SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ): 2020 FULL GUIDE
What is the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)
The OPQ is a trait based personality measure which assesses an individual’s personality preferences in the workplace. The results are interpreted in line with a role’s key behavioural expectations to see how well someone is potentially suited to a job.
13 Key Facts about the SHL OPQ Test:
SHL OPQ test assesses your style and preferences (personality) to see how they align with a job role
The OPQ does NOT assess your ability
The employers use SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire to match candidates with the most suitable style and personality profile to job requirements
Make an effort to understand your work personality before you take the OPQ test with any employer; this will help you finding and applying for the jobs that you have a greater chance to get and succeed in (take GF’s Work Personality Questionnaire – WPQ to find out your own work personality)
The OPQ assessment is a self-report taken online, easy to complete and it’s based on how you perceive yourself
Before taking the OPQ assessment, check what type of candidate the company might be look for (use job post as a baseline) and which statements really describe you best
During the test, be consistent in your answers
Answer the questionnaire honestly as it is in both your and the employer’s interest that you are not placed in a job that is uncomfortable for you (e.g. an extreme introvert being placed in a Sales Business Development role may not be the best fit)
Information collected from the SHL OPQ assessment is used to explore further in a subsequent interview
Take work personality assessment regularly; as you grow and develop certain parts of your personality can evolve, so be sure to take the personality assessment again after 18 months
Do NOT click through the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire randomly or try to distort it in some way; it is build the way that it shows up on the results and you may be disqualified from further assessment process; remember there are no right or wrong answers in this test; the purpose is to find the best fit candidates
There are 3 different versions of the OPQ; they are described below
It offers a very similar online experience and therefore practice to SHL’s Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)
After completing it, you will have the opportunity to review your individualised expert report which is similar to what employers will see in a real assessment process
It has been built and tested by experts who have previously created assessments for SHL
The results are representative of your preference and style between 12-18 months. After this period of time, test takers would need to complete the assessment again to account for any changes in their professional or personal circumstances
Understand your occupational personality now to get the job that you will love doing, perform better and make faster progress in your career. Take the WPQ test.
Want to know more about OPQ and how to present yourself in the best way? Scroll down to find out.
4 Key tips to pass the SHL OPQ
4 proven tips to get the best out of the Occupational Personality Questionnaire:
Complete the OPQ 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. It may disqualify you from the recruitment process.
Understand your personality traits before taking the OPQ. , read the report, then think of and write down a list of experiences which can be used to present your personality traits.
Our WPQ uses the Big 5 model which links directly into SHL’s OPQ. This means that you can prepare for questions linked to the OPQ by using your results from the WPQ.
For example, your result on the WPQ may show that you are more inclined to take a ‘conscientious’ rather than ‘easy-going’ approach to your work. This means you are likely to be someone who is well organised, has strong attention to detail but may be resistant to change. This would tap into the following OPQ components;
Depending on what’s in the job description, these areas may be important for the role that you’re applying to so your interviewer may explore these areas with you.
Be better prepared for your OPQ interview by simply using your results on the WPQ, along with the behaviours listed as essential on the job description to think of specific examples in advance of your OPQ interview.
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. This will help you find the job that you will best match your personality and progress faster in your professional career.
List best jobs for your personality.
Based on GF’s WPQ results prepare a list of jobs that will fit best your personality. It is important to both the candidate and the employer to ensure that the person-job fit is a match.
A number of research papers in the field of Occupational Psychology shows clearly that people who are in jobs that play on their natural strengths and preferences are more likely to stay in the job, perform better, progress faster and have an overall higher level of satisfaction at work. For more information, see ‘
Be aware of trade–offs once you are completing the OPQ assessment on-line
Depending on the type of personality questionnaire you take, often you will find yourself constrained to choose between skills and competencies that seem equally desirable.
For example, you might have a specific number of points to allocate to statements such as: I am a good leader, I take initiative, I adapt quickly to new situations, I make new contacts easily, I have attention to detail: and will be asked to allocate points to statements depending how correctly they describe you. You might also be asked to just rate them in order that describes you best.
In such situations, you will face trade-off. The trick is to firstly analyse what type of candidate the company might be look for and which statements really describe you best. Secondly, be consistent in your answers. In the next few questions you will be asked to evaluate some new statements that will essentially describe the same skills and competencies order: e.g. ‘I am a good leader’ might be replaced with ‘I enjoy being a leader of the team’ etc. If you sometimes say you are more of a leader that initiative-taker, and then change your mind and rate initiative-taking higher than leadership skills – this will be flagged up as an inconsistency.
What does the OPQ measure
The OPQ measures three key areas:
Relationships with People
Feelings and Emotions
across a total of 32 dimensions. When taking the OPQ, it is important to note that it measures your style and not your ability.
Therefore, there is no right or wrong answer when completing the questionnaire.
