If you’ve applied for a graduate scheme with a big company you’ve probably already come across psychometric testing. It’s an easy way for employers to narrow down applicants at an early stage in the recruitment process. They can be a bit of nightmare though, especially if you’re not really sure what to expect the first time you encounter one.

We thought we’d pull together some tips about these tests, so that the next time you see it in an job description you’ll be prepared. Realistically, there’s no need to get stressed out about them – they’re just a way of employers finding out if you’re the candidate they want.

Psychometric tests are based on standardised questions. They create a level playing field between you and other candidates, because they give employers a sense of your suitability for a job without being based on your educational background: so you don’t have to worry about other people perhaps having better A-levels or other qualifications than you.

Types of psychometric tests: Ability, Aptitude and Personality

Ability tests can cover a number of areas: numerical, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, or logical reasoning. You’ll be forgiven for wondering what all this reasoning lark is about, we had to look it up as well. Verbal reasoning tests look at how well you understand written information and evaluate arguments and statements, non-verbal reasoning tests assess how well you follow diagrams or spot patterns and also check your spatial awareness, and logical reasoning tests see how well you can use your current knowledge or experience to find a solution to a problem.

Aptitude tests look at your potential to learn a new skill that is needed to do the job you have applied for. They can take a number of different forms and will probably depend on the kind of job you’re applying for.

Both ability and aptitude tests are normally multiple choice questions and there will be a pass rate that you must meet to be able to progress to the next stage of applications.

Personality tests assess how you will respond to different situations and problems. These are used to see how well you would fit into the role and company culture and employers will have ideas of the personality types of candidates that they would prefer to hire. There’s no point in trying to answer the questions in a personality test in the way that you think the company wants though, they can tell as the tests all have a mechanism built in to measure your consistency in answers.

Advice

We spoke to Andrea Clarkson, team leader of UK and Ireland resourcing at O2, about her advice for taking psychometric tests. She’s the one who looks at all the applications for O2’s graduate schemes and internships so she knows what she’s talking about.

“Make sure you’re in a quiet place and your work area is clear of clutter,” she said. “Take up the opportunity to run through any pre-tests so you know what to expect when you do the actual test. Some people go ‘it’s going to fine’ and then go ‘oh, I don’t understand how to answer this’. So make sure you spend time reading the instructions.”

We also asked Andrea about the personality tests and how to go about answering it. She said that O2 uses the personality test as a way of looking at work style preferences and doesn’t use it to filter out candidates. “Be natural. Don’t think about what the company wants to hear,” she said. “We can tell when you’re trying too hard to fit what you think we’re looking for. Questions are rephrased to see if you are consistent so just be yourself. Don’t try to guess what the company wants.”

Not all job applications involve psychometric testing, but it’s a pretty good bet you’ll have to go for an interview at some point. Check out our latest Masterclass video on the topic, with advice from the experts and helpful tips. 

There are some brilliant graduate opportunities currently available on GoThinkBig – such as Sales (which involves Creative Media), Audience, Technology and Insight, and Production Training, all at Channel 4. There are also plenty of great O2 opps, with more graduate openings coming up, so watch this space.