Interview tests

At some point as you change employment, its likely that you'll be subject to some form of testing as part of the application process. These tests are used by employers seeking more sophisticated selection techniques in an effort to screen and shortlist mass numbers of applicants and/or to "crystal ball" the likelihood of your "culture fit", performance, retention and development.

These tests take many forms with some of the most common including numeric, reasoning and psychometric tests. Another example is an "in tray" test - which quickly allows assessment of prioritisation skills and technical knowledge in a "real work day" type scenario. I've previously utilised a salary benchmarking exercise to test comp & bens analysts on their technical knowledge and application skills, rather than relying on potentially theoretical excel software knowledge only.

Rightly or wrongly, tests are used as a screening tool so passing becomes critical. In other instances, tests are used purely for a guide on what your development areas would be or on your professional work style. Many of us fear tests, having negative memories of them from our school days. However, if tests are part of the process for the role you want to be considered for, you'll have overcome your concerns.

Firstly, be super clear on what the test is likely to involve - what kind of content, whether its done on paper or online, is it timed on not, will you get access to the results, are the results a deal breaker? With maximum knowledge up front you can reduce your fear and properly prepare.

If the tests are designed by an external licensee, can you get access to sample versions in advance? The SHL website for instance has access to free trial tests which give you a taste for what to expect and how you might perform.

Especially in the case of numeric tests, remember that as a HR Professional, you probably don't use mental arithmetic as part of your daily remit, being reliant instead on spreadsheet formulas and calculators. It's likely you haven't done mental subtractions, ratios or formulas since school days! Thus its worth practicing beforehand to refresh your mind and re-educate yourself.

If you get the choice, do the tests in an environment without distraction. If they're online tests, use a reliable computer and internet server. Do the tests when you're refreshed, and ideally in good health.

Many tests are timed. If you know in advance how many questions will be asked with a total amount of time, calculate what time should be spent on each question, then stick to it - if you haven't completed one, move on!

Finally, remember that all of these interview tests are a guide only. Your results are so easily influenced by the environmental conditions under which you do the tests, your state of health (physically and emotionally), and potentially also the performance of other applicants. You need to accept that the pass criteria can be subjective, and is not an indicator of your intelligence, competence, calibre of experience, or ability to do the role!

5 top tips:

  1. Accept that tests are part of the process - if you want that job you'll have to play to the rules of the application game!

  2. Know what kind of tests you'll be undertaking

  3. Practice any areas that are not used as part of your daily work (truly, I've even had brilliant accountants fail a mental arithmetic test!)

  4. Ensure that you're focussed to give you the best chance of success

  5. Your world will not end if you don't meet the employers set criteria - keep a sense of perspective!