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Everything You Need to Know about Interview Assessments

By Guest Writer

Updated August 3, 2021 Updated August 3, 2021

By Ilana Klok

If you'll be applying for your first graduate job later this year, you’ve probably already been made aware of how important it is to polish your resume and produce a tailored cover letter for each job you apply for. However, what you might not realize is that your test-taking days won’t end after graduation.

In today's competitive job market, most employers use pre-employment testing to separate top candidates from the rest. Despite how common these tests are, the fact they can be such an unknown quantity can terrify candidates.

Fortunately, we have the inside track on what to expect next time you walk into a job interview. Here’s a closer look at the two main types of test you can expect to face: aptitude tests and personality tests.

What are aptitude tests?

Aptitude tests evaluate your relevant skills and determine if you can perform the duties that are required for the position you are applying to. Since so many candidates have the same qualifications and educational background, aptitude tests are a great way for companies to choose between candidates.

Unfortunately, there is no one type of aptitude test, so we can’t provide you with a one-size-fits-all cheat sheet. However, the most common aptitude tests evaluate a candidate’s overall cognitive capacity by testing basic numerical, verbal, or logical reasoning skills. It’s also extremely common to encounter a more technical test which would require you to display a job-related skill, such as clerical skills or Microsoft Excel skills.

Companies usually outsource these exams and use tests provided by assessment companies, which actually works to your advantage. If possible, ask in advance which assessment company test you will be expected to take, and use that information to practice using online practice aptitude tests. Popular assessment company aptitude tests include the CCAT Criteria, Kenexa, and Wonderlic.

What are personality tests?

Whereas aptitude tests assess your ability to perform a particular job, personality tests are used by employers to determine if you have the right personality profile for the job. They’re designed in a specific way to give employers an idea of how you will get along with your coworkers, and if you will be a good cultural fit for the company.

When taking a personality test, you may be asked to choose adjectives that describe you, or presented with sentences and have to decide if you agree or disagree with the statements. While you should answer questions honestly, it is important to understand how personality tests work and to practice beforehand in order to obtain a good result.

One of the most popular personality tests is the Big Five test, which assigns each candidate with five major aspects of their personality. The Hogan, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are also extremely common.

In the past personality tests were used primarily by governmental agencies or industries requiring a high level of responsibility such as airlines. In the current employment market though, most industries give their candidates some sort of personality screener. Companies have learned that providing more pre-employment screening can save them valuable time and money in the long run.

Be warned: most personality tests are designed to be extremely long and repetitive. The test questions can also feel wearying and confusing too, as they’re designed to have multiple answers that seem correct. Make sure you don’t become fatigued while taking the test, and try to answer all the questions consistently. Employers are looking for decisive and consistent employees.

Take a look at this practice personality test based on the Big Five test to make sure you know what to expect on the test.  What’s great about this resource is that it gives you an in-depth analysis of what traits employers are seeking for different positions.    

Top tips for preparing for your assessment

Read the instructions carefully: You should always know what each section of the test is asking from you before attempting to complete it. By doing so, you minimize the risk of making careless errors. This might sound obvious, but pre-employment tests are usually a new form of test for most candidates. They do not test a specific subject area like you are used to in university.

Familiarize yourself with the test beforehand: Before you attempt the test, you should already feel comfortable with the types of questions you will encounter as well as the content of the exam. For this reason, it’s important to study using practice tests prior to taking the actual test.

Get a good night's sleep: It’s important to get at least six hours of sleep the night before, to ensure you’re well-rested and alert. To reduce stress levels, don’t attempt to study the night before. Rather, engage yourself in relaxing activities and aim to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Practice good time-management skills: Many online assessments are long, and sometimes that means you aren’t expected to complete the entire exam. Don't rush just because there is a time limit—learn how to pace yourself and answer enough questions to achieve a high score.

Quality vs. quantity: There are two main test-taking strategies when it comes to timed tests: either to attempt as many questions as possible, or to attempt fewer questions but answer them correctly. When it comes to aptitude tests, it's better to answer fewer questions but have a higher percentage of them answered correctly. When practicing, try to identify which question types are hardest for you. That way you will know which questions you should skip and which you should answer, giving yourself the best chance for success.

Even the simplest test can feel challenging when you are under pressure with the clock ticking to complete the test within a certain time, but don’t panic. You’ve got the ability to be a success with this, so start researching and preparing for your interview assessment today.

This article was contributed by Ilana Klok. She is a pre-employment testing expert at JobTestPrep. She specializes in writing about the use of tests in the employment hiring process. 

This article was originally published in January 2018 . It was last updated in August 2021

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