UCL Researchers
  • Welcome

    The UCL Careers team use this Blog to share their ‘news and views’ about careers with you. You will find snippets about a whole range of career related issues, news from recruiters and links to interesting articles in the media.

    We hope you enjoy reading the Blog and will be inspired to tell us your views.

    If you want to suggest things that students and graduates might find helpful, please let us know – we want to hear from you.

    Karen Barnard – Head of UCL Careers

    UCL Careers is part of The Careers Group, University of London

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    How to tackle psychometric tests

    By S Donaldson, on 9 December 2015

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    Psychometric tests are one of the hoops some of you will have to jump through to get a job. Large employers often use these tests as a quick and easy way of cutting down the huge volume of applications they receive. So how should you tackle them? Well, firstly, don’t panic. Secondly, do prepare. And thirdly, don’t panic some more.

    1) DON’T Panic

    Easier said than done, right? Employers tell us that lots of people do panic. They assume they’ll fail and so they opt out of the recruitment process at the psychometric test stage without even sitting the test. And a few employers have told us that women self-select out a lot more than men. So stop doing that people! Especially female people! If you take the test you may pass and get through to the next application stage, or you may fail and not progress to the next stage. If you don’t take the test you’re certain not to progress. So give yourself a chance and take that test.

    It’s quite common for employers to test verbal and numerical abilities (though not all will test both), and sometimes logical thinking too. The numerical tests can seem scary, especially if you’ve been studying a humanities degree for the past few years. But if employers are accepting applicants from all academic disciplines (and many are) then they’re clearly not looking only for maths geniuses. And some tests are designed to be extremely difficult, with too many questions for the assigned time. So people can often think they didn’t do very well and then find they passed.

    2) DO Prepare

    Saying that, you should probably panic a bit…but just enough to make sure you put appropriate time into preparing. Psychometric tests aren’t a walk in the park. If you’re out of practice working with graphs and numbers then you’re likely to be slow and perhaps even bad at numerical reasoning tests when you first look at them. Similarly, even if you think you’re good with words, verbal reasoning tests aren’t always straightforward, and may be harder than you expect.

    But with practice you can improve. Check out your university careers service for resources, and try the range of free sample tests available online – just google ‘practice psychometric tests’. These websites provide feedback on how you compare to others in terms of speed and accuracy, helping you to gauge your ability and see if you’re improving. Always tap the free resources first, but if you’ve exhausted them and still aren’t confident, the same websites offer the option to buy more sample tests.

    Another way to ensure you’re prepared is to find out as much as possible about your target employers’ tests. Psychometric tests can vary greatly, so it’s worth finding out which provider your target employer is using, and then focusing your practice on the same types of tests. It’s also useful to know whether your potential employer negatively marks their tests for incorrect answers. This information isn’t always readily available, but if you can find it, it will help you work out how to balance speed versus accuracy in your answers.

    3) DON’T Panic….again

    Preparation and practice will bring your performance up to its optimum level. But of course there is a peak point for every individual, past which they’re unlikely to improve. If you’ve put in the work and still not made the grade, don’t feel dejected. Different employers use different tests and different cut-off points – some much harder and higher than others – so one rejection shouldn’t put you off all employers with psychometric tests. And not all employers and roles require the completion of these tests, so think about other routes into your chosen career or employer. Another bit of good news is that there may well be a trend emerging of employers moving away from psychometric tests; this year Barclays scrapped theirs completely in order to make the recruitment process faster and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

    Image from Boaz Arad

    It pays to tailor your application

    By S Donaldson, on 24 April 2015

    One piece of advice I give to jobhunting researchers time and again is to tailor. Always to tailor. If you want an employer to understand what you’ll bring to their team, you have to tell them. And you have to be specific. If after a quick name-change, you could send the exact same application off to another similar organisation, then you’re not being specific enough.

    For lecturer applications, this means detailing with whom in the department you hope to collaborate, and the new modules or teaching methods you want to introduce. For non-academic positions, you’ll want to show you’re familiar with a company’s recent projects, future goals, and ways of working.

    Of course tailoring your application will take more time and effort, but that’s part of the value. Employers want to know that you’re committed enough to do your research – that you’ve found out all about them, imagined yourself in the role, and you know exactly how you’ll contribute.

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    A fantastic (and admittedly rather extreme) example of creative application tailoring was reported in Business Insider earlier this week. Nina Mufleh wanted to work for AirBnB, so she put together an online CV (screenshot above) and tweeted it to Air BnB bigwigs. But this was no ordinary CV. With a format very similar to an AirBnB profile, the CV showcased Nina’s knowledge and understanding of the travel industry, and her vision for the future of AirBnB. It took her a week to put together, but it was well worth it, because it secured her an interview.

    You can see Nina’s full CV here. If you’re a UCL researcher unsure about how to tailor an application, book a place on our applications workshop or a one-to-one session with a careers consultant. See our website for further details.