testing times ahead


Previous blogs have focussed on enhancing researcher’s employability skills via career planning, job seeking skills such as coping with challenging application forms, and even new interview techniques such as Strengths Based Interviews.

So, what happens if you come up against a personality type question where an employer asks you have you would behave or react in certain situations? Would you tell them what you think they would like to hear i.e. you are an extrovert person even though you honestly feel that may not be your preferred style? What to do?

Why do employers use such tests? Many would argue that personality profiles are not tests of ability or skill, they are questions designed to help us raise our awareness of how we prefer to operate in work situations and it’s worth remembering that this is their purpose. These analyses are concerned with people’s typical or preferred way of behaving in areas such as (for example) the way we relate to others, how we process information, or how we approach and solve problems. In a work setting employers may use personality questionnaires to gain a rough picture of how people match up to the demands of specific jobs, or the working style of organisations.

For employers, the recruitment benefit is that the same carefully designed and researched questions (even those stemming from 100 years ago) are asked of all candidates and their answers captured in a fair and consistent way. When used with other types of competency, motivation, or strengths assessment they can help to ensure a more thorough exploration of how well a person is suited to a particular style of job and how they will fit into the existing workforce. One thing to note is that it is not a valid assumption to translate measuring a preference for a particular personality trait or style of working, into an assumption that a person will put out a high performance, people are more complicated than single-trait psychometrics. Common analyses like MBTI in fact state that they should never be used for recruitment purposes for exactly that reason.

So what do you do if asked questions about your personality type? Be yourself, don’t panic, and don’t try and be someone you are not. Its worth bearing in mind that a personality profile may contain 5 or 6 questions which measure the same things, so make sure you give consistent answers as employers will use this to see how reliable you have been in your responses! One positive note is that many employers will give you feedback on the analysis, so you may just learn a little bit more about yourself which will enhance any job interview…

Check out what support your University Careers Service offers. At Sheffield we run talks and workshops on how employers recruit and that includes psychometric assessment including personality profiles and also see The University of Sheffield Careers Service advice on psychometric assessment. Employers may also have guidance e.g. PWC now offer an online guide. And look out for future blogs from me on aptitude testing.

Jane Simm, Careers Adviser for Researchers

Image via stewartcotterill.co.uk

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