Personality questionnaires: what is it and what is their difficulty
What are personality questionnaires
Personality questionnaires (PQ, OPQ, OPQ32) are designed to assess such characteristics of a candidate as shades of feelings, attitudes, motives and other personality (often subjective) traits. Such questionnaires are usually presented as a lengthy aptitude test that cannot be prepared for, and the results of which cannot be influenced. But the truth is, you can and must prepare for personality tests. The core of PQ is that the applicant receives direct questions about his character traits to which he must answer following the given pattern. Personality questionnaires use the ability of people to self-analyze and analyze their own experiences. They are conducted in a question-and-answer format, this type of assessment is also known as self-report.
Obtaining the results of self-reports is an extremely difficult process, because any specific area of our psyche is multifaceted and universal in its manifestations. One question is far from enough to determine everything that your prospective employer might need. A reliable characterization can be obtained only through a large group of questions. Such a group of questions in personality questionnaires is called a scale. The entire questionnaire can consist of several scales (most often employers use 16-factor questionnaires) and include from 30 to 200 or more questions. This assessment is called a “multi-factor” or “multi-valued” questionnaire.
Applicants fears about personality questionnaires
Personality questionnaires are the most puzzling element of pre-employment process. When you start your pre-employment aptitude test including a PQ, you are faced with the unknown. You see 100-200 questions to answer that seem to be mostly abstract and refer to your character only.
It makes you wonder how such unrelated questions enable employers to draw conclusions about whether the job is right for you or not. Typically, job seekers are not fully aware that these questionnaires are actually a way to measure their personality traits and behavior. Therefore, it is natural that some applicants think that such tests are inaccurate, while others believe that the questionnaires represent some kind of magic that “sees right through them.”
Both of these attitudes toward personality questionnaires are often the cause of failure. If you approach your PQ with inner rejection, anger, or fear, you are minimizing your chances of success.
In reality, personality questionnaires are a much more convenient tool for a candidate than many others, such as interviews or assessments. It is common knowledge that, for example, an interview can be unobjective, while PQs are computerized and the result that you can get depends mostly on you.
Impact of stress on your results
Any exam is stressful. Given the lack of knowledge about such questionnaires, as well as their controversial reputation, it is clear that they cause even more stress than other psychometric aptitude tests. If aptitude tests assess your specific skills or abilities, then your personality is not something that you could build or choose for yourself. In fact, even you are not fully aware of every aspect of you character. Therefore, the invasion of someone else’s experience into your mind and an attempt to reach its deepest depths is undoubtedly not pleasant, to put it mildly. The resulting stress can be bad for the final result and you should manage it.
Feeling stressed about taking a personality questionnaire/test can affect your behavior in the following ways:
- Excessive diligence
- Annoying behavior
When an applicant feels stress, it is possible for him/her to ignore some details in the test question, and, as a result, make a hasty decision. For example, you can choose the first answer that comes across, which you “liked” and at first glance it seems correct, and not fully delve into the essence of the question in order to select the appropriate answer.
Important! More often than not, people automatically miss important words such as “no” or “none.” You don’t want such silly mistakes to happen to you.
Here is an example of a question from a personality questionnaire:
People don’t understand my good intentions.
If you don’t think about both of these options, you may be tempted to choose option B so as not to be perceived to be offended by people. However, almost all of us were in a situation where we were not properly understood. Therefore, the answer “Never true” is inappropriate. By choosing option B, you run the risk of being mistaken for someone who believes they cannot be misunderstood. It is extremely important to carefully read both the question and each of the possible answers, and pay close attention to words such as “always”, “never”, “sometimes”, “usually”. In aptitude tests and personality questionnaires, the appearance of these words is the flag that let you know that you need to be careful.
Usually, there is no time limit at all for a personality questionnaire, or it is long enough to allow 1-2 minutes for each question. Some job seekers take the advice to take their time literally and spend too much time answering each question. You should be aware that in many assessment centers and in some software applications, the time limit has a major yet hidden importance. The total time required to take the test and the time to think about 1 answer is often recorded by the software and transferred to the employer. If you worry too much about the test results, you start spending too much time thinking about each question, rethinking your answers and revisiting them. Ultimately, it will take too long to complete the questionnaire. The evaluators will take note of your indecisive behavior and may conclude that you are too slow in stressful conditions.
Other candidates, under heavy pressure, become very indecisive. Imagine being asked the following question:
I don’t mind being interrupted during work.
