there tends to be a right answer.