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What are personality tests & how best to prepare

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How much you agree or disagree with statements like "I like to identify new business opportunities" or "I'm likely to make decisions based on facts and figures alone" can give employers a good idea of how well you'd perform in a specific role and company culture. Here's everything you need to know about personality tests and how best to prepare. 

What are personality tests & how do they work?

Personality tests assess all sorts of traits. For example, they might measure how analytical, flexible, influential, team-oriented, conscientious, open and/or extrovert you are. As a rule, they consist of a number of statements like those above that describe different ways of feeling or acting in certain situations. You’ll be asked to record how much you agree or disagree on a two-, five- or seven-point scale. 

There are no right or wrong answers, but there are good and bad personality profiles. And recruiters will be looking for the competencies they believe will make you right for their organisation and the work you’ve applied to do. A frequent mistake candidates make is over-thinking their responses. This leads to a muddled personality profile. Don’t do it. Be natural.

How to navigate personality tests

The idea of revealing the hidden sides of your personality can be intimidating. But if you feel nervous beforehand, remind yourself that there’s a strong chance you already have many of the competencies needed for the role – and the results of the test should bear that out.

Unlike other types of test, like numerical or verbal reasoning, there’s not a lot of revision you can do. After all, you are who you are. You can’t change yourself significantly before the test. However, you can still do certain things to help you handle the test well. 

1. Take your time

Personality questionnaires are far less stressful than aptitude tests. A big reason for that is there aren’t any time limits. So feel free to take your time, think about your answers and answer truthfully. That said, pondering questions for too long could suggest   you’re indecisive or that you find it hard to handle stressful situations. So deliberate, but don’t draw things out.

2. Understand which competencies are key 

Every position will have a framework of key competencies. Analytical ability for a role in finance for instance, or interpersonal skills for one in consulting. Answering appropriately on questions that assess these key areas can help you build the right profile for the role. If you honestly don’t feel you can express high preferences in these key areas, it may indicate you’re not suited to the role – and it’s better that both you and the potential employer know this up-front. 

3. But don’t exaggerate

Yes, companies are looking for strengths, but you can have too much of a good thing. Expressing high levels of assertiveness, for instance, could imply you get your way through domination rather than diplomacy. So exaggerating your behaviour on a personality test won’t necessarily improve your profile. It could just as easily make you a less attractive option.  

4. And don't second guess 

Don’t put the answer you think the employer wants to see. Personality tests assess consistency in responses. If you’re right for the job and the employer is right for you, you’ll do fine. If the job and employer isn’t looking for people with your personality, you’ll have made a lucky escape.

5. But do be persistent

Personality tests can be long and demand a great deal of focus and introspection. So although they may be less stressful than other aptitude tests, they can still be taxing. If you’re to answer all the questions accurately and seriously it’s vital to keep your concentration levels up. After all, your personality profile will give recruiters in-depth information about you that could lead to a role that will suit the make-up of your character perfectly.