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Are you a recruiter or hiring manager looking for candidate pre-employment assessment tests and tools including personality tests? We invite you to visit our Assess Candidates website. 

What is the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire? How does the OPQ work? How do we prepare for the OPQ? If these are questions on your mind, then this is the guide for you. 

We at GF provide an SHL-style Personality Questionnaire designed by expert chartered psychologists that previously developed tests for SHL. Practice today and get your job, the first time.

Not sure if you should practice to prepare for your personality questionnaire? According to research, 60-80% of candidates are rejected based on their aptitude test results. It is proven that practice increases your chances of getting hired.

A recent study (Bradley et al, 2019) found that candidates who do not practise assessments, tend to fail at the first hurdle of psychometric assessments (54%-84%). This study looked at the Top 100 global employers.

Keep reading to discover… 


  1. What are SHL OPQ assessments?
  2. Why is the SHL OPQ important?
  3. What does the OPQ test measure?
  4. Which employers use SHL OPQ tests?
  5. Types of Occupational Personality Questionnaire 
  6. How do I prepare for the SHL OPQ?
  7. How are the outcomes of the OPQ assessment reported?
  8. SHL OPQ Assessment FAQs

 Without further ado, let’s dive in!

What are SHL OPQ assessments?

SHL OPQ (Occupational Personality Questionnaire) assessments are a widely used tool in the field of human resources and talent management. These assessments are designed to provide insights into an individual’s personality traits and behaviours in the context of the workplace. 

Discover more about SHL and the assessments they provide thousands of employers with our dedicated SHL guide here.

The SHL OPQ assessments are self-reported questionnaires where you are required to respond to workplace scenarios based on your preferences. Results are compiled into a personality report, offering recruiters insights into a candidate’s organisational suitability.

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Why is the SHL OPQ important?

The SHL OPQ is vital for improving hiring decisions, talent management, and team dynamics. Assessing workplace behaviour and personality traits enables organisations to build better-fit teams, develop leaders, and resolve conflicts more effectively.

 Its objectivity reduces biases and helps maintain legal compliance, contributing to enhanced organisational performance and employee satisfaction. 

SHL personality tests are based on the Big Five Personality Traits:

  1. Openness: Reflects a person’s creativity, curiosity, and receptiveness to new experiences.
  1. Conscientiousness: Measures organizational skills, responsibility, and diligence in pursuing goals.
  1. Extraversion: Evaluates an individual’s sociability and enthusiasm in social interactions.
  1. Agreeableness: Assesses cooperativeness, compassion, and consideration in relationships.
  1. Neuroticism: Gauges emotional stability and resilience in stressful situations.

These five OPQ dimensions provide insights into an individual’s behaviour, preferences, and how they are likely to interact in a work environment.

Discover more about the Big Five Model and how this is used in work personality tests with our complete Personality tests guide here.

Keep reading to discover how SHL measures you through these areas.

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What does the OPQ test measure?

The OPQ test is specifically designed to assess an individual’s behavioural styles and personality traits in a work context. The SHL OPQ assessment specifically aims to measure various dimensions of your personality, including:

  • Leadership Potential: Assessing leadership qualities, decision-making abilities, and the capacity to influence others.
  • Adaptability: Measuring how well an individual can adjust to changing circumstances and handle stress.
  • Interpersonal Style: Evaluating how a person interacts with others, including their communication and teamwork skills.
  • Motivation: Understanding what drives and motivates an individual in a work setting.
  • Thinking Style: Analyzing cognitive preferences, such as problem-solving approaches and decision-making methods.
  • Emotional Control: Assessing emotional stability and the ability to manage emotions in a professional setting.
  • Stability: Evaluating an individual’s consistency and reliability in their work behaviors.

What does the SHL OPQ involve?

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) psychometric test contains 32 dimensions categorised into three key sections:

  1. OPQ32 Relationships with People
  2. OPQ32 Thinking Style
  3. OPQ32 Feelings and Emotions

1. OPQ32 – Relationships With People

This is all about how you interact with others. For example, the questions and statements here may explore the following areas:

  • 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?

2. OPQ32 – Thinking Style

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?

3. OPQ32 – Feelings And Emotions

This is about how you think and feel internally about different situations. Some examples of the personality areas that are explored here include:

  • 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?

SHL Personality Test tip: When taking the OPQ, it is important to note that it measures your style and NOT your ability.

Take a break from reading and find out more about how personality questionnaires such as OPQ measure you in this short video clip:

What do Personality Tests Measure? | SHL OPQ, Big 5 OCEAN Model

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Which employers use SHL OPQ tests?

Many organizations incorporate SHL OPQ tests into their recruitment and selection procedures, often alongside other SHL assessments during the online tests stage. These employers include:

Lloyds BankGoldman SachsCoca-Cola
LVMHHeinekenCosta Coffee
Calor GasKimberly-ClarkThe Adecco Group

Check out even more companies that use SHL OPQ tests with over 100 step-by-step employer guides crammed full of super useful expert tips you can use to ace your next employer recruitment process and get your dream job!

Why do employers use SHL OPQ tests?

