How to Handle a Test Situation

The job interview is still the most common way for companies to find a new employee. But even though an interview went well, it can be difficult to assess a person.

And because hiring the wrong person can have huge financial and human costs, many companies today supplement the interview with a test in order to have a broader foundation upon which to base a decision. Thus, the chances that you will one day be asked to take a test are very high.

Types of tests

There are several types of test, but they can generally be divided into three categories:

Intelligence or IQ tests:

This test measures logical, linguistic and mathematical capacity. For instance, you may be asked to sort shapes according to a specific pattern or to calculate simple problems. The objective is to test your ability to make common-sensical conclusions. An IQ test says something about your reasoning skills – your ability to come up with a concrete solution to a problem. But it is not necessarily the applicant with the best test performance who is chosen, as the test does not say anything about, e.g., social skills, creativity or ability to see the big picture.

Aptitude tests:

This type of test attempts to find out what skills you possess and how strong your command of them is. The test is often very concrete and can take the form of, e.g., a spelling test, a language test or a translation test. This type of test can show whether the applicant possesses the necessary skills for the job. It can also show how quickly and efficiently a person can acquire new knowledge.

Personality tests:

This type of test seeks to give an idea of personal qualities, e.g. independence, cooperation skills, preferred working methods and leadership skills, just to name a few. This is often a multiple-choice test consisting of approx. 100-300 questions. The structure of the test may require you to answer questions about your behaviour in various situations. This type of test shows what kind of personality you have – your typical behaviour and key characteristics. There are many types of personality tests, and they have a variety of names, including cognitive tests, profile tests, motivation tests and interest tests.

The most common type of test

The first two types of test describe your professional qualifications, while the third type focuses on your personal characteristics. For many companies, personality is very important – they want to know whether the applicant matches the company. That is why the personality test is the most common and is often taken as a point of departure for the personal interview.

Preparing for the test

Many think that it is impossible to prepare for such tests. But if you try similar tests beforehand, you can demystify the process. You may not feel as much pressure during the real test if you know beforehand what it is about. That way you can relax and concentrate on your answers. However, you need to know what type of test you will be taking – you can ask when they invite you to the interview.

What is the process?

Sometimes you will be asked to take the test at the company's offices or at the offices of a headhunting firm. The approach varies from computer testing to written tests. Sometimes you will be asked to take the test before the actual interview. In those situations, the test may take place online. One advantage of online testing is that you can take the test at home and at your own pace. A disadvantage is that you can't ask questions if you do not understand the instructions – should this be the case, you must not hesitate to call the employer or the headhunting firm.

Being tested can feel a bit strange. It is almost like taking a written exam, except that focus is on your personality. But it is important not have a negative attitude – if you say no to a test, you will most likely not get the job. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the quality of the test.

If you are critical and want to know more about the test, ask positive and interested questions about the entire procedure. You can ask who designed the test and collates the results, what kind of feedback you can expect, the weighting of the test in the final assessment and whether the test results will be kept on file and for how long. It is important that you get to see the entire test and the subsequent test results. It is also important that you get a chance to discuss the results with the assessment committee.

When your professional skills are tested

When you take an IQ or aptitude test, it is okay to be a little nervous – in fact that can improve your concentration. If you were very nervous, then talk about it at the subsequent interview, but avoid using it as an excuse for a poor performance.
During the test, it is also okay if there are questions you are unable to answer. Ask before the test begins whether you will have the chance to go back to questions you have skipped. Or if you don't know the answer, whether it is best to guess or leave it blank.

Give direct and honest answers for the personality test

There are no right or wrong answers in a personality test, and the worst thing you can do is try to 'cheat', for example by trying to guess how the company wants you to respond. There are usually a variety of questions that cover the same area, and it will be noticed if you give conflicting answers.

Another pitfall is if you try to make yourself more confident than you actually are. This can quickly be exaggerated and will most certainly be brought up at the subsequent interview. If you take the test online, it is also a bad idea to get others to help you with the answers. You run the risk of giving the impression of being a completely different person than you actually are. You also risk actually getting the job even though you are not suited for it. So answer honestly and without thinking too much. Off-the-cuff answers often give the most precise picture of you.

Use the test results

Once you have agreed to take the test, you may as well make the most of it and have faith in the test and in its usefulness. If you take a personality test, be honest and open yourself up to the assessment committee. But you don't have to view the test as the ultimate truth about yourself. It cannot provide a complete picture of you as a person, so if you do not agree with the test results or if you do not recognise how it portrays you, say so at the subsequent interview. That way you can view the test as a starting point for a discussion about you and your development potential.

A personality test can actually be a very useful tool. It turns your personality into something relatively tangible and objective, and it can enable you to talk about areas that are otherwise be difficult to grasp. The test results can also give you a chance to deliver clear, positive messages about yourself. And you can view the test as an advantage if you get the job – the chances are high that your personality is a good match for the position.



Photo: Colourbox