The Use of Psychometric Testing in the Charity Sector

4 minute read

What are psychometric tests?

Psychometric testing has become a recognised part of many recruitment campaigns. Most people can expect to be asked to complete a psychometric test at some point during their careers – and this includes people who work in the Charity Sector.

There are two main types of psychometric tests and they are both known to be used for recruitment for the charity sector (depending on the charity and role). These are ability tests and personality tests. Ability tests measure your skills in an area such a numeracy or verbal/abstract reasoning. Whilst personality tests help employers understand what you’re like as an individual as well as what your strengths and weaknesses are likely to be.

The type of tests they use is tailored to the requirements of the job. So if you want to apply for a role where you need to deal with data or figures, then there’s a possibility you’ll face a numerical reasoning test. This gives your recruiter an insight into your ability to read and process numbers. Similarly, if problem-solving is likely to be a huge part of the role, then the recruiter might ask applicants to complete an abstract reasoning test.

Why are charities using psychometric testing in their recruitment process?

Psychometric tests are a great way of working out who has the skill set to take on a role. That way, charity recruiters are relying on more than just an interview to assess the suitability of a candidate. This is particularly important in the charity sector where organisations simply don’t have the funding to make mistakes when it comes to recruitment. Recruiting someone who isn’t quite right for the job can dramatically affect the effectiveness of the organisation.

This is especially important in the charity sector as:

  • Charities are committed to a particular cause and aim to help as many of those who need them as possible. They are mission driven and genuinely want to do the best they possibly can.
  • They are funded by donations. This means that the money available to them is finite and that they are accountable to donors. If donors don’t see that their money is making a difference, there is a possibility that they will choose to donate elsewhere.

Getting the right people into the right roles is very important and psychometric testing can help recruiters discover the people who are best for the job.

However, not all charities use psychometrics and one of the main reasons for this is that the tests are expensive. So if you do apply for a charity that asks you to complete these tests then you can be sure that they understand the importance of bringing in the right people and are ready to invest their time and money in doing so.

Cancer Research is perhaps the most well-known charity that uses these tests to assess new recruits. In 2017, the first round of their assessment process included a Situational Judgement Test and a Numerical/Verbal combination SHL test.

What can you expect from the tests?

Organisation’s in the charity sector tend to use ability tests, such as:

  • Numerical reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Abstract reasoning

Some organisations use personality tests such as the occupational personality questionnaire (OPQ) to understand what type of person their interviewee is. For example, they want to know if you’re likely to have high attention to detail, have a creative approach and feel comfortable with persuading others. Or if you’re more likely to be outgoing, thriving on interaction with others. These insights into personality can be really useful as they give an indication of who is naturally likely to be a good fit for the organisation.

Another type of test that is commonly used is the situation judgement test. These present candidates with a range of different scenarios and ask them to select the response that they think is best.  With them, recruiters are able to see how a candidate is likely to behave. That way they can consider whether they are likely to fit with the values and behaviours expected within the organisation.

Tips and strategies for success

It’s really useful to know in advance whether psychometric testing is likely to form part of the selection process, and if so, what types of tests could come your way. The best way to find this out is to just contact the recruiter and ask, giving you a chance to prepare in advance.

If you’re asked to complete an ability test, there are a number of ways that you can prepare:

  • Make sure that you complete some practice tests. This really helps you understand what sort of questions are likely to be asked and how to solve them. There are lots of free tests available on the internet to help you with this.
  • Put yourself in real test conditions when you’re going through practice test so that you’re prepared for the real deal. Make sure that the test is timed and all distractions are out of sight.

There isn’t really any way of preparing for personality tests but you should always try to answer the questions as honestly as you possibly can. There are no good or bad personality preferences, but there are some that match better with particular roles. If your personality doesn’t quite match the organisation or the role that you’re applying for, then although you might be able to do the job, there are other roles that you would enjoy much more. Consider this as an interesting opportunity to explore other, better, career options.

Next Steps: Practice!


The best way to prepare for employment tests is to practice, so you can improve your skills for the real thing. There are a variety of free resources of practice tests online. Some of the best are:

WikiJob: Offers a range of free practice tests, including Situational Judgement Tests.

Practice Reasoning Tests: Three free practice tests with further explanations and training.

SHL: A range of practice materials from this test publisher.

To prepare for situational judgement tests you should ensure that you’re also familiar with the organisation you are applying for. Find out about their vision, mission and values and think about how these may translate into day to day actions and behaviours.

To Summarise

Psychometric testing is becoming more and more popular within the recruitment industry and it’s beginning to filter into the charity sector. Now is the time to prepare for this shift and make sure that you’re ready to tackle these tests to be best of your ability!

Have you had any experience with psychometric testing? Let us know by sharing your experience in the comments section!

Edward Mellett

Edward Mellett is a careers expert from London, England. His interests include AI, Neuroscience and Psychology.

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