How to Succeed with psychometric tests, assessment centres and panels during Interview

Posted on 8:00 PM by Bharathvn

#Passing psychometric tests
#Dealing with assessment centre exercises
#Dealing with panel interviews

Employers are crafty people. With every year, more and more employers
are using techniques such as psychometric tests, assessment centres, and
panel interviewers to weed out weak candidates and hire only the very
This page explains what each of these trials means for you and gives
you advice on performing to the best of your ability. There are also some
example psychometric test questions in this chapter to help you practise
for the real thing!

Many candidates fear the prospect of being subjected to psychometric
tests. But there is no need to be afraid if you understand their purpose.
There are two distinct categories of psychometric tests.
1. Personality questionnaires, which measure preferences and
motivations. These try to gauge how you generally like to behave in
certain situations. What do you like or dislike? These do not have right
or wrong answers, although the employer may be looking for
candidates who have a certain ‘type’ of personality.
2.Aptitude tests, which measure skills and abilities. Aptitude tests do
have right or wrong answers.

Presenting your positive side in personality tests
Personality questionnaires can take many different shapes and forms.
Many are presented as pencil-and-paper questions for you to complete.
However, more and more organisations are using computerised or online
tests that ask you to type your responses.
Some questionnaires may ask you to tick or circle whether you ‘agree’ or
‘disagree’ with a number of questions. Others may ask you to respond
whether you ‘strongly agree’, ‘agree’, ‘disagree’, or ‘strongly disagree’ with a
series of statements. Some may ask you to write your answers directly on
the question book, while others may ask you to circle your answers on a
separate answer sheet. So read the instructions carefully to ensure that
you do not make a fool of yourself.
There’s no point in practising personality tests as they are rarely timed.
However, follow these two key tips to give yourself the best chance of
impressing the employer.
# Be very careful of trying to second-guess personality questionnaires.
Different personality questionnaires measure different dimensions of
personality and it can be very difficult to know exactly what the
interviewers are looking for. For example, you might assume that a
particular job requires employees who are very extrovert. But this
employer might have looked at previous employees and discovered in
their research that the extremely extrovert employees tend to get bored
and leave quickly. So the interviewers may in fact prefer employees who
are less extrovert. You cannot tell what the ‘right’ answer may be.
Consequently, you may distort your responses in the wrong direction.
Giving responses that you think the interviewer is looking for could ruin
your chances of getting the job. It’s better to jot down honest answers.
# Give yourself the benefit of the doubt in answering the questions.
In an interview, you don’t have to confess all of your flaws. So neither
should you be too critical of yourself when completing a personality
When answering personality test questions, be kind to yourself
and try to see yourself as your mother or best friend might see you.
Scoring highly on aptitude tests
Aptitude tests are frequently used as a predictor of on-the-job
performance. They are often also called ‘ability tests’ or ‘cognitive tests’.
Most commonly, these are used to measure numeracy or verbal reasoning
skills. However, for technical jobs, employers may also try to assess skills
such as spatial reasoning or abstract reasoning. Speed and accuracy are
essential, so make sure that you do the following:
# Read the instructions thoroughly. Most of the errors made by
candidates are made because they did not read the instructions
carefully enough. Take note of any unusual directions. For example, one
test might ask you to put a pen tick in a box for the answer that you
think is right, whereas another test might ask you to completely fill in a
circle using pencil.
# Identify how the scoring works. For example, some aptitude tests take
marks off if you make mistakes, so it may be worth working slowly but
accurately. Other tests simply add on marks for each question that you
did correctly, so it may be worth guessing the answers to a few
questions if you are running out of time.
# Keep an eye on the time. Most aptitude tests are timed. It may be worth
doing a quick mental calculation before you tackle the individual
questions to see how long you should spend on each question. For
example, if there are 60 questions in total to be completed in 45
minutes, then if you struggle with any question for more than a minute,
you should definitely move on. If you do not usually wear a watch, it may
be worth borrowing one or taking a small timer along with you to an
interview in case the employer should spring an aptitude test on you.
Look online for free aptitude tests that you can practise on. Try
typing the phrase ‘aptitude test questions’ into a search engine
such as and you will get dozens of relevant hits.
Aptitude tests are designed to be difficult, so try not to worry too much
about questions that you do not understand and are forced to skip. Most
employers specifically design their aptitude tests so that average
candidates will be allowed to make up to several dozen mistakes and still
pass the test. Even the brightest and best candidates will make a few

Enhancing your skill with psychometric tests
You don’t need to practise personality tests because they’re not timed and
they’re difficult to fake anyway. But here are two short aptitude tests
with 10 questions each for you to practise on. Do these without a
calculator, as you won’t be allowed a calculator if an employer asks you to
do a test. You’ll find the answers to this in the appendix located at the
back of the book. Good luck!