A typical SHL OPQ profile report would look like this:
An example of the GF’s WPQ test and personality questions, similar to SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ):
A sample of the GF’s WPQ report, similar to SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ):
The employers use the OPQ to:
Identify best candidates for a role
Identify future leaders
Build and develop future teams
The OPQ test is a self-report totally based on how you perceive yourself. For this reason, it is not completely 100% representative of you. Assessors under best practice guidance would use your results from the OPQ in combination with other assessment sources such as a or a to truly understand your style and decide whether you are suitable for the role.
The Occupational Personality Questionnaire has a ‘shelf life’ of 12-18 months. This means that after this period, it is recommended that you retake it to account for any life and / or career changes. The majority of our personality components stay relatively stable over time; however, some parts of our personality may evolve due to our personal circumstances. GF’s WPQ questionnaire when taken regularly will help you observe changes of your personality so you can adapt and adjust your job seeking efforts especially when you change employers.
The OPQ assessment is taken online, it is untimed and it takes approximately 30-45 minutes to complete. You should answer the questionnaire as honestly and openly as possible, without dwelling on the questions too long in order to get the most accurate representation of your personality style. It is in both yours and the employer’s interest that you are not placed in a job that is uncomfortable for you.
For example, an extreme introvert being placed in a sales business development role may not feel naturally comfortable. The person would need to constantly work out of his/ her preferred style to have a chance of doing well in the job. Neither would this job be liked by the person nor the employer would get performance expected.
Built within the OPQ is a measure which looks at how you’ve tried to answer the questions. Depending on which version of the OPQ you take, it tries to understand if you have answered the questions consistently, (consistency scale) or if whether you have shown yourself in a much more positive light (social desirability scale).
Just like the OPQ, the Graduates First WPQ is based on the Big 5 model of personality which provides you with an expert report similar to what employers will see.
Our video below explains how to pass and present yourself the best way on the GF’s Work Personality Questionnaire:
Video title: How to pass your Work Personality Questionnaire
Alt text: How to pass your Work Personality Questionnaire
How can you best prepare for the OPQ
The SHLOccupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) psychometric test contains 32 dimensions categorised into three key sections:
Relationships with People
Feelings and Emotions
Although there is no practice required before taking the OPQ as there are no right or wrong answers, the below may help you prepare for some of the test questions by thinking about your natural preferences across the three areas that will be measured. i.e. are you more or less likely to behave in these particular ways.
Relationships with People:
This is all about how you interact with others.
Examples of personality areas that are explored here are:
Are you someone who likes to take the lead, or are you happy for others to take charge?
Are you relatively comfortable spending time in formal situations involving meeting new people, or do you prefer to spend your time in less formal situations with people you know?
Do you consult widely with others before making a decision, or are you prepared to make decisions without much consultation?
This is about how you read and interpret data and information.
Examples of personality areas that are explored here are:
Do you enjoy working with numbers and analysing statistical data, or do you prefer dealing with opinions and feelings?
Are you someone who prefers well established methods of working, or do you seek new, less conventional ways of working?
Are you someone who tries to understand the motives and behavior of other people, or do you prefer not to analyse and explore the reasons behind others’ actions?
Feelings and Emotions; this is about how you think and feel internally about different situations.
Examples of personality areas that are explored here are:
Are you someone who feels nervous before important occasions and often worries about things going wrong, or are you usually calm and untroubled before important events?
Do you trust others and often view them as reliable, or are you usually quite wary of people’s intentions?
Do you enjoy competitive situations and have a need to win, or are you someone who believes that taking part is more important?
The format of the OPQ depends on the version you are asked to take. The most common and widely used version is the OPQ32r.
You will need to respond to a set of behavioural statements that is the ‘most’ like you and the ‘least’ like you. This ‘forces’ you to choose from a choice of three statements per question.
Remember, it is important to answer the questions openly and honestly to help give you the best representation of your natural personality style.
Like other personality assessments such as the Kenexa (PSL) Occupational Personality Inventory (OPI) and Graduates First’s the OPQ also links back to the Big 5 model of personality. The Big 5 model has long become a widely accepted model of personality for decades.
How the Occupational Personality Questionnaire works
The OPQ versions
There are three different versions of the OPQ that are currently in use today.:
OPQ32r (shorter ipsative format)
OPQ32r (shorter ipsative format) being more popular among employers than the other two.
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 to each statement. This type of scale for rating is known as a . Individuals respond to 416 questions which takes about 45-60 minutes to complete. The responses are compared to a relevant group of individuals who have previously taken the assessment to understand how someone ranks up against people similar to them. This is known as a , examples of one that are commonly used by big companies are the ‘graduate comparison group’ or the ‘managerial and professional comparison group.’
This version of the OPQ is presented in 104 quads, each quad contains four statements totaling to 416 questions. An individual is required to choose two statements; one that is ‘most’ like them and one that is ‘least’ like them. The ipsative aspect of this assessment uses a forced choice format which requests the individual to choose two statements that are the most applicable to them. This therefore makes it very difficult to distort the questionnaire, unlike the normative version, and so it is a more favoured format by employers, particularly in a recruitment context.
Here are some example statements that may appear as part 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 ipsative OPQ assessment is likely to take longer to complete than the normative version as it requires the individual to reason between which statement is most and least like them from each quad.
