4 Types of Aptitude Tests for Employment - How to Prepare and Excel?

Updated on March, 8th, 2023

March 9th 2021

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  • Psychometrics is a product of 20th century psychology when a whole new discipline of “scientific psychology,” or “psychometrics,” was created.

  • There is a lot of discussion on whether aptitude tests are accurate.

  • In this article, we introduce 4 leading classes of aptitude tests: assessment of cognitive skills, management skills, personality, and motivation.

  • We also give advice for how to best prepare for these tests before job interviews.

Why Were Aptitude Tests for Employment Created?

What are aptitude tests for employment? What types of aptitude tests are out there? It becomes more and more often the case that employers require you to go through a battery of tests before deciding to invite you for an interview.

Or, even during the interview.

So, are aptitude tests for employment efficient and reliable? Can you effectively prepare for them? Is there any reason to fear them?

In the history of recruitment, there was no specific time point at which aptitude tests have become an established method for testing candidates. They were developing together with the development of bureaucracy.

The original aim behind bureaucracy was to better organize workflow. Managers also aimed to ensure that employees were promoted for the sake of their achievements and skills and not because of nepotism, as it used to be in times before the industrial revolution.

The goal behind creating aptitude tests was the same. A few types of aptitude tests for professionals appeared in the recruitment industry in an attempt to better streamline the recruitment process and reduce the impact of the human factor on recruitment decisions.

The Short Story of Psychometrics.

In the 20th century, the modern school of psychology was born. Together with new theories for mechanisms underlying human motivation, development, learning processes, and productivity, the whole new discipline of “scientific psychology,” or “psychometrics,” has arrived.

The main assumption behind psychometrics is that one can represent a complex cognitive process with a set of measurable tasks. Can it yield reliable results in practice?

Well, it works similarly to the class of physical education at school. When your teachers were asking you to throw a gym ball to measure how far you can get, they didn’t do so because of their interest in your gym ball management.

They didn’t perceive it as a skill that might prepare you for adult life either. They took such measurements to estimate your overall physical condition and give you recommendations in case you underperformed.

Are Aptitude Tests Accurate?

Similarly, aptitude tests for recruitment were designed as an attempt to capture some complex cognitive abilities in a simple, measurable form. Of course, human behavioral data is highly noisy.

A test participant might give different answers to the same question on two different days depending on multiple factors, such as their overall well-being, amount of coffee drank in the morning, air pressure, et cetera. For this reason, aptitude tests using models based on behavioral data will always be burdened with inherent uncertainty.

However, as the popular proverb says, “All models are wrong but some models are useful.” Aptitude tests for professionals who work in recruitment because they optimize the process. Namely, for many companies, it is still a better choice to conduct an automated test to preselect the candidates.

Corporations often receive hundreds of applications per vacancy. In that case, it becomes physically impossible for one hiring manager to interview all the candidates. This is when aptitude tests for professionals come in handy. Tests give the recruiters an automated solution to reduce the number of applicants in a way better than rolling a die.

How Are Aptitude Tests for Employment Implemented? What Do They Look Like?

Today, there are four main types of aptitude tests you can encounter before or at job interviews. In this blog post, we will briefly go through these classes. Let us start with the type of tests that you should fear the least. We will then proceed to the classes that are the most problematic and the hardest to prepare for most candidates.

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A. Assessment of Cognitive Skills: IQ, EQ and Other Cognitive Capabilities Such as Responsiveness, Perceptivity, Working Memory, et cetera.

How Does This Assessment Usually Happen

These days, it usually happens in the form of aptitude tests online and involves solving a closed-form test or a puzzle. Let’s discuss the example of such an assessment tool, the Raven’s Progressive Matrices Test (Raven, 1936).

It is a classic IQ test still used in recruitment today. The test incorporates the concept of fluid intelligence associated with pure processing speed.

As opposed to the crystallized intelligence that depends on the semantic knowledge you have acquired over a lifetime, fluid intelligence is a quality we get at birth. Thus, it should not depend on our language or culture.

For this reason, this test does not include any tasks that require linguistic skills or semantic knowledge. Instead, all assignments involve searching for patterns in a set of pictograms.

Why It Can Be Scary.

Well, there is a time limit. This can block you mentally, especially if you have no prior experience with these types of tasks. It can happen especially when your motivation to get the job is high (check also: the Yerkes-Dodson law).

Plus, you can’t change some of your natural abilities for the interview. If you are a slow decision-maker, how well can you prepare? Not that well.

These tests are also imperfect. They do not necessarily measure what the employers expect to measure. Namely, employers aim to predict your future performance at work. In reality, these are sprint tests and usually last for less than an hour.