Psychometric Test 1
Calculate the answers to each of the following questions:
1. A household’s electricity bill comes to £184.50 and is charged at 15
pence a unit. How many units of electricity did the household use?
2. The same household’s water bill this year was £200. However, it has
been estimated that the bill will increase by 12% next year. How much
will the household have to pay for its water bill next year?
3. An office worker who gets paid £5.50 an hour filled in a time sheet
claiming that she had worked 38 hours in the first week in January.
How much did she get paid that week?
4. A plane is due to depart at 15.15 hours. Passengers are required to check
in two and a half hours before departure. One particular passenger
needs to leave two hours earlier than that to travel to the airport. What
time does this passenger need to leave the house?
5. The printer connected to your computer in the office can print 15 black
and white pages in a minute and 8 colour pages in a minute. How
many minutes will it take to print a 208-page colour document?
6. A father has £109 in his pocket. He lends £14 to his son and gives a
further £27 to his daughter. How much money does the father have left
in his pocket?
7. A survey conducted by a fizzy drinks maker found that one quarter of
people preferred the apple flavour of their drink. The survey also found
that one in eight people preferred the orange flavour of their drink.
What fraction of people preferred neither the apple nor the orange
8. A computer hard drive spins 418 times a minute. How many times does
it spin in an hour?
9. A bank pays an interest rate of 5% on its savings accounts. How much,
at compound interest, will the bank need to pay out on £2,000 invested
for three years?
10. A plumber estimates that a particular job will cost £200 plus VAT at
17.5%. How much VAT needs to be paid?
Psychometric Test 2
For each question, choose the letter A, B, C, or D that most closely
represents the answer to each question.
1. In 2004, a survey found that 70 per cent of school leavers had poor
language skills. If there were 800 school leavers in the survey, how
many of the school leavers were found to have poor language skills?
A 600 B 580 C 560 D 540
2. A colleague dispatched 17 parcels at a cost of £18 each and 14 parcels at
a cost of £9 each. What was the total cost of sending all 31 parcels?
A £837 B £126 C £306 D £432
3. Your boss has to catch a flight from the airport at 19.15. She has to
arrive at the airport two hours beforehand and her train journey to the
airport will take her three-and-a-half hours. At what time must she
catch her train?
A 14.00 B 14.15 C 13.45 D 13.30
4. A metre of electrical cable costs 39 pence. How much would 120 metres
A £46.80 B £48.80 C £50.80 D £59.60
5. A group of four friends all put £10 each into a fund to buy leaving
presents for a colleague. If the colleague received three presents worth
£8.60, £9.15, and £21.20, how much was left in the fund?
A £1.35 B £1.05 C £1.15 D £1.20
6. If a scientist’s gyroscope spins 300 times a minute, how many times
does it spin in an hour?
A 18,000 B 180,000 C 1,800 D 90,000
7. On her son’s 15th birthday, a mother puts £400 into a bank account for
her son. The bank pays 15% interest a year. How much could the son
withdraw on his 18th birthday?
A £628.35 B £618.65 C £608.45 D £608.35
8. A wealthy individual pays 45% tax on his annual income of £45,000.
How much does he take home after tax?
A £26,250 B £24,250 C £24,750 D £24,500
9. A pack of eight highlighter pens costs £7.68. What is the cost of three
highlighter pens?
A £1.92 B £2.88 C £0.96 D £1.68
10. A survey found that one in four supermarket shoppers described
themselves as ‘very satisfied’ with the price of its goods. If 128 people
were surveyed, how many of the shoppers were not ‘very satisfied’ with
the price of its goods?
A 90 B 96 C 92 D 32

