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  • Alice Rossetter

What is a "psicotécnico" and how to survive one.

A psicoténico is a psychological assessment which forms part of most recruitment processes in Argentina. In Europe and the US we are used to doing psychometric tests which measure a person's capabilities and skills. However, in Argentina tests proyectivos are also included which are designed to detect anything from neuromotor functioning to intelligence to personality traits. For most Europeans this type of testing would seem more appropriate in a mental healthcare setting. This is because in Europe and North America we have strict laws that prohibit any recruitment technique that isn't directly related to the person's ability to do a particular job.

I have to admit that when I first encountered this practice as a candidate for a job I found it bizarre and as I've learnt more about it as a professional I have often found it troubling. However, when in Rome, you're probably going to have to do what the Romans do. I've also had to adapt and carry out psicoténicos as part of my role as a psychologist here.

So what should you expect?

A single test should never be done in isolation and for this reason you should expect to have to do a few different tests maybe over the course of a few different meetings. The process will almost always start with an interview much the same as you'd expect in your home country although the questions are likely to be more personal.

The tests can be divided into two main groups - tests which involve some kind of drawing activity and tests which involve some kind of visual stimulus.

Drawing tests

There are many different drawing tests. Some are very structured, for example you might be asked to copy some diagrams, and others are more creative, for example you might be asked to draw people or animals in different situations.

Tests with a visual stimulus

You may be shown a series of images and asked to describe what you see, what the image could represent or you could be asked to make up a story making reference to the image.

So how should you approach it?

It's extremely tempting to try and draw or say whatever the employer wants to see or hear because you need a job. There are also many many extremely tempting websites which offer information about how to "pass" these tests. However, I would be extremely wary of trying to 'beat the system' for three reasons.

Firstly, these tests are extremely complex. Over the years I have received many desperate messages the night before a friend's job interview asking if it's better to draw a person wearing a t-shirt or a shirt or if the person's umbrella should be open or closed. These tests take into consideration many different components of the drawing, the drawing style and how the two relate to one another. For this reason the inclusion or exclusion of a single element is unlikely to make much difference to the overall analysis.

Secondly, there are very few personality traits that are one hundred percent positive or negative. Aggression sounds pretty negative but if I were looking for a sales manager to improve performance in a highly competitive area that's probably exactly what I would be looking for.

Thirdly, you can't necessarily second guess which personality traits the employer will value for a given position. Just last week I was speaking with a fellow professional about a meeting she had had with a client who is looking for a salesperson. Until she started speaking with him she thought he would be looking for someone aggressive, competitive and proactive. She couldn't have been more wrong! He wanted a team player, a good communicator, someone who can show empathy and solidarity with their colleagues.

For these reasons I truly believe it's better to close those tempting websites and just do what comes naturally. Tying yourself in knots trying to remember which image is the butterfly and which is the bat will probably make you more nervous and is likely to have a negative impact on your performance.

So take a deep breath and trust that you're in perfect conditions to be assessed by your potential employer. That way you'll be able to relax and do the best you can.

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