Therefore, they measure the extent to which you can hold your attention for a short time rather than your real capabilities at work (as also mentioned in the post “Aptitude Tests — What Went Wrong”).

How to Best Deal With It.

You will perform best if you follow a few simple rules:

1. Prepare.

The Raven’s Progressive Matrices Test is not used by companies as often anymore because of its popularity. It is just too easy to find examples online and prepare for them. However, companies often look for similar, culturally neutral IQ tests based on the concept of fluid intelligence. They use to order these tests from companies specialized in testing cognitive skills of all kinds.

Therefore, even though there’s a low probability that you will get Raven’s test at the interview, going through these aptitude tests online is still a good idea. You will train your brain a little, and you might be challenged with a similar task during the interview.

2. Take It Seriously.

Don’t start the test after an all-nighter or if you are in a bad mood. Make sure that you are rested and focused, and that you have no distractions. Switch off your phone!

3. Don’t Cheat.

Remember that many companies might ask you to do the test twice. First, you’ll need to go through the full version of the aptitude tests online. But then, you’ll get a shortened form of the test during the interview at the company’s side. 

In this way, the recruiter will validate your honesty. Thus, if you decide to cheat and solve the test together with friends, this might backfire later. It is way better to stay honest here and to solve the test all by yourself.

4. Don’t Put Additional Pressure On Your Shoulders.

Remember that these tests only serve to give the very first look at the candidates and eliminate some individuals who score extremely low. You don’t need to be a MENSA Association member or a Professor in Quantum Mechanics to pass such an assessment!

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B. Assessment of Your Management Skills.

How Does This Assessment Usually Happen?

Usually, the assessment happens on the site of the employer and involves a group task. Typically, you will get between 3-8 people to work with on your team. The task might fall into many categories. However, it usually is a logistic, business development, or conflict resolution challenges.

The purpose of this assessment is not only to test your management skills but also to predict your other social skills and preferred roles in the team. During the task, you are typically assessed by the recruiting team sitting at a distance from you and observing the situation, or watching the video provided to them after the task.

Why It Can Be Scary.

It can be scary as you don’t know your team members beforehand, and you can’t predict how they will behave in a stressful situation. It also happens that some candidates are determined to rock in this task so much that they keep on speaking, not allowing others to chip in with their comments. So, if you are a shy type, this assessment might be scary indeed.

How to Best Deal With It.

You will perform best if you follow a few simple rules:

1. Greet The Assessment Committee.

First of all, greet the assessing team right after you enter the room and right before you leave.

2. Smile!

Your brain releases endorphins when you smile. These chemicals make you feel good and more relaxed because they reduce stress and anxiety. Smiling can help improve your mood and have positive impact on people around you. Remember that recruiters are looking for candidates who are kind and pleasant to work with.

3. Listen To Others.

Listening to others is an important skill that can help you to build stronger relationships. By showing that you value and respect other’s perspectives, you have an impact on positive environment around of you. If another team member becomes dominant in the task, instead of getting stressed about their performance, ask them questions to help them vocalize their ideas better. Recruiters love to see that!

4. Make Sure That You Speak Enough.

If someone else notoriously doesn’t let you speak, bad for them — they will score low in this task. You might solve this situation, for example, by making some tiny but unexpected movements. 

For instance, you can smile and gently touch this person’s forearm for a second. They will probably get out of their trans and stop speaking, knowing this means asking for a break. Then you can just start saying what you aimed to say. If that doesn’t help, you can also raise your hand which forces them to finish their thought and listen.

5. Think About Your Position by the Table.

Namely, make sure that at least once in a while you speak to the committee so that the assessing team sees your face. The committee will always try to stay invisible. 

Therefore, formally, it shouldn’t matter whether or not you sit towards them, or the other way around. But in practice, they will remember you much better if they see your face. It is just how basic human psychology works.

6. It’s All About the Path Toward the Solution, Not the Solution Itself.

Remember that what the committee is interested in, is the process of solving the task rather than the outcome. Therefore, if your team doesn’t come up with the expected solution, don’t panic! It is often the case that in that case, the whole team gets hired anyway.

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C. Personality Tests.

How Does This Assessment Usually Happen?

Another common recruitment practice is to conduct personality tests, for instance, tests based on the concept of a five-dimensional personality model also known as OCEAN, or CANOE (Goldberg, 1993), or a four-dimensional model also known as DISC (Marston, 1928).

Why It Can Be Scary.

You cannot be entirely sure what the recruiter is looking for. It depends on many factors: the profile of the team you are about to join, the role, and sometimes even the personal preferences of the recruiter. Thus, there is no magic algorithm for passing personality tests. 

How To Best Deal With It.

