Online Competency Assessments and Ability Tests

This is an aspect of psychology that looks at the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests so that specific psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, motivation and personality can be measured.

Put simply, this means they're a way of measuring someone's skills, abilities or personality, according to a defined set of criteria that a company has identified as important when evaluating potential new hires.

The two most common types of psychometric assessment are:

1. Ability tests

These are designed to objectively measure someone's cognitive ability. This means assessing the extent to which someone will be able to work in different ways as required by the job. They include:

  • Numerical reasoning tests: Assess someone's ability to interpret numerical data and challenge someone's ability to make correct inferences and decisions based on their understanding and evaluation of data.
  • Verbal reasoning tests: Measure an individual's ability to understand written information and to evaluate the logic of the arguments presented. These types of tests focus on using and evaluating the information provided rather than the ability to use language, grammar and correct spelling.

2. Personality questionnaires

Personality questionnaires are also known as work style preference questionnaires and they're designed to gain insight into someone's typical behavioural style and how they prefer to approach different situations.

  • Personality questionnaires, such as a work style preference questionnaire, are NOT tests as they're not designed to objectively measure your knowledge, skills or abilities. They're used to understand how someone prefers to do things in the work place, so are typically used as an additional assessment tool.
  • General questionnaires, such as those in magazines, that suggest they offer insight into someone's personality type, should not be confused with those used in recruitment selection processes, as they are not designed to be used for recruitment.

How do these assessments benefit you?

  • You can be fairly and objectively assessed in competitive situations.
  • You can find out more about your own strengths and potential development areas.
  • You can use the tests and questionnaires to help you select a career path in which you'll feel most motivated, engaged and satisfied – as well as being sufficiently challenged in the role, but not to the extent that you'll struggle to do what is required in the role.

How are psychometrics scored?

Psychometric assessments use standardised scoring, which means scores are presented in a meaningful way, making them directly comparable to another person's scores.

  • Someone's overall performance score on the test is compared to an appropriate comparison group, which is representative of the candidate population or current job holders.
  • A ranking is given to each score in the group.
  • These are referred to as percentiles. Percentiles describe someone's performance in comparison to a specific group. So, percentiles provide you with a ranking, out of one hundred.
  • Without making this comparison, the test scores will be meaningless as the organisation won't be able to compare how well someone has performed in comparison to those of a similar level or other people who have applied.
  • This comparison then allows the organisation to understand the strength of your abilities, relative to others.

How are my responses used in the work style preference questionnaire?

  • The work style preference questionnaire measures the extent of your behavioural preference, based on your self-analysis. When compared to the successful behavioural profile these responses provide employers with an indication of the extent to which you're aligned with the employer's most successful working style.
  • Your response will be compared to an appropriate comparison group representative of the job holding population to provide us with an indication of how typical your preferences are in relation to the wider comparison group.

before the test

  • If you're completing the assessments online, check your computer or laptop has all the required software to complete the assessments.
  • Also make sure you're not interrupted (e.g. turn off your phone and let people know that you shouldn't be disturbed), so that you can fully focus and perform at your best.

Night before

  • Get a good night's sleep – don't underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep before your tests.

On the day

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the session if it's at an employer's office.
  • Take a watch along so that you can manage your time.
  • member, once the test has started you don't want to have any interruptions, so remember to take any comfort breaks before starting the test.
  • If permitted to do so, take a calculator with you.

During the assessment session

  • Listen to what you're asked to do. Pay full attention to test instructions.
  • Take your time to work through the practice questions.
  • If you're unsure of how to work through the practise questions, ask the test administrator before commencing with the timed assessment.
  • Read through each question carefully.
  • Work quickly but accurately — if you're not sure of a response, mark your best choice but avoid guessing.
  • If you have time when you've got to the end of the test, go back and check your answers.

Interview preparation

There are a few things that you can do to make sure that you're fully prepared for an interview:

Investigate the type of interview you'll have

It's important that you make sure you're clear about what type and format of interview you'll be having so you can best prepare for it. So make sure you know if it's a competency or strength based interview, or perhaps a one-to-one or panel interview. If it's not clear, then make sure you contact the organisation so that you know and can prepare in the right way.

Match your experiences

Think about how you can demonstrate your skills and abilities against their competency criteria.

Make sure you start your preparation well in advance of the interview. Plan to offer the interviewer specific details of your particular abilities and achievements. Indicate what you've done to demonstrate the skills they're looking for. There are some examples of how you can do this in the next section.