Assessment centres are an increasingly popular way for employers to
assess the skills of candidates. Rather than simply asking you to talk
about your skills in an interview, the interviewers may want to put you
through your paces by asking you to demonstrate your skills.
The term ‘assessment centre’ simply refers to any selection method that
may ask you to sort through a mock in-tray, give a presentation, get
involved in a group exercise with other candidates, or even engage in a
role play scenario.
Handling in-tray exercises
In-tray exercises try to simulate the typical demands that you might face
at your desk if you were to be successful in joining the company. You
might be presented with a pile of memos, faxes, reports, and other
correspondence requiring your attention. Increasingly, organisations are
using electronic in-trays, simulating your email inbox too.
For example, the instructions may read, ‘It’s Monday today, the first day in
your new job. It is 9am and you have taken over from the previous
manager who left only last Friday. Unfortunately, your predecessor did
not clear his desk before leaving the company, and it is up to you to deal
with all of the remaining correspondence.’
You may be asked to read the documents and respond in writing to a
certain number of tasks. Here are some tips for managing the masses of
information that comprise the typical in-tray exercise.
_ Read the instructions extremely carefully. The instructions may ask you
to deal with every single item within the in-tray. For example, to write a
reply to every fax, email, and letter you receive. Or the instructions may
ask you to pick out only a certain number of the most important items.
You can never know what the exercise may require you to do, so read
the instructions and perhaps use a highlighter pen to help you pick out
the most critical points to keep in mind.
_ Skim-read all of the information quickly. Most in-tray exercises contain
both critical information and distracting items that are designed to lead
weaker candidates astray. Avoid responding to individual items until
you have spent a few minutes glancing at everything to give you a
sense of what information you are provided with.
_ Sort all of the items into three categories:
1. Important and urgent items – consider the instructions for handling
the in-tray and try to pick out the key ‘A’ issues that you must deal
with during the in-tray exercise. For example, there may be a letter
from a large customer that needs immediate attention in order to
retain business for your employer.
2. Important but less urgent items – create a ‘B’ list of items that you
will get round to handling only when you have handled your ‘A’ list
items. For example, there may be a letter that also needs
immediate attention, but one that comes from a smaller customer
that your employer might deem slightly less important.
3. Less important items – create a list of ‘C’ items which should merit
your attention only if you have dealt with the first two categories of
items. In reality, in-tray exercises are usually designed so that you
won’t have time to handle all of these. But that’s fine as long as
you handle all of your ‘A’ and ‘B’ priority items first. For example,
there may be a minor complaint from a supplier that, even if it isn’t
handled immediately, probably wouldn’t cause your employer to
lose money any time soon.

Giving high-impact presentations
Increasingly, employers are looking for candidates with good oral
communication and presentation skills. Some employers ask candidates to
prepare a presentation beforehand, while others prefer to give candidates
a topic to present during the day of the assessment centre itself.
You can improve your performance during the presentation element of
any assessment centre by preparing in the following ways:
_ Structure your presentation. There is an adage that says ‘tell the audience
what you are going to say, say it, then remind them what you said.’ Begin
with a short introduction to the topic before the main body of your
presentation. End with a short summary of the key points of the
presentation. It’s always better to have a short presentation with a logical
flow than to try to cram too much information into a presentation.
_ Use simple visual aids. Candidates who choose to speak without visual
aids can be quite boring to watch. Visual aids provide something else
for the audience to focus on.
_ Use bullet points in your visual aids. Visual aids should be clear and
uncluttered. Your visual aids are there to aid your presentation; they
should not be your presentation. If appropriate, draw a simple graph or
diagram to help make your presentation more visually arresting.
_Watch the time. Your brief will give you strict instructions on your
allotted time, so make sure that you stick to it. Also read the
instructions carefully to see if you are expected to leave time to invite
questions from the audience as well.
Keep your visual aids simple. If you have a choice, use either flip
charts and coloured pens or overhead transparencies. The
assessors are trying to evaluate your confidence and
communication skill rather than your technical skill with hightech
solutions such as slide projectors or computer PowerPoint
that are far more likely to go wrong.
Learning to survive group exercises
Group exercises ask you to interact with other candidates while assessors
observe your behaviour. They are looking for you to be able to contribute
to a team and demonstrate some measure of social skill.
some group exercises may ask candidates to complete a physical task
such as building a tower out of children’s bricks, assembling a piece of
office furniture, or solving some puzzle. Other group exercises may ask
you to discuss a hypothetical situation such as how to throw a great party
or whether a particular organisation should proceed with a business
Because group exercises vary enormously, you will not be able to prepare
what you say. But you can think about how you behave towards others,
by making sure that you do the following:
_ Avoid dominating the discussion. Give others an opportunity to speak
and avoid interrupting them until they have finished.
_Watch your body language. It can be easy to drift off when other
people are speaking. Always demonstrate positive body language by
making eye contact with whoever is speaking, nodding, and so on.
_ Acknowledge contributions rather than criticise them. No matter how
stupid another person’s point of view, try to say something that
acknowledges their contribution and perhaps get someone else in the
group to disagree with them on your behalf. For example, ‘That’s a valid
point of view. But does anyone have a different opinion?’
_ Avoid jumping to conclusions. You may have slightly different
information from the other candidates. It is not uncommon for each
candidate to be given one or two pieces of information that no one else
has, so check whether this is the case before making any decisions.
_ Involve the quieter members of the group. For example, if you notice
that one person is particularly quiet, you could use their name and ask
what they think. For example, ‘I’m not trying to pick on you, Jane, but I
just want to make sure that you are happy with what’s being said?’
Avoid monopolising the discussion by speaking the loudest and/or
the longest.