As mentioned before, it is hard to give a recipe for passing this kind of career test. However, following a few simple rules can effectively increase your chances:

1. Don’t Appear Neurotic!

As a rule of thumb, all companies look for team players who are punctual, reliable, and with no neurotic traits. This is true regardless of the type of company or position that you apply for. Thus, if you spot a question that relates to these traits, give it double attention. Make sure that you don’t appear as an always-grumpy complainer who never delivers on time.

2. Be Honest.

Not every position waits for a leader. Thus, if you don’t feel like a natural leader, don’t pretend otherwise. Shy or introverted people often cheat on these tests. They have a belief that they won’t get accepted the way they are. In many positions, focused introverts are preferred for the role! 

However, there is a huge difference between being an introverted person, and being complex, and a good recruiter understands that difference. Therefore, in general, it is good, to be honest, and precise in personality tests. The only caveats were mentioned in the previous point.

3. Give It Time.

Personality tests are typically not timed, and that’s for a good reason. So, take your time! Don’t rush with the answers. Make sure that you fill the career test in a relaxed state of mind and without any additional stimulation such as strong coffee. Psycho stimulants such as coffee make you more impulsive and can substantially influence your results.

D. Motivation Assessment.

How Does This Assessment Usually Happen

The recruiter will assess your motivation during the interview. However, many companies also attempt to put a number on your motivation level to preselect candidates for interviews.

Therefore, they like to use aptitude tests for professionals to assess motivation at the beginning of the process. Usually, this assessment takes the form of aptitude tests online these days.

In the associated tests and questionnaires, you will get multiple questions regarding the situations in which you feel either motivated or demotivated.

For instance, you will be asked, “If you are a project leader and you are held accountable for the project, does it increase or decrease your motivation to pursue the project?”

Why It Can Be Scary.

This type of assessment is at the end of the list for a good reason. It is because you have no way of guessing which settings for the test the recruiter has chosen. Namely, what particular type of motivation do they expect for this team and this role?

For some positions, they might be looking for candidates who are determined to work for this particular company. In other cases, they are searching for someone who is experienced in the field and interested in coming to the company to work in a particular team and on a particular project. 

Next, for some (especially, the entry-level) positions, they might need energetic and enthusiastic candidates who don’t even know 100% what type of job they are going for, yet are enthusiastic to try. Lastly, for some positions, they might wait for someone who didn’t feel challenged enough in their previous job. 

And so it goes. You rarely can guess what the real target is — unless the genuine profile is clearly stated in the job offer (it rarely is, though!).

How to Best Deal With It.

Be strategic. It is the only piece of advice that can work here. To be brutally honest, many questions in such tests are burdened with social approval. It means that you know straight away which answer is expected of you.

Therefore, you can adjust your answer to adhere to these expectations. It is sad to say, but most people choose to bleach themselves to appear more motivated to work than they are.

Thus, it’s not necessarily a good idea to be fully honest in these career tests and mention your moments of weakness (which we all have!) — you might easily land in the left tail of the Gaussian in this test then.

In this case, it is better to be strategic. Namely, if you hesitate between two answers, it’s good to look at it from the employer’s perspective. Just go with the answer that might look better in their eyes.

And if you have no idea how these answers might look to the employer, you might ask yourself, “If I had a company that I worked on hard for 10 years, and I was hiring new people, what would I like to hear?”

It sounds ugly, but it increases your chances to end up with a good score after all. Don’t overdo though! Giving the best possible answer to every single question wouldn’t sound genuine. Everyone has moments of weakness and can name at least a few types of situations that are demotivating to them.

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Conclusion: Should You Fear From Aptitude Tests for Employment?

No. We all need to accept that when the human factor is involved, there is always a random component to an assessment. That’s why it is good to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You cannot fully influence your results, you can only do your best given what the situation allows for.

Also, good recruiters know that aptitude tests can only serve as a recruitment assistance tool other than a decision-making tool. Therefore, the aforementioned types of aptitude tests only give them first insights into your mindset and abilities. What will eventually make or break your deal with the employer is your interview.

So, remember that aptitude tests for professionals won’t land you a job. It’s true even if you score a maximum number of points! At the interview, the recruiter will not only assess your abilities but also try to predict if you will work well with the team.

This not only requires numbers but also gut feeling and prior personal experience. This involvement of the human factor might also turn out good for you. Namely, you might get the position even though you didn’t score as high as other candidates — just because in the eyes of the recruiter, you appear more likable than the others.

Good luck with your job interviews! 

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2021, March 9th). 4 Types of Aptitude Tests for Employment. How to Prepare and Excel? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/aptitude-tests-for-employment-types-of-aptitude-tests/

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