The Occupational Personality Questionnaire is a 32 scale questionnaire which assesses an individual’s preferences particularly in the work context. Each scale refers to a particular part of personality such as influencing, assertiveness etc. The questionnaire requires an individual to respond to behavioural statements such as “I enjoy working with others” in terms of their agreement or disagreement with the item. Similarly to most personality assessments such as the Kenexa (PSL) Occupational Personality Inventory (OPI) and Graduates First’s Work Personality Questionnaire (WPQ), the OPQ also links back to the Big 5 model of personality which has long become a widely accepted model of personality for decades. There are 3 versions of the OPQ currently in use today.

OPQ32-n (Normative)

The normative version of the OPQ requires an individual to respond to behavioural statements on a scale of 1 to 5 reflecting the extent of their disagreement or agreement with the item. This type of scale for rating is known as a Likert-type scale. Individuals respond to 416 questions which take between 30-40 minutes to complete. The responses are compared to a relevant group of individuals who have previously taken the assessment – this is normally a graduate, managerial and professional norm group of individuals taken from the UK.

OPQ32-i (Ipsative)

This version of the OPQ is presented as 104 quads (as questions), where each quad contains 4 statements from which an individual is required to choose two as follows: one that is most like them and one that is least like them. The 104 questions containing 4 statements each equates to 416 questions similar to the normative version of the questionnaire. The ipsative aspect of this assessment uses a forced choice format in that individuals have to choose two statements as described above, from a quad of equally attractive statements. This therefore makes it very difficult to distort the questionnaire and employers like this version as a result; this version is more attractive for employers in a recruitment context as more applicants are likely to try to distort the questionnaire. See example of an ipsative 'quad' below:

  • I enjoy working with others
  • I like to plan my work in advance
  • I enjoy meeting other people
  • I am considerate to the needs of others

The use of Ipsative questionnaires has been challenged to some extent by psychometricians due to the way the responses are scored. Without getting too complex here, the responses help to 'internally' rank the scales (personality areas) which as a result make it difficult for comparisons against others.

This method of scoring has also led to questions around the pre-requisites of the classical test approach in that it is often difficult to observe a normal distribution which is required for 'normed' comparisons between individuals. However it is argued that this problem is overcome by the use of a greater number of scales (>16) and given the OPQ consists of 32 scales, this is unlikely to be a problem.The ipsative assessment is likely to take longer to complete than the normative version as it requires effort from the candidate as they reason between which item is most (and least) like them from each quad.

OPQ32-r (shorter ipsative format)

This is the latest version of the OPQ questionnaires and is similar to the OPQ32-i. The questionnaire uses a forced choice format, but no longer uses quads with four statements per question from which an individual is required to choose a statement that is most like them and a statement that is least like them; the OPQ32-r provides three statements per block, making the questionnaire easier to complete. There are still 104 blocks, which result in 312 statements in the questionnaire; this means it is 25% shorter than the OPQ32-ipsative which has in total 416 statements. As such, the questionnaire takes 30 minutes to complete.

Lie Scales, Social Desirability and Consistency

Most of these questionnaires contain some scale that assesses your propensity to distort the assessment. This can happen if you try and portray a more socially desirable image. The interesting thing is that these responses are also normed, such that there WILL be individuals in society who are overly critical of themselves and individuals who are overly caring and considerate and never lie – however this scale in conjunction with your profile can give a good indication of whether someone has tried to distort the questionnaire. If this is the case with your profile, you are likely to be questioned on this through probes for behavioural examples.

Consistency scales can give an indication of how consistently you have responded to items that are in effect asking the same thing. Lack of consistency may suggest that you did not understand the questions correctly at all or that you are trying to distort the questionnaire; both of these would give doubt to the use of your personality results for the assessment process.

Our advice

Complete the assessment as honestly as possible and it is as simple as that. You do not want to be flagged up as someone who is distorting an assessment. Furthermore, you want to be able to provide behavioural examples which are often sought based on your profile – being honest will provide a truer picture of you, and you will therefore be able to respond with genuine examples, easily. Finally, it is important to both the applicant and the employer to ensure that the person-job fit is good. For example, imagine an Introvert who manages to distort the questionnaire to suggest they love meeting new people as the role requires networking as part of the Marketing Manager Job role. It is unlikely that an Introvert would be very happy in their job as a Marketing Manager if they are consistently being placed out of their comfort zone having to do things that are contrary to their personality. For more information, see ‘Personality Tests’ under the ‘Psychometrics’ tab.

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