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The great psychometric test of Life

In my ongoing mission to find IT teen work before Summer, we were looking at yet another online application. In the olden days, if you wanted a job with a retailer, large or small, they tended to rely on the face-to-face approach, to check out if you were a people person. I mean, retail is all about the customer, so having staff who are good with customers should be top of the list.

These days, retail is all about following the online application process to a point where you forget which job it is you wanted to apply for. You also forget who and what you are by the time you finish most of them. It becomes a strange, other-worldly experience, where you pass through many portals, searching for the magic key to release you, either back into your own world or into the world of work.

As luck would have it, I am one of those aspies who loves all this portal business and is quite at home living in more than one world at a time. This is lucky for IT teen who, by the end of the application process, is usually ready to take to the drink.

This particular form was determined to sort the goats from the sheep very early on. No messing about with scenarios to see how fluffy you are, they launched right into the psychometric testing.

Rather than proper multiple choice, this was one of those true nasties where you have only two statements and must choose the one closest to your personality. eg instead of having 3 foolish or naive statements, plus 1 correct choice, you have 2 awful statements that you wouldn't touch with a bargepole on a normal day.

So, lying on my back, fighting off cats as IT teen clicked through the form on the computer, we were faced with such blistering decisions as:

1. I love to gossip with my colleagues at work
2. I think customers should be put in their place

Or, this one I did like:

1. If people are upset, I think they should sort themselves out
2. Sometimes I talk about people behind their back

Hmm, yes, great choices. Mostly, though, it's obvious, looking at it from outside the bubble, to see which answers you need to give. These tests have a habit of repeating similar questions, or at least presenting statements which lead towards particular personality types. The trick is in being able to spot them coming and then spot them again, a few times more, before you have finished the test.

I've always loved the cut and thrust of psychometric testing. I took my first one when I was in my teens, hoping to get a job in a bank. Luckily, I didn't make it through at the interview stage as I don't think I'd have been suited to the job, but the psychometric test was a breeze.

I remember it fondly, this first foray. I'd heard of them a little, I think my English teacher had warned us of their evils. I knew they wanted to see what kind of people we were, they told us this much before we took the test. Logically, I thought, they want to see who will be best at the job.

So, looking at the questions, I saw how if I answered truthfully, I wouldn't even get an interview. Such gems as:

1. I prefer to work alone
2. My friends are really important to me
3. Being part of a team is essential at work
4. I learn things quickly

Obviously, your friends are important and being part of a team is probably a good thing too, at least for your boss. But my natural instinct to say I want to work alone or to be honest and say I do learn things quickly was soon pushed aside when I recognised what they really wanted to know.

The above is a simple example but I realised before answering any questions that they would want team players who liked other people and could listen to them, while working on their own initiative. Then and there, in my first psychometric test, I put aside the real me and took up the challenge of coming across as a wonderful candidate who was everything they were looking for.

I found out later, in the interview, I'd been in the top 5% of the scores - there were about a hundred people there. I was very proud of this achievement, especially as most of my answers had been lies. I would possibly have sailed through the interview in the same fashion, except I was distracted by the strong smell of toilets coming in from the hotel lobby.

Through the years, for different jobs, I've completed many psychometric tests. The only time I have ever worried was when, for one job, they studied your handwriting. I had also studied my handwriting and knew it showed the real me. I even knew which parts of my letters showed my shaky grasp of reality and nervousness. This job I did not get an interview for.

All the others, where they relied on the psych tests, I got right through. Whatever they wanted, I was, at least for the few minutes I was taking the test. I would always be finished early when taking them and always be fully confident in my answers.

I've also done these tests in person, when people have asked the questions and looked searchingly at me as I answered. There is still no catching me out as I have my game face on and give the proper consideration to my answer, having already decided which one they want to hear before they've finished reading it out.

I believe the psychometric test is really apt for aspies, even the ones who cannot cope with social situations and feel they are really bad with people. For aspies, life is one big psych test, designed to see if we fit in and if we're the people others want to know.

The truth is, we don't often fit in and if people don't want to know us, that's their problem. But life still tests us, every day, presenting us with choices, often ones where neither option is the one we want. We choose and choose and choose, always hoping we still know the answers to these questions designed for people who don't think the way we do.

Just like the psych tests designed for jobs, the tests we pass through every day are pointless in the long run. Knowing the right answers, or the answers people want to hear, does not help us to become better at life. We do become better at hiding who we really are and in fooling others for the short time we know them. We are still us, though, at the end of each test.

The secret to finding the right life is just like finding the right job: psychometric testing will not work, as it's a system and aspies know all about systems. What we need to do is apply ourselves to the right life or job in the first place, as that way we don't need to work the system or choose the answers other people want to hear: if we are in the right place at the right time then we can be ourselves and not be worried about pretending.

When faced with nasty options that don't suit us at all, we can only choose one or the other and this is just how life works. How often, in the real world, are we faced with choices that really reflect who we are and what we want to do? Like in so many situations, we have to react to what we are given rather than choosing artificially easy scenarios that we can cope with.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can't try the psych test tricks on life too. Even if you are in the right place and doing the right things, don't put aside your special abilities to work the system and make the outside world fit your own skewed and tricksy universe. Half the fun in life is in affecting it as well as letting life affect you.

In other words, when necessary, use what life gives you to find your own place in it and to do what you want. Don't be dumbfounded into bad choices or bullied into giving the answers other people expect. Do your own thing, answer truthfully and then, when you feel more confident, make up your own rules for life and follow them.

This is always going to be much more fun than doing someone else's test, designed to weed out anti-social aspies who would rather watch the rest of the team float away on the life raft than miss the chance of being alone on the sinking ship. Doing your own thing confuses people: they find it hard to understand why you wouldn't want the guidance of others, helping you find your rightful place.

Readers, we are the others. I don't know about you, but I could write a psychometric test for anything now and gain a grim delight from doing so. Take pleasure in being on this side of the test so often in life and only answer the questions if you feel like it.

In the end, none of us, aspie or not, can really be defined by simple choices intended to categorise humanity into choices 1-4. Leave it behind and start working on number 5 instead.


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