The Secrets of Psychometric Testing in Accountancy and Finance
John Richardson joined Alexander Lloyd in 2003. As a Senior Manager leading the Accountancy & Finance divisions he personally maintains a client database recruiting senior finance professionals within the Accountancy & Finance sector. He specialises in the recruitment of qualified level Financial Directors and Controllers for both blue chip and SME clients, and niche roles such as tax/treasury and corporate finance and audit.
The use of psychometric testing is widely used when recruiting new accountancy and finance staff, although you do tend to find it more frequently employed in larger companies recruiting in high volumes, than in smaller SMEs with smaller accounting teams.
The tests are standardised and designed to measure cognitive ability to help employers ascertain an individual applicant’s ability to do a particular job. The tests provide two separate measures:
- maximum performance (aptitude)
- typical performance (personality)
There are normally two elements to this type of testing; assessing the applicant’s broad underlying capabilities for numerical and verbal reasoning, and specific skills related to the job they’re applying, for example: statistical based questions and data interpretation may well be included in tests for Accountants.
The Accountancy recruitment process obviously has a heavier emphasis on the numerical reasoning to ensure that the candidate has the appropriate cognitive ability to perform the tasks that comprise the role, to the desired level. However, don’t discount the importance of the verbal aspect of the test, as those with the ability to effectively communicate complex accounting concepts to non accounting staff and stakeholders are increasingly valued in both industry and practice.
This part of the testing often worries candidates. The important thing to remember here is that your career has successfully reached it’s current level. The employer is not looking for Einstein reincarnated, and will benchmark the scores against population norms and their specific requirements.
The preparation for an aptitude test is really quite straightforward; unlike the personality tests, for this one there is a right and a wrong answer. To familiarise yourself with the format, we would recommend taking advantage of the practice tests available on line.
Unlike aptitude tests, there is no right or wrong answer for a personality test. Instead, the questions are designed to draw out and examine the innate predispositions that a person has to behave and react in specific ways in specific circumstances perhaps. They are based on the premise that there are five basic personality traits. Considerable research has gone into their classification with ideas that have that ranged from identifiable traits numbering from 3 to 4,000. It is now generally accepted that there are 5, and they are identified as:
- Extraversion – including excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness
- Agreeableness – including trust, altruism, kindness, and other pro-social behaviours
- Conscientiousness – including goal directed behaviours, impulse control and methodical thinking
- Neuroticism – emotional instability, anxiety, irritability and moodiness
- Openness – including insight and imagination
It’s important to note that most people lie somewhere between the extreme ends of each category, they don’t represent an absolute, but are rather a “continuum between two extremes.”
On the whole, these tests present an accurate insight into an individual’s character on which an employer can base an informed decision about their suitability to the role and organisation. Aptitude tests can’t be influenced by the sitter, however if you choose to it is possible to sway the personality test; to lean the answers towards a certain direction that you think the employer is looking for. However, a word of caution in doing so; this will not benefit anyone long term, especially the individual. Prior to advertising a role, the employer will have carefully assessed the criteria they require from its incumbent. If the results are skewed because the questions are not answered honestly and instinctively, it’s unlikely the job seeker will possess the qualities they are looking for and will not be able to maintain this façade over time, resulting in poor long-term prospects for both the employer and employee.
Preparation is possible to become familiar with the format and style of questions. Online testing is available and the Psychological Testing Centre run by the British Psychological Society is an excellent and reliable place to start.