At first glance, a list of forthcoming psychometric tools, instruments and tests can look pretty daunting. Personality tests, skills tests, measures of ability, critical decision making, verbal, numerical reasoning … and so it goes on. But tackling these well can make all the difference when it comes to success in securing a new role or that sought after promotion (hence, I suspect, their potentially daunting appearance).

As anxiety is rarely a helpful mental state – and facing hurdles to a new role or promotion is likely to be an anxious time in itself – how should you best approach these test. Well, the route to psychometric success should look something like this …

The first step is simple. Just use an internet search engine and type in “Psychometric Tests”. Print off some sample test papers for the particular psychometrics that you are going to be sitting, and complete these ahead of time to give you an idea of how they work and how much time you have.

The second step is, in reality, just as simple although our advice may not seem so intuitive to the uninitiated. Many people experience great anguish at every question, trying to analyse what the examiner – and it does feel like an exam – is really after? Why are they asking me this? What do they want me to say? And didn’t they ask me this ten questions ago? (By the way, they probably did ask you before, so don’t stress about this. The “repeat questions” are often there to measure your consistency of response.)

Our advice? Always complete the tests being true to yourself rather than answering as someone you think “they” (whoever they may be) would want you to be. Don’t agonise about what you think you are saying about yourself: and, even more importantly, don’t try to second guess the rationale for the questions and then “fix” the results.

And why are we saying this? Well … ask yourself: what is to be gained by attempting to affect the results of the psychometric test? If your application or promotion bid is successful, you will have to work in this new organisation or in this new role. Do you want this success to be based on a contrived or “psychometrically modified” version of you?

There’s another – hopefully reassuring – point to remember. No right minded organisation should ever base its decision to hire or promote someone purely on the basis of these tests. Your test results should always be viewed as good supporting data – just one part of a more complex, well-rounded and objective assessment process. This process should involve interviews, assessment of your experience and qualifications, and a measure of your level of behavioural competence: it is this overall that should drive the assessors decision to appoint or promote you.

The correct approach to psychometric testing is to be true to yourself. If you trust in yourself, and in the overall process that is measuring you, providing psychometric data should not scare you.

Of course, assessment centres and promotion reviews are not the only instances where you may encounter psychometric tests. Many organisations deploy them as part of learning and development events and programmes: you are not being assessed for a future role, but for the one you are already occupying.

For many, that could seem actively threatening. But you should try to remember that the point of learning and development interventions is actually a positive one – to help you not just to perform more effectively and productively, but more confidently. (So if the need for learning and development was brought to your attention in a tone close to “you’re rubbish at x, we’re sending you on a course”, you might want to step up the number of applications you’re making. You won’t develop your full potential in an environment that treats learning as a punishment.)

As before, the “secret” is in adopting the right approach. By all means, familiarise yourself with the particular psychometric tools that are being used, as this will help you to feel more confident. And – as before, and again more crucially – be true to yourself. The benefit to you lies in getting feedback that helps you to identify what you might need to do differently in the future: if you’re not honest about the issues, you can’t expect to get the answers you need – even if you may not be aware that you need them.

If you have completed the right test or interview, designed in the right way, it should do precisely that. To some extent, it will also tell you what you may already know. Often, feedback the results of psychometric tests, I hear comments along the lines of ‘‘Oh my goodness, that is uncanny … that is so scarily accurate … you have me absolutely bang to rights”. Effectively, what people are saying is “it’s almost as if I wrote this about me myself”. To which I very oftenfind myself saying “Hang on…you pretty much did!”

(Of course, sometimes the results come as more of a surprise. But this emphasises two important points: firstly, to tackle any issue, we must first be aware of it and of a need to take action. And secondly, skilled feedback is a key part of any psychometric process. Where results – or their implications are unclear to you – you should press home your need to understand them: if you do not benefit – albeit perhaps in the longer-term – from the process, the process is failing you, and failing to deliver the objectives of those commissioning and implementing it.)

The critical point is to identify the right approach or behaviour to use in future, the right screwdriver from the toolbox. The right psychometric instrument is the one that helps an individual to understand the issues they need to address and what the next steps should be to get there.

The real value – to you and your organisation – lies in working with someone who can help you absorb the data, and then help you to help yourself in effecting the change that is going to make the difference for you. That someone may be a coach, mentor or manager, but it will be someone who can ask you the hard questions: “So what?” “So what are you going to do?” “What are the actions you are prepared to take to make the necessary improvements that produce the changes and make the impact that you need to?”

Well?

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