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Pre-Employment Assessments and Tests

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Assessments and tests are becoming more frequent as part of the hiring process. And yes, many of them can be confusing, difficult, or just plain annoying. I’ve seen everything from a couple of questions assessments to ones that are a ridiculous 150 questions long. Assessments can involve asking everything from testing your problem solving abilities, customer service skills, and even personality type questions. Tests often are knowledge tests, but some companies make you undergo a personality test.

So why is this being done? In doing my research for this blog post, many articles declared that it wasn’t for the purposes of elimination but to check for fit or to see where one might need more training. I may be being pessimistic but I think that is a load of hooey. Knowing HR people and that they spend maybe five seconds looking at any given resume, I highly doubt any of them are pouring over the results of an assessment or test. It being “graded” by a computer and if the answers don’t reach a certain standard, you will fail. This doesn’t mean you should be terrified these assessments/tests. You just need to be savvy when taking them.

Let’s talk assessments first. With all assessments, read each instruction carefully so you know exactly what you are being asked to do. Don’t assume! The assessments are most likely multiple choice which means you can use the old elimination method, meaning getting rid of the two obvious incorrect answers. You are then left with two possibilities. Overall, when decided which answer to eliminate and which is the correct answer, you need to think like someone in management or if you were a customer how you’d want to be treated. Now this advice is contradictory to much of what is out there. Many articles would say to answer honestly, and you certainly can do that. However, if your honest answer is clearly the wrong answer….well don’t be surprised when you don’t get the job. An example of an assessment question is below.

A customer approaches you and asks you where an

item is located. Do you…

A. Ignore them and walk away.

B. Tell them you don’t know.

C. Take them to the item they need.

D. Tell them the aisle the item is located.

Let’s use that elimination method. If you were a customer, you wouldn’t be happy with A or B; neither would your manager. That leaves C and D. Either could be a possibility; neither is necessarily “wrong”. However, one is better customer service and that is what the employer is looking for. It is answer C.

Assessments will often also ask personality type questions, such as “I like to multitask and have many things to do at once.” There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to these questions so they can be very tricky. You certainly can take an honest approach here, but it can also help to consider the job you will be doing. Is it likely you will need to multitask for the job? If so, answer appropriately, but also consider the fact if you hate multitasking, do you really want a job where that is a requirement.

Job knowledge tests, while rarer, are often used in the public/civic service sector. Temp agencies will sometimes use them to assess your skill level before placing you. Job knowledge tests are becoming increasingly more frequent as companies attempt to find the best candidates. Common tests can be typing tests, reading comprehension, math tests, upwards to very job specific such as a test designed for IT Support staff. There’s no easy way around these tests. Either you know your stuff or you don’t. Still, use good test taking techniques: read instructions carefully, use the elimination method for multiple choice, take your time, etc. Before the test, study or practice. Use a test guide if one is available to get familiar with what the test is like. Sometimes, however, you may be surprised by a test at some point in the hiring process. Don’t panic. Remember that you applied for the job because you believe you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do it. Give yourself that pep talk and start the test!

The last test we will discuss is the personality test, such as the common Myers-Briggs. Personally I think if a company is asking you to take a personality test for a job, you should run for the nearest exit. Personality tests are notoriously bad at deciding fit for a job. But still some companies treat them as gospel. If you think about it though, just because your natural inclination is one way doesn’t mean you are unable to function another way. For example, I’m naturally a creative person, but I’m totally capable of thinking logically when needed. These types of tests will lock you into a box, and the business will think you are that box when you are capable of so much more. Full disclosure though: I am biased against these tests. I’ve had a bad experience with the Myers-Briggs. I still think they are a bad idea.

Have you had to take an assessment or test for a job? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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