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Don't be alarmed: read these tips before completing your personality test

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Show your best self: check out GradAustralia's top tips on what to expect and how to prepare for a graduate program personality test.

When might you complete a personality test?

If you’re applying for a graduate accountancy position, chances are your competitors will have very similar academic credentials to you. Everyone has done a finance degree or equivalent. Everyone has covered the same subjects. This is where your shining personality, your unique set of characteristics, and your natural motivations will set you apart.

Somewhere in between your video interview and the group assessment, larger professional services firms like to send through a behavioural or ‘values’ questionnaire to gauge whether you possess the right personal qualities (emotional intelligence, personality and cultural perspective) for the company and role. This is usually done online and will only take around twenty minutes.

Why do they mess with you?

Good question! Personality tests aren’t actually put in place to frighten or intimidate you. In reality, behavioural testing is a more accurate way of determining how you work in a team, or whether your ambition outweighs your desire for collaboration. Sure, a hiring manager could just ask whether you play nice with others during interview time, but usually, your answer will be designed with all the right elements to respond in a positive way, detailing times when you’ve successfully completed group work or won a grand final with your rugby team. You might rattle off things like, ‘I really enjoy listening to other people’s ideas’ or ‘I’m good at working to deadlines set by others’.

In some ways, these kinds of questions reveal how good you are at answering questions, not how you actually connect with others in real life. This is where psychometric testing is useful.

What to expect

Most tests consist of twenty or thirty multiple-choice questions. In each instance, you’ll be asked to choose the option that best describes or applies to you.

Sample behavioural questions:

1. Would you describe yourself more as

  • Reasonable
  • Devoted

2. Are you more comfortable

  • Before a decision
  • After a decision

3. Are you more often

  • A warm-hearted person
  • A cool-headed person

4. Are you more

  • Introspective than observant
  • Observant than introspective

5. Are you more likely to

  • Nail things down
  • Explore the possibilities

6. Do you like writers who

  • Say what they mean
  • Use metaphors and symbolism

7. My goals in life are clear

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree (the worst answer you could choose, just by the way)
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

See what we mean? Some of those questions are rather cryptic. Just use your gut and don’t panic if more than one answer could apply to you in different situations. Choose the options that most represents who you are.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ answer when it comes to behavioural questions. Sure, there will be some extreme answers designed to weed out the sociopaths, but mostly, employers are looking to gauge your individual values. They will then relate these to how you might fit into particular teams.

How to prepare

Get yourself in top mental shape. Go for a walk, clear your mind, and be ready to answer questions according to your instincts. Be sure to answer honestly. Many behavioural and values tests have inbuilt lie triggers to detect whether your answers are inconsistent or overly positive. It’s great to highlight your professional strengths, but most tests will know if you’ve got some kind of strategy.

You can also take practice tests online so you know what kinds of questions will be asked and think of how they apply to you. Practising is also a great way to build confidence. You can check out some free practice tests here and here.

Tips for getting through personality tests

  1. Keep calm - there are no right or wrong answers (unless you’re a sociopath).
  2. Practice with a few sample tests online.
  3. Don’t portray yourself in an overly positive manner.
  4. Answer honestly according to your strengths and values.
  5. Steer clear of neutral or middle-of-the-scale answers that don’t give any information about who you are.

For more tips on personality tests, check out GradAustralia’s 5 tips on how to survive psychometric testing.