Can you make a career move after 45? Top tips for facing psychometric assessment

Psychologists like me are guilty of changing selection processes from an interview (which is daunting enough) to a full assessment of a candidate’s ability, experience and even their personality.

High level roles are now routinely filled only after a process in which the candidates are not only grilled by the employer but also put through a day of psychometric profiling in which multiple tests are completed, personality profiles made and then the results tested through in-depth probing interviews by a nosy psychologist who will then assess your personal compatibility with the role and the recruiting business.

At best the process is interesting and thought provoking. At worst it is deeply uncomfortable.

So how do you run the gauntlet of the psychologists profiling.

Step One: Know your tests from your measures

There are the primary types of psychometric tests: Ability, aptitude and personality.

Ability tests measure core skills such as written or verbal comprehension, language skills, numeracy, decision making and spatial awareness. They can be completed on paper or on-line and give an absolute score which is usually expressed as a percentile. So if you get a score at the 70th percentile it means that 70% of the general population would score the same or less than you. Generally, these tests are used for entry level jobs such as graduate trainee positions or first level management.

Aptitude tests measure your ability to conduct a specific business skill. They cover a huge range of skills such as constructing something, typing, ability to use specific machinery, ability to work with specific software – and the list goes on. These tests are linked directly to the job being filled and tell the employer if you have the basic skills to do the job irrespective of your general ability tests. Again they have an absolute score – you can have the skill above a given level or you do not.

Personality measures (note these are not called tests) assess the type of person you are and how you are likely to impact within the business or workplace. Most measures are based on the notion of the Big Five elements of personality – extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. They come in various forms and, again can be completed on-line or on paper. Quite often they are frustrating to complete and force you to choose between a range of responses to a statement. In addition, you will notice that some questions appear to repeat. This is a mechanism within all good tests to check the consistency of your response. The output is a profile which may have scores. This profile is not like an ability score and is subject to much bias. Therefore, all good personality measure publishers insist that the profile has to be discussed and validated by a feedback session with the person completing the questionnaire.

Step two: Know what you are facing

If you have applied for a role and have been told there is an element of psychometric assessment, make sure you ask what will be involved. A good selecting employer will always be willing to tell you what tests or measures will be used and why. They probably will not tell you exactly which product they use but they should, at least, tell you the mix of tests and measures.

Knowing what you are facing is essential to confidence, especially if the last time you did a test was at school. If a potential employer refuses to divulge the process then our advice is to question their professionalism.

Step three: Get prepared

We are very lucky to be in the age of the web. There is a host of help out there. Many of the big test publishers have pages where you can try out samples of the tests. There are websites which give you tests in numeracy and comprehension. Sites such as https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/tests/mathstest.htm or https://www.verbalreasoningtest.org/ will give you plenty of experience and get your brain working in a way which is compatible with ability tests. 

If you are facing an aptitude test, then get practicing. Again, there are websites and you can create your own ‘training programme’.

The one thing you cannot practice is your personality!

Step four: Boost your brain energy

When you arrive for your psychometrics be in the best mind-set you can. People tend to do better in tests if:

Step Five: Just do your honest best

Ability tests – work methodically through the questions. If you are getting stuck, give your best guess and move on. If you are completing on-line, never get a numerical friend to do the test for you – it will only lead to exposure if you get the job.

Aptitude tests – do not rush. Stay very calm and focused. If you feel anxiety rising, breathe it out.

Personality measures – be honest. Never try to answer a questionnaire to present the kind of person you think the employer wants and which you are not. The consistency scales will pick this up and, anyway, if your profile is false them you will never be able to keep up the pretence when you get the job. All you will feel is a lack of fit – because the job was never suited to you and your personality.

A final word

Research tells us that women consistently under-predict their ability on tests and then over achieve.  You are likely to get far better scores than you think you will.

Also, you are not defined by your performance on a paper or web measure. You are defined by your experience, your style, your unique soul which you offer and bring to a business or organisation. If the psychometrics do not go exactly as you wish – then wow them in the interview. See our article on top tips for impressing in an interview. Just know you are sassy and savvy – and shine!




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