Psychometrics and The Axe Murderer!

Psychometric assessments

“Now they are wanting to check I’m not an axe murderer, what should I do?“. This was the first sentence in a call from one of our job search clients recently. As it turns out, what the client was really telling us was that they were at the final stages with a prospective employer and had been asked to participate in a psychometric assessment as part of their job application.

Many organisations use psychometric assessments to assist with selecting the right candidate for a job.

Some organisations use them as the first cull, such as when they need to screen 2000 graduates down to a smaller number. While others use them at the final stage of the process to select their most preferred candidate/s, often for senior, professional and executive roles.

Here’s the low down on psychometric assessments.

They can be used as part of a robust recruitment and selection process and you don’t need to be frightened of them. They are designed to help assess the suitability of a candidate for a role based on their intellect, personality and organisational fit. So, in essence, the potential employer is adding data to help ensure you are a good fit for the role.

Research has shown that people vary widely in their work productivity, work styles and ability to learn and that psychometric tests can effectively predict this variation (Campbell, 1996; Hartigan & Wigdor, 1989; Hunter & Hunter, 1984; Robertson and Smith, 2001).

There are literally hundreds of different tools that can be used to undertake psychometric assessments and associated abilities testing.

Generally these fall into three broad areas 1/. Ability Tests, 2/. Personality Assessments and 3/. Work Preference Assessments.

  • Ability Tests can include the typical ones like numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning, through to tests that are very specific for the occupation, like mechanical reasoning and computer package knowledge.
  • Personality Assessments can provide information on your personality traits, how you like to organise yourself, how you make decisions, how you communicate, how you work in a team, how you behave in the workplace, and what motivates you. These tests can give a potential employer an indications of what sort of work environment brings out the best in you.
  • Work Preference Assessments can assist in identifing the way you like to work. Do you like to work alone or in teams? Do you like to plan ahead or leave things to the last minute? Do you like to be big picture thinker or be involved in the tactical operational aspects? etc

Research has also shown that the combination of Ability Tests and a valid Personality Questionnaire is THE most reliable and cost effective method of selecting employees who will have the highest overall job performance. It is an even better method than actually meeting and interviewing the candidate, or checking references. Amazing! So before you roll your eyes and feel your prospective employer is making you jump through yet another hoop, here’s something to remember; the employer is exercising due diligence to make sure that if you are the successful candidate for the role you have the abilities, personality traits and interests to both perform the role successfully and love it!



Overall Job Performance


Ability Tests and Personality Questionnaire

Ability Tests and Structured Interviews




Work Sample Tests



Structured Interviews

Ability Tests

Job Knowledge Tests





Personality Questionnaire






Unstructured Interview

Years of Job Experience




Years of Education





Source: Adapted from Robertson & Smith 2001 and Cook 1998 and taken from CPP

Tips for preparing for a Psychometric Assessment

If you are a senior executive, professional or manager and you have been for an interview (or 2, 3 or 4) and you’ve made it to the stage of psychometric assessments, you’ve nearly made it through the recruitment process. Often there is only a reference check to follow, or possibly one more interview.

When clients ask us what they can do to blitz a psychometric assessment, we tell them they can’t really prepare! You are what you are – both in terms of intellect, personality and preference.

Our best advice is to always answer personality and work preference assessments honestly. There is no point trying to be someone you aren’t and, in many good quality personality assessments, there is an inbuilt consistency test which tells them if you are falsifying the results or pretending to be different to who you really are.

Likewise if you are not strong in numeracy, literacy, problem solving etc, there is very little you can do to increase your abilities in these areas in a short period of time. And, at the end of the day, if you aren’t strong at problem solving (for instance) and the role requires it for success, then it is possibly not really the best role for you and your strengths anyway.

That being said here is our sound advice for preparing for a psychometric assessment:

  • Get a good night’s sleep prior to test and be well hydrated. Drink water! Being well rested and hydrated has been scientifically proven to increase performance in these sorts of assessments. You cannot be someone you aren’t, but you can be your best and sharpest you.
  • Check if the recruiter has a test exam available on their website and if they do, complete it! If you’re working with Let’s Talk Career ask the recruiter the name of the assessment and tell us what it is. We may be able to assist you in understanding what they are measuring and why.
  • Listen to the instructions carefully and do the practice example at the beginning of the test.
  • Remember, for personality tests, there are no right or wrong answers but the answers will indicate if you are the right fit for the job.
  • The same applies for work preference assessments. There are no right and wrong answers. There is simply how you like to work, what they can offer you and whether there is a match between you and the potential employer.

And lastly, an important point should be made. These assessments are not criminal checks. They cannot tell what dark secrets you hold, and whether indeed you are, have been or can be good with an axe!

Need help to find your next job or be your best at a job interview?

Let’s Talk Career provides career guidance and coaching services in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane & Far North Queensland, Perth and Auckland.

Email us today to discuss your Career Coaching needs on or

Freecall: 1800 284 255 or (03) 8686 9102 to make an appointment. We’re happy to answer all your questions.


We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles, as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: Kris Reynolds is Managing Partner at Let’s Talk Career ( in Australia. Kris can be contacted on 1800 284 255 or

Kris has over 20 years executive HR and executive coaching experience in Australian corporates. With a Masters Degree in Leadership, she works with senior executives to both improve their leadership performance and achieve greater career satisfaction.

Author: Kris

Kris has over 20 years executive HR and executive coaching experience in Australian corporates. With a Masters Degree in Leadership, she works with senior executives to both improve their leadership performance and achieve greater career satisfaction.