Job Search Guide: Strategies for Professionals
Some employers use tests or other assessment tools as part of their screening process. In most instances, these instruments are given as part of the prescreening process, but sometimes they are given after hire. Below is a listing and a brief description of the types of assessment tools that employers may use.
Two classes of ability tests that employers administer are:
General Ability Tests - measure general abilities such as verbal, mathematical and reasoning skills. These are skills that contribute to success in many different types of jobs. For example, many professional jobs require you to read and comprehend written material, so the employer might administer a verbal ability test.
Specific Ability Tests - measure more narrowly defined abilities directly related to specific areas of job performance. For example, you might be asked to take a mechanical ability test if you are applying for an engineering position or a job with an architectural firm. For a position that requires working with electronic equipment, you might be asked to take an electronics ability test.Usually, both classes of ability tests are timed and in a multiple-choice format. You probably took similar types of tests in high school or when applying for college. You can't study for ability tests, but you might familiarize yourself with the testing process by taking tests from textbooks or test preparation books. Work within time limits to get comfortable with the testing process.
Skills tests can be in a written or work sample format.
If the test is in a written format, you may be asked specific questions about particular job tasks. For example, if you are taking a skills test for tax accountants, you may be asked to answer questions about filling out tax forms. Or if you were applying for a personnel position, you might be asked questions about conducting an interview.
If the test is in a work sample format, you will actually perform portions of the job. For example, if you were applying for the tax accountant position, you would actually complete a tax form. If you were applying for the personnel position, you would actually conduct the interview.
You can prepare for skills tests by "studying up" and practicing skills that you think are important to the job for which you are applying. For example, if you took courses in college that apply to the job, you might want to reread some of your notes or review text books. Or you might want to review projects that you completed on a former job that related directly to the new position.
In-basket test. You are asked to sit at a desk and sort through materials left in an in-basket. Based on the information presented, you might be asked to prioritize work responsibilities, make recommendations for a plan of action, or solve a specific problem. You can be asked to provide a written response to the in-basket exercise or to present a verbal response.
Leaderless group discussion. You and a group of applicants are asked to solve a problem. Your performance is being evaluated based on the behaviors you exhibit during the ensuing discussion to solve the problem. The employer might be trying to evaluate your leadership abilities, that is, looking at whether or not you take a lead role in the discussion. They might also try to evaluate if you are a good team player and seem to interact well with other group members.
Role-play exercise. You are asked to meet with a "mock employee" and help that employee solve a particular problem. The employee is usually played by an assessment center facilitator trained to act out and provide information about a problem he or she is having at work. Before you meet with the employee, you are given background information about the problem. Examples of situations you might be asked to deal with are tardiness, missed deadlines or a problem related to a particular work project. Your performance can be judged on behaviors demonstrated, advice given, or in general how well you helped the employee solve the problem.
Assessment centers are expensive to set up so they are mainly used by larger public and private sector companies which can afford them. However, in recent years, assessment centers have gained in popularity. Many private consulting firms have been set up to design assessment center exercises. Even if you are applying to a smaller company, you might be asked to participate in assessment center-type exercises.
Unlike ability tests, personality and interest inventories attempt to assess non-cognitive, underlying characteristics of individuals. These inventories can help an employer evaluate your motives, needs, values, goals or dispositions. Personality inventories, such as the California Psychological Inventory and the Hogan Personality Inventory, can he used to assess such characteristics as self-confidence, sociability and flexibility. Interest inventories, such as the Strong Interest Inventory or Holland's Self-Directed Search, can be used to help assess whether you are creative, social, enterprising or investigative.
Unlike many other types of tests used for personnel selection, there are no right or wrong answers to personality and interest inventories. You are asked to answer questions about things you like or do not like to do. For example, you might be asked about what type of activities you like to do in your spare time or if you prefer working with groups of people rather than by yourself. Employers can use personality and interest inventories to assess your creativity, leadership abilities or level of self-esteem. When completing a personality or interest inventory, you might notice that some of the questions seem similar or are just being asked in a different a way. Repeated or rephrased questions are included to make sure that you are answering questions truthfully and are not "faking."
To help ensure they hire honest employees, employers administer integrity tests. Usually, there are two types of questions asked on these tests. The first type asks about illegal or dishonest behaviors you may have exhibited in the past. For example, you might be asked if you have ever walked out of a restaurant without paying the bill. The second type asks about your attitudes toward dishonest behavior. For example, you could be asked about your views on punishing shoplifters. On an integrity test, you also might be asked questions about past involvement with drugs or alcohol.
Like personality and interest inventories, questions are sometimes repeated on integrity tests to check for "faking." Also, studies have shown that on many integrity tests, it is difficult to "cheat"; in other words, it is difficult for the applicant to figure out which is the "right" answer. Like all selection instruments, the best way to respond to questions is in a truthful, professional manner.
Go to Table of Contents, Handling Your Job Loss, Managing Your Personal Resources, Assessing Your Skills, Experiences and Interests, Researching the Job Market, Conducting the Job Search, Networking, Writing Resumes and Cover Letters, and Employment Interviewing.
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