OPQ32r (shorter ipsative format)
This is the latest and most widely used version of the OPQ assessment by employers globally. It is similar to the OPQ32i as it uses a forced choice format, however it presents the individual with three rather than four statements to select the ones that are the ‘most ‘and ‘least’ like them. With a total of 312 statements, making it 25% shorter, this version of the OPQ is easier and quicker to complete.
The OPQ knows how you’ve answered the questionnaire – Social Desirability and Consistency Scales
If you click through the OPQ randomly or try to distort it in some way, it shows up on the results. Most personality questionnaires contain a measure of some form to test whether you have tried to distort the assessment. Depending on the version used, the OPQ assessment either has a ‘social desirability scale’ or a ‘consistency scale’ at the end of the results for each OPQ completed. This tells the assessor whether your answers can genuinely tell us anything about your personality, or not.
Social Desirability scale
The Social Desirability scale appears only on the OPQ32n and it examines whether someone has responded in a socially desirable way to the questionnaire. A high socially desirable result may appear if an individual has tried to portray themselves in a more desirable way to an employer, however this is not always the case.
Such individuals may generally have high levels of self-esteem, may be less self-aware than others or have a high need to please the people around them.
Causes for a low result may be the opposite; low self-esteem, more critical than most or more self-aware.
The Consistency scale appears only on the OPQ32i and OPQ32r (most used by employers), and it examines how consistently you have responded to the questions presented in the OPQ. A low result on this suggests there has been a lack of consistency in the way the questionnaire has been answered, so the OPQ cannot confidently establish your preferences. This may indicate that you did not understand the questions correctly at all, or that you are trying to distort the questionnaire.
However, like with the social desirability scale, there are a range of alternative reasons why the consistency result may be low such as; indecisiveness, low levels of motivation to complete the assessment or a lack of self-awareness. Causes for a high result may illustrate that the individual has a high degree of self-awareness, or that they are decisive in their responses.
Important: In instances where you report to have a high social desirability or a low consistency result, your assessor / feedback provider is likely to explore this with you. One way they may do this is by seeking behavioural examples to verify your preferences in the area. This is because they will be looking to understand your personality preferences in areas that are important for the role that you are applying for.
Example: if the job you applied for needed someone who could comfortably create new ideas and think innovatively, and your preference in this area showed to be strong which would indicate a good fit for that part of the job, but your overall consistency result for the assessment was low, then the assessor may probe you for examples to ‘verify’ whether you you are naturally inclined towards thinking innovatively. They may do this by asking you to tell them about a time when you demonstrated innovative thinking. If your example is plausible they are trained to accept it regardless of your low consistency score.
What employers see in the OPQ report and what feedback you should expect
Why are personality questionnaires used? Why do employers measure personality?
Employers are more likely to make correct and confident selection decisions when they include a measure of personality in their selection process.
By including personality as well as traditional ability measures, employers are better positioned to hire the candidate who can do the job, but also someone who can fit into the team and the broader work culture. This combined leads to increased job satisfaction and engagement, creating a higher morale, reduced turnover, and cost savings in the long term.
Research in the field of workplace psychology shows that the difference in performance between an average and excellent performer is linked to our natural behavioural preferences and style. This means that two credible employees with great qualifications and experience can perform the same job very differently.
For example, both John and Steve are analysts; they studied at good universities, they have excellent previous experience and they demonstrate strong technical knowledge. However, when they were appraised at the end of the year, John got a rating of 4.5 out of 5 and Steve got a rating of 3. What affected the difference in these ratings? John received a higher rating because he is strong at dealing with and delivering under pressure particularly around month end, he regularly adapts his approach and seeks to build team spirit, and he often looks to create solutions to problems that occur.
These aspects represent our style and preferences at work which is what personality tools look to measure. They account for the difference in performance as it offers employers with a much more rounded picture of someone’s suitability to a role. It can tell an employer whether someone is likely to be a good fit to the team and the organization in addition to whether someone can technically do the job.
SHL OPQ Manager Report example:
The OPQ Report
An example of the SHL Occupational Personality Reports:
SHL OPQ Profile Report example:
SHL Occupational Personality Report Sample
Feedback you should expect from the OPQ
As a candidate, you should receive feedback from your prospective employer based on your OPQ test responses. This is the best practice guidance given by SHL. All candidates are entitled to some form of meaningful feedback after completing the OPQ. Not all employers follow that recommendation.
If you are asked to have a feedback session, you may typically be presented with the OPQ Candidate Report which gives a narrative interpretation of your results from the OPQ profile. The profile itself is a technical document that only a trained user can interpret and provide feedback on. Along with the report, you may be given the opportunity to receive verbal feedback from a trainer user. It is important to speak to a trained user if you have any questions about your results in order to get a meaningful interpretation. Do not hesitate to ask the employer to arrange a feedback session.
You can look at OPQ Candidate Report and discuss with the feedback provider the extent to which you feel the result is reflective of you.
The feedback provider would help you try to understand why the result has appeared in the way it has, or if you truly have a better explanation, then the feedback provider places their reasoning above the assessment result.