- Neither agree nor disagree
This question may also appear in a Likert scale format, in which the numbers show how much you identify with the sentence:
I don’t mind being interrupted during work.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
When deciding how to answer this question, you may be pondering whether you should show that you like to be very focused when you do your work, or should you show that you are available even when you are concentrating on other things. As a result, you may succumb to the temptation and choose a neutral indecisive answer (neither agree, nor disagree, or the middle number on the Likert scale). A neutral answer throughout the questionnaire can lead evaluators to conclude that you are indecisive and fail to test in the proposed situation. This kind of indecision won’t help you, and employers don’t like it.
For cases where you tend to choose a neutral option, we recommend that you consider in detail which answer best represents the qualities that are suitable for the stated position. For example, if you are going to work as a customer support representative, you must show that you are always available. Conversely, if you are going to work as a software developer, focus and concentration are more important qualities. Despite the above rule, sometimes it is good to choose the middle answer. However, if you answer a large number of questions in this way, it will be considered a problematic pattern.
Your anxiety can also impact your attitude towards examiners. Some job-seeker become so worries about their test results that they repeatedly harass HR agents by asking questions and asking for clarification. Such patterns can play against you since examiners take them for a sign that you cannot do well in a stressful situation.
Preparing to take personality questionnaires
Thus, we have seen how high stress levels can interfere with your performance in a personality test. Conversely, when you are not worried and know what is required of you, your attitude towards the questionnaire will be positive and balanced.
If applicants come prepared for the personality test, they:
- answer all questions in an efficient, thoughtful manner.
- complete the questionnaire within a reasonable time frame.
- don’t waste valuable time worrying about things they cannot influence.
Stress plays an important role in your questionnaire results. It affects your responses and is an indicator of whether you can stay focused or panic in a stressful situation. The secret to reducing stress is to prepare early. When your stress levels are under control, you can confirm that you show your best personality traits in a PQ.
Complexity of the instructions of personality questionnaires
Personality questionnaires always begin some instructions. It would seem that following instructions is always a winning strategy. But in fact, some of the most familiar instructions for answering personality questionnaires can lead you to mistakes. The most common ones are:
- Just be yourself.
- There are no right or wrong answers.
- Give the first answer that comes to your mind.
- Nobody is perfect; everyone makes mistakes.
We believe these instructions are in error. Below we will tell you in detail why personality questionnaires should be taken as thoughtfully and balanced as possible.
“Just be yourself”
The purpose of the instruction to be yourself is to get sincere answers from applicants. According to this instruction, if you are generally shy, you will be shy during interviews and screening tests, and if you are impulsive by nature, then you should respond accordingly.
We believe that being yourself is a guideline for you to show your flaws and weaknesses. Conversely, self-discipline, rather than indulging your weaknesses, will give you the opportunity to show your best side.
For example, a person who is prone to aggression can be polite if he realizes this shortcoming and understands the benefits of being polite. Or, a normally shy person may be assertive if they are aware of the fact that this trait could interfere with their chances of climbing the corporate ladder.
Thus, you should not reveal yourself to the evaluators absolutely. Think about what each answer has to say about you.
“There are no right or wrong answers”
Employers like to say about personality questionnaires that there are no wrong answers in them. This is clearly not true. Personality questionnaires are used to screen and pick the best candidate for a particular job. Therefore, recruiters will recommend to employers exactly those applicants who best meet the criteria and job description and will reject those who do not meet the requirements. This means that there are correct and incorrect answers in personal questionnaires associated with specific job criteria.
“Give the first answer that comes to mind”
The purpose of this instruction is to make you not to think about the consequences of your answers and to respond spontaneously. But more often than not, a spontaneous, thoughtless answer is a bad one, either in life or on your aptitude or personality test.
On the personality test, like in real life, you have to be careful and think about possible future result. You have to think before answering and consider the results of your answers.
“Nobody is perfect and everyone made mistakes”
Many personality questionnaires use this statement to make you think that employers want your utmost honesty. In reality, their goal is to “open you up” and make you expose all your weaknesses. Including admitting your mistakes and shortcomings. If you fall for this trick, you will most probably lose the job pursuit. Answering your personality questionnaire, you should highlight your strengths, not your weaknesses.
This is our first article on how to take personality questionnaires. In it, we touch on the topic of difficulties and pitfalls that you may encounter when taking pre-employment questionnaires. On Aptitude-Tests-Practice we have made for you a large database of situational judgement tests and are working on a database of personality questionnaires. Read our articles on psychometric testing and be lucky!
See free examples on the Situational Judgement Tests page and in our articles: