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Passing career assessment tests

Employers use assessment tests to narrow the applicant field to the most suitable candidates and to weed out prospects who aren’t right for the job. An assessment test is any activity that candidates must complete within a recruitment process.

Examples of assessment tests

There are several selection methodologies used to identify preferred candidates. The best are those that distinguish suitable candidates on factors required for success in the role, such as influencing skills or strategic thinking, rather than spurious factors such as likeability or ethnicity.

Assessment tests include:
  • Application essays/questions – set questions the candidate must answer to be considered for the role. These are usually used to quickly sift out unsuitable candidates.
  • Structured interviews – a set series of questions identified as relevant to the role. These are often based around the specific competencies required to be successful.
  • Technical interviews – an interview assessing relevant technical knowledge, for example, a test of engineering knowledge for aspiring engineers.
  • Numerical reasoning tests – psychometric tests that evaluate competence in understanding and manipulating numerical data.
  • Verbal reasoning tests – psychometric tests that evaluate competence in understanding and manipulating written material.
  • Abstract/logical reasoning tests – psychometric tests evaluate logical reasoning and the ability to understand novel information, patterns and trends.
  • Mechanical reasoning tests – psychometric tests evaluate competence in mechanical or technical ability.
  • Tests of personality or motivation – psychometric tests that determine what a person is likely to be like, and how well this matches with the requirements of the role.
  • Delivery of presentations – exercises where the candidate is required to deliver a prepared presentation to a panel of assessors and answer questions on it. This is often assessed on both delivery and content.
  • In-tray exercises – exercises in which candidates are provided with a series of items to deal with to simulate the day-to-day demands of the role and provides assessors with insight into prioritization and ways of working.
  • Situational judgment tests – tests in which the candidate is presented with a scenario and must select their preferred response from the given options. This is usually used to assess organizational fit, attitude or motivation.
  • Assessment centers – a collection of exercises collated to form a single assessment event.

Typically candidates are assessed in a number of scenarios by a number of people. From a technical perspective, this increases the validity of the testing (ensuring that the test genuinely separates candidates on the most important factors) and reliability (ensuring that the test consistently deliver the correct results e.g. would the same candidate always be successful) of the selection process, and reduces the potential impact of individual assessor bias.

Common exercises used within such assessment tests include:
  • Interviews – these may include structured, competency based, technical, behavioral event, or other kinds of interviews.
  • Presentations – these may be prepared in advance or the candidate may be required to create the presentation based on information provided. These are popular in assessment centers as they allow assessors to evaluate how well the candidate has understood information they have been provided with, and how they chose to use this information.
  • Group exercises – most Assessment Centers include a group exercise used to evaluate how effectively candidates are able to work with others. Assessors are particularly likely to use group exercises to assess communication, influencing skills, teamwork and leadership.
  • Case study/analysis exercises – exercises where the candidate is provided with some case study material and is required to draw on this to complete a series of activities.
  • Influencing/data gathering exercises – exercises in which the candidate is required to convince another person (often an assessor or role player) to do something or provide particular information.
  • In-tray exercises - exercises in which candidates are provided with a series of items to deal with, this may be a stand-alone exercise or the candidate may be required to respond to ad hoc information and requests throughout the Assessment Center.
  • Psychometric tests – it is common for organizations to validate previous performance on online psychometric tests by asking candidates to complete a similar test under supervised conditions.

Prepare for assessment test success
To be successful with assessment tests, prepare! Seek to understand what the tests will be assessing, which usually involves competencies required for the role as found in the job description. Ask the employer what assessment tests will be included. Read up up on potential exercises and familiarize yourself with success strategies and the common mistakes that people make. Complete practice tests, and seek feedback to help you improve in the future. Manage your time effectively during tests and keep calm. These tests are designed to be demanding so don’t worry if you find them challenging. If you have a question about test requirements, ask an assessor, and most importantly, be yourself when answering questions.

Guest post by Edward Mellett

Edward Mellet is a U.K.-based career professional and entrepreneur. He founded WikiJob.co.uk and practicereasoningtests.com

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