Employers use SHL OPQ (Occupational Personality Questionnaire)tests for a variety of reasons, primarily to assist in their employee selection and development processes. Here are the key reasons why employers use SHL OPQ tests:

Top 8 Reasons Why Employers Use SHL OPQ Tests

1. Effective Hiring: They help identify candidates who are a good fit for specific roles and the organization’s culture, leading to more successful hiring outcomes.

2. Talent Development: These tests provide insights into existing employees, aiding in their development and growth within the company.

3. Team Building: They enable organizations to build well-balanced teams by considering individuals’ personality traits and behaviors.

4. Leadership Development: SHL OPQ assessments help identify potential leaders and design development programs to enhance their skills.

5. Conflict Resolution: Understanding employees’ personality traits can assist in managing and resolving conflicts more effectively.

6. Retention and Engagement: By ensuring a better job-person fit, these tests can lead to increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

7. Objective Assessment: SHL OPQ tests provide an objective and standardized method for evaluating candidates and employees, reducing biases in decision-making.

8. Legal Compliance: Using a structured assessment like SHL OPQ helps organizations ensure legal compliance in their hiring and talent management processes.

In short, employers typically use the OPQ to:

  • Identify the best candidates for a role
  • Identify future leaders
  • Build and develop future teams

However, it’s key to know that SHL personality tests are often used alongside other online assessments to help narrow down the applicant pool.

For Example: The OPQ test reflects self-perception and isn’t fully representative. Assessors combine OPQ results with other tests for a comprehensive view. 

It’s advisable for you to retake the OPQ every 12-18 months to accommodate changes, even though most traits remain stable over time.

Aligning your job role with your natural tendencies benefits both you and the employer. Placing an extreme introvert in a sales role could lead to discomfort and potential underperformance, unsatisfactory for both parties.

Check out the short video below to discover more insights into how employers use personality tests such as the OPQ in recruitment:

How Employers use Personality Questionnaires to Hire | 2024 Guide | PwC, Barclays, Apple, P&G

Keep reading below as we discover some of the employers that often use SHL OPQ in recruitment!

Types of Occupational Personality Questionnaire

What are the types of SHL OPQ assessment?

The SHL personality tests being used today are called the OPQ32. These are a global way of understanding personalities, using 32 different aspects that show how work environments are changing.

 The three OPQ versions are:

  1. SHL OPQ32n (Normative)
  2. SHL OPQ32i (Ipsative)
  3. SHL OPQ32r (Shorter Ipsative)

Good to know: The OPQ32r is typically more popular among employers than the other two assessments. 

SHL OPQ32n (Normative)

What is the SHL OPQ32n test? 

The SHL OPQ32n, also known as the normative version of the OPQ, consists of around 416 questions and typically requires up to 60 minutes to finish. You’ll encounter statements that need to be ranked on a 1-5 scale based on the extent to which you disagree or agree with them. 

Responses are compared to relevant groups, such as the ‘graduate comparison group’ or ‘managerial and professional comparison group,’ to assess how one’s rankings compare to similar individuals. This practice is common in big companies.

Our Work Personality Questionnaire also uses the normative format, similar to the SHL OPQ32n. Here’s a sneak peek:

SHL-OPQ personality test example

There is no right or wrong answer when completing the questionnaire.

The assessment consists of multiple-choice questions that gauge personality traits like motivation, communication, leadership potential, and problem-solving, giving employers valuable insights into your suitability for a role.

SHL OPQ32i (Ipsative)

What is the SHL OPQ32i test?

The SHL OPQ32i is also known as the ipsative version. This questionnaire consists of approximately 416 questions presented in blocks of four statements (or a quad). You must choose the statement that most closely represents you and the one that least represents you from each block.

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 of the needs of others 

SHL OPQ32r (Shorter Ipsative)

What is the SHL OPQ32r test? 

The SHL OPQ32r differs in the format as a forced-choice questionnaire, where you need to evaluate three provided statements by ranking them from “most like” to “least like” themselves. Among the two versions of the OPQ32, the OPQ32r is the more widely used one.

It comprises 312 questions related to 32 characteristics, derived through factor analysis, including the Big Five model of personality traits and additional factors like Achievement.

Did you know? The online OPQ assessment is untimed, typically taking 30-45 minutes to complete. Take this time to answer questions honestly and openly without overthinking to ensure an accurate portrayal of your work personality.

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How do I prepare for the SHL OPQ?

Although there is no practice required before taking the OPQ as there are no right or wrong answers, it can be useful to prepare with our top tips below.

Top 6 SHL Personality Test Tips to Prepare and Pass


Prepare for the SHL personality questionnaire with our WPQ to help reflect on your past experiences and consider how they relate to your current work preferences.


Review the specific personality traits and behaviours that the SHL OPQ assesses. Understanding what’s being measured will help you respond more effectively.

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 an ‘easy-going’ approach to your work. This means you are likely to be well organised and have strong attention to detail but may be resistant to change. 

This would tap into the following OPQ components:

  • ‘Detail Conscious’
  • ‘Conscientious’
  • ‘Adaptable’

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.