Learning to shine in role play simulations
Role play simulations allow employers to observe how you actually
behave, as opposed to how you say you would behave in a given situation.
For example, you might be told that you need to step in to deal with an
angry customer, a tearful colleague, or an unruly member of the team.
You will be given explicit instructions on the role play scenario. Before you
start the role play scenario, be sure to do the following:
_ Read the instructions carefully. Note how much preparation time you
have and the time you will have for the role play.
_ Make a list of questions that you want to ask. The background
materials may portray a situation that seems very black and white. You
may seem right and the other person may seem to be in the wrong.
However, the assessor or actor may possess information that you do not
have: perhaps you are the one who has been deliberately misinformed
by the instructions. It’s always worth doing some fact-finding rather
than forging ahead regardless.
_Write down any objectives that you have. For example, if there are five
key points that you want to discuss with the assessor, you can tick these
off when you come to the meeting.
Treat the role play scenario seriously. Of course both you and the
assessor know that this is not real life. But you should treat the
situation as if it were real life. Being flippant or not wanting to do
the role play will do you no favours.
When it comes to dealing with the face-to-face role play, help yourself to
perform at your best.
_ Build a rapport with the assessor. The temptation on first meeting the
assessor or actor might be to jump in with the main task that you have
been given. But it usually makes sense to spend just a few minutes
exchanging pleasantries, as you would do with any person that you are
meeting for the first time.
_ Seek compromises. Avoid charging into a role play simulation by telling
the other person what you think they should do. Try to ask questions as
much as tell them what you think. Seek a middle ground wherever you
_ Be calm and positive. The person in the role play scenario may have
instructions to try to provoke you into becoming angry, so make sure
you stay calm and avoid displaying even the tiniest flash of irritation.
Similarly, try to stay positive and look for positive statements you can
make rather than only pointing out why the other person is wrong and
needs to listen to you.

Panel interviews are particularly popular in the public sector, where it is not
uncommon to be faced with a row of six or seven (or even more) interviewers.
When faced with so many interviewers, you will have little chance to work
on building a rapport with them. In such situations, try to follow these
_ Build what little rapport you can by introducing yourself to each of the
interviewers on the panel. A simple handshake and hello to each
person in turn should be acceptable to even the stuffiest of panels.
_ Maintain eye contact with the person who asks you each question.
However, do also look occasionally at the other people on the panel.
_ Take your time to think before you answer each question. With so
many interviewers, each of whom has their own agenda and line of
questioning, it would be easy to get confused by the interrogative
nature of the panel interview.

Group interviews are often used to reduce a large number of candidates
to a smaller number in the shortest time possible. For example, there
may be a roomful of candidates, and the interviewers may invite
volunteers to stand up and introduce themselves to the interviewers and
the rest of the group. Or the interviewers may pose two or three
questions for each of the candidates to answer in turn.
The interviewers are looking for enthusiasm and confidence in a group
situation. They are trying to eliminate candidates who clearly do not have
sufficient interpersonal skills. So, make sure that you do the following:
_ Volunteer sooner rather than later. Candidates who are late to
volunteer are unlikely to be taken through to further rounds of the
interviewing process.
_ Speak in a clear voice loud enough for everyone to hear.
_ Smile and try to appear relaxed but enthusiastic.

_ Avoid second-guessing personality questionnaires but always answer
questions giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.
_ Do a bit of practice before any aptitude test. Even doing a few Sudoku
puzzles or simple maths questions could help to boost your scores.
_ Keep your cool during assessment centre exercises and keep in mind the
skills that the interviewers are looking for.