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This blog post was written by Information Assistant Tricia Onions

When I graduated university, I was of the (ill-informed) belief that employability was a black and white issue. That I was either cut out for the world of work or I wasn’t. Now, I’m not suggesting we all magically become confident overnight, but I think it’s well worth remembering that there’s no one-size-fits-all job – and no one-size-fits-all personality. Cheesy though it may sound, we all have different strengths. No two jobs have the same specification, and what doesn’t suit one profession might be ideal for another.

Many employers use personality tests as a means of measuring soft skills, such as resilience, work style, and motivation. Again, it’s really important to remember this isn’t a black and white issue. The question isn’t so much, ‘Are you a motivated person?’ – that’s to be expected! What motivates you? What are your values? Are you driven by targets or inspired by rapport?

It’s a two-way process

The thought of being assessed this way might sound daunting. After all, how do we change our personalities if we don’t measure up? The point is we don’t. As with any part of the application process, personality tests are a two-way street. They allow the employer to gauge whether you’d be a good fit – and in return, you’ll have the chance to better understand what would be expected of you, and if you’d be happy in the role.

A career in sales, for instance, is going to require a different working style from one in counselling. This is not to say that one career is better than the other – rather, each one needs a specific kind of person to bring the right qualities to the job. Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers – the mother-daughter duo behind the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – found that 64% of a sample of accountants shared the same sensing/thinking personality type. Research scientists were 77% alike with their preference for intuition.

Our personalities aren’t the deciding factor when it comes to down to it – but they can tell us a lot about our interpersonal skills, and the sort of work we’re comfortable doing.

What personality tests do employers use?

  • The Caliper Profile. This test uses multiple choice questions, prompting respondents to select how much or little they agree with certain statements. Like a situational judgement test, the aim is to understand how you might behave in a workplace environment.
  • SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ). This test measures 32 different characteristics on a ‘most like’/‘least like’ basis. From the results, employers can then evaluate your thinking styles, emotional behaviour, and your relationship with others.
  • Big Five Personality Traits Model. A staple of psychology, the Big Five model evaluates openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. What’s interesting is that this model addresses negative emotional states, such as stress and anxiety, alongside drawing out the positive ones. This is not to say you’ll fail if you admit to feeling stressed sometimes – it’s more to get a better idea of how you cope with it.

How can I prepare for a personality test?

Not all employers use personality tests in their assessments, and those that do may adapt them as they see fit. You might not be told precisely what they’re assessing you on.

Despite this, it’s still worth doing your research about the company to find out what they value in their employees. Do those values match yours? Answer honestly with the job specification in mind. Don’t be tempted to lie or give the answer they want to hear if it’s not sincere. They’re not trying to catch you out.

You can practise taking personality tests for recruitment purposes online. Search our resources on MyFuture for more information on personality assessments and how they can inform your career planning. (Of course, you could do one just for fun too!)

Some final thoughts

Many personality tests ask you to choose from a number of positive behaviours, so don’t go in looking for the ‘right’ answer. These tests aren’t necessarily judging your morals – it’s more to ascertain whether your competencies align with the requirements of the role. Remember ‘competencies’ embodies a spectrum of skills – it’s not a case of being competent or not.

Try not to be discouraged or daunted by these tests. Instead, look on them as empowering – a chance to understand the areas in which you really excel. Are you great with communication? Persuasion? Empathy? Perhaps you could use this insight in your career planning journey. There’s no harm in learning something new about yourself – you might even be pleasantly surprised by the results!

Posted in: Advice, Career Choice, Careers Resources


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