Overcoming anxiety in Psychometric Assessments to benefit the Organisation and Participant

Conversations about psychometric assessments often carry a negative association for all parties.  Organisations may view it as an additional cost, managers are sceptical, and it is another element in a process.  For a participant the term may send shivers down their spine based either on it being an unknown or, from past experience, something they would rather forget.

Acknowledging psychometric assessments have a range of purposes across career development and transition, team building, leadership development, hiring decisions, role capability design; the main focus for this article is selection.  Exploring a few protocols and communication steps to provide transparency will enable both organisation and participant to maximise the value of their time and monetary investment. 

Perspective and Purpose

Whether part of the selection process already or in consideration for introduction, psychometric assessment is one element to be taken into consideration alongside other information in an evaluation or development process.  Communication of their contribution to people decisions and commercial outcomes makes a difference to their acceptance.

The most common types include personality and three ability assessments of numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning.  They provide insight into likely intellectual ability, personality and behaviours of individuals; the way they think, how they relate to others and their working style.  They aim to measure intelligence (IQ), emotional abilities (EQ), resilience/adaptability (AQ) and level of cultural competency (CQ).

Organisation – the application of tools which are fit for purpose deliver valuable information towards more informed business decisions.  This may be to provide additional information later in the recruitment process to complement already captured information when selecting for leadership roles, or as a screening tool when there are high numbers of candidates, for example graduate recruitment.

Participant – assessments tailored to the role and organisational characteristics provide insights useful for career decisions and development.  They can assist in evaluating the best fit for a work environment to suit candidate preferences therefore creating a win-win situation of an engaged, productive, values aligned staff member.  

Application and Interpretation

The effectiveness of assessments is improved by following formal process protocols, communicating clearly with participants, ensuring accredited interpreters, and applying information from them in a wholistic, pragmatic way.  Most frequently, it is the responsibility of human resource functions or external psychometric professionals to guide leaders in applying the information in the context of the situation whether it is to complement recruitment, engagement or development of people strategies.

Managing Assessment Anxiety

Organisation – it is natural for a participant to feel anxious about having to complete psychometric assessments as part of a job application.  While a little anxiety can be helpful to ensure the assessment is approached at a good pace, it is important to be as relaxed as possible.  Relaying tips will allow them to perform at their best, encourage them to look forward to the challenge.  It is important to approach the assessment as a positive career development opportunity; they should expect to give their absolute best shot by taking the right mental approach and being determined to work hard.

Participant – completing an assessment online from home or in the office, it is absolutely essential to be focussed and undisturbed.  Any distractions are likely to have a direct impact on the result as will the temptation to multi-task.  In advance checking the computer or technology meets the minimum criteria for running the assessments seems obvious but is sometimes overlooked.  Online assessments and lifestyle trends have driven the development of mobile device compatibility, this is definitely not to say, these should be completed whilst on public transport or in a crowded public space.  

Value of Practice

Organisation – for those who have never completed psychometric assessments or who have been out of formal education for a while, practice can be an important introduction to the things participants should expect to answer.  Providing resources to practice the assessments or samples of the questions expected is likely to increase performance.

Particpant – focusing on areas of development will deliver most benefit.  It is human nature to favour and prioritise the easier tasks.  For example, those great at spelling and word association but not as strong with spotting patterns or number skills, tend to naturally spend more time on the less challenging practice assessments.  Focus energy on practicing the skills in which development is required.

Importance of Feedback

Whether or not the participant has been successful in getting through to the next stage in a recruitment process, giving feedback recognises their commitment in completing the assessments and will validate results, provide career development and leave a suitable impression.  Knowing there will be feedback can ease concerns and increase performance.

Acknowledging verbal feedback is not always practical; a written summary in the form of a computer generated report is useful and respectful of the participant’s time investment.

Assessment Platform Technology Trends

The content, format and application of psychometric assessments is continually developing to meet employment market and customer requirements.  With the wide choice of assessments, selecting a contemporary option to ensure alignment with organisational brand, purpose and candidate expectations involves constant review.  Recent developments of interest include:

Adaptive Ability Testing

Adaptive testing has resulted in assessments being more efficient and candidate friendly.

The system selects questions to administer based on the participant’s previous responses; whether correct or incorrect.  The participant progresses through the assessment, starting with an average difficulty setting, and when a question is answered correctly, a more difficult question follows. When a question is answered incorrectly, an easier one is provided.  This process continues until the assessment is completed.


Identified as the ‘next generation’ of psychometric assessments, this involves applying typical elements of game playing to measure capabilities.  Participants are required to complete a series of games; it is more interactive, engaging and makes it feel less like a test.

Participant Experience

Faster or more efficient assessments, while remaining robust and valid, are anticipated by participants in line with the immediacy of today’s society.  Providing a positive experience with more visually appealing assessments and a respectful process contributes to enhancing participant perception of an organisation’s brand and the ability to secure top talent.

Global Comparison Group

As New Zealand businesses and leaders are increasingly integrated in world-wide economies and networks, there is a trend towards the use of international comparison groups.

Psychometrics and the Future of Work

The emergence of new roles and functions with limited historical benchmarks has increased emphasis on transferrable skills, value alignment and personality characteristics.  Organisations are adapting their assessment methods, increasingly using psychometric assessments, to evaluate these in place of previous experience and past behaviours.


Organisations are increasingly including psychometric assessment with potential and existing employee evaluation. As a result it is highly likely that as an individual there will be a requirement to complete these at least once if not multiple times during a career. With transparent and constructive communication on the process and results, everyone involved in psychometric appraisals will benefit from increased engagement in their use and application of the output.

Choosing assessments that fit organisational needs and mapping capabilities to company characteristics and benchmarks provides additional information that assists in identification of the right person first time. By being vigilant to changing technologies and market trends regarding job responsibilities, candidate and organisation experience can be positive and efficient, both perceptively and financially.

For organisations, taking a pragmatic approach to psychometric assessments will deliver business value to talent strategies.  For participants, embracing the opportunity with suitable preparation will enhance performance.

Barbara Wojcierowska

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