The SHL OPQ aims to accurately reflect your personality. Be honest in your responses, and try to maintain consistency in your answers, as the test often includes the same questions presented differently to check for reliability. 

Keep reading to check out how SHL measures authenticity in the OPQ assessment.

For Example: Imagine the SHL OPQ is assessing your communication skills. If you describe yourself as a strong communicator in one question, ensure that this quality is consistently emphasised in other relevant questions.


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: In this scenario, you’ll have a set number of points to distribute among statements reflecting your skills, like leadership, initiative, adaptability, networking, and attention to detail. Your task might also involve simply ranking these statements according to how well they describe you.

Strategies for consistency and accuracy in trait matching:

  • Analyse the company’s desired traits.
  • Choose statements that truly match your abilities.
  • Maintain consistency in your answers.
  • Recognize that similar traits may appear in different forms, such as ‘I am a good leader’ and ‘I enjoy leading a team.’

Think about your past work experiences and how they relate to the traits being evaluated. Reflect on instances where you demonstrated the desired traits in a professional context.

For Example: for questions and statements around problem-solving, reflect on past work experiences where you resolved complex issues or implemented solutions. Consider whether you enjoyed doing these and how effective these actions were.


You may be provided feedback by a career counsellor or HR professional. Use this feedback to gain insights into your strengths and areas for improvement, which can benefit future job applications and interviews.

For Example: Understanding your strengths can help you highlight relevant skills in your job applications and interviews, while working on identified areas for improvement can help you better prepare for future assessments and career opportunities.

Watch this video to unlock your potential with essential tips for SHL OPQ assessments:

How to Pass Personality Questionnaires | 5 Personality Test Tip

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How are the outcomes of the OPQ assessment reported?

The SHL OPQ assessment results are usually presented as a personality profile or report, offering an in-depth analysis of your work-related personality traits and behaviors, with report format and content varying by organization and context.

  • Trait Scores in the report include numerical ratings for various personality traits assessed, such as teamwork, leadership, motivation, and interpersonal skills. They’re usually presented on a percentile scale for comparison.
  • Narrative Descriptions: Along with numerical scores, the report may include narrative descriptions of your personality traits. These descriptions provide a more in-depth understanding of your strengths and areas for improvement in relation to the assessed traits. 
  • Strengths and Development Areas: The report typically highlights your key strengths and areas where you may benefit from further development. It may offer suggestions for how you can leverage your strengths and work on improving specific traits.
  • Job Fit: Some reports provide insights into how well your personality traits align with the requirements of a specific job or role. This can be useful for employers for job seekers to understand how well-suited you are for a particular position.
  • Interpretation and feedback, sometimes offered by career or HR professionals, help you understand your results, address questions, and guide personal and professional growth.

What feedback should you expect from the OPQ?

As a candidate, you should receive feedback from your prospective employer based on your OPQ test responses as best practice guidance from SHL. Whilst candidates are entitled to feedback after completing the OPQ, not all employers follow that recommendation.

Your feedback 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. 

Good to know: Along with the report, you may be given the opportunity to receive verbal feedback. It is important to speak to a trained user if you have any questions about your results. Do not hesitate to ask the employer to arrange a feedback session.

Check out a sample of our WPQ report below, similar to SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) report:

Work personality questionnaire report

How does SHL Measures Authenticity in the OPQ Results?

Most personality questionnaires contain a measure 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. 

For example, if you click through the OPQ randomly or try to distort it in some way, it shows up on the results. 


What is the Social Desirability Scale?

The SHL Social Desirability scale appears only on the OPQ32n and it examines whether someone has responded in a socially desirable way. 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.


What is the Consistency scale?

The SHL Consistency scale appears only on the OPQ32i and OPQ32r, examining how consistently you have responded to the questions presented in the OPQ. For example, a low result on this suggests there has been a lack of consistency in the way the questionnaire has been answered.

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. 

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 but your overall consistency was low, then the assessor may ask 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.

Good to know: 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. They may do this by seeking examples in an interview to verify your preferences. 

And with that, we’ve covered all you will need to know about the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire!

Discover additional insights to frequently asked questions regarding the SHL OPQ by exploring the FAQs provided below!

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SHL OPQ Assessment FAQs

Is the SHL OPQ a test of knowledge or ability?

No, it’s a personality assessment, not a test of knowledge or skills. It identifies behavioral traits and how they can be applied in a work-related context.

Is there a pass or fail in the SHL OPQ?

No, there is no pass or fail. The SHL OPQ assesses your personality traits, and there are no absolute right or wrong answers.

Do I need to study or prepare in advance for the SHL OPQ?

It’s not about studying but being familiar with the assessment format and the traits assessed. Practice with sample questions to feel more comfortable.

Are personality tests biased?

Most ways to understand personalities are based on scientific research, but they’re not flawless. Figuring out personalities can sometimes have mistakes due to biased information or errors in the way data is collected and analyzed.

How can I use my SHL OPQ results for personal and professional development?

Review your results, discuss them with a career counsellor or HR professional, and use the feedback to understand your strengths and areas for improvement in a work context.

Practice and Register with GF to ace your SHL OPQ test first time

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