Career Strategist and Performance Coach
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6 Tips on Passing the Dreaded Pre-Employment Assessments

6 Tips on Passing the Dreaded Pre-Employment Assessments
Advance Preparation is the Key to Gaining Access to a Company’s Front Door

Today I coached a fairly senior software account executive who was sure he blew landing his dream job because he failed one of the online tests he was asked to take. It was a cognitive reasoning test, similar to college entrance exams (ACT & SAT). He was also asked to take a personality assessment. My guess is that he probably did great on the personality test because he definitely fits the assertive, extroverted “sign on the dotted line” type of guy required for the job, but the cognitive test most likely was the deal breaker. He hadn’t taken a test like this in years, so he was nervous, unprepared and probably didn’t perform at a level that supports his knowledge and capabilities. He was not asked to take the third type of pre-employment assessment, a skills test which evaluates a candidate’s competency surrounding the skills needed to be successful in a job.

Here’s 6 tips I’ve compiled for job seekers who may be facing these type of screening tests:

1. BEFORE YOU GO TO THE INTERVIEW, always ask the recruiter/headhunter if they require tests as a part of the screening/interview process and if they do, ask for the name of the test. If they won’t give you the name of the assessment, ask what type of test it is. (personality, cognitive, skills, other?)

2. Go to the website of the test and PRACTICE! My client took the CCAT test. The company website has practice questions and you can pay to take practice tests. The site Job Test Prep offers unlimited access to specific test for a 30-day or 6-month subscription. If my client had done this, he would’ve been more confident and prepared to take this test and he could have averted this stumbling block.

3. Find out if the test is timed and if you are allowed to go back to an earlier question that you skipped in an effort to finish the easier questions first.

4. Ask the recruiter if it’s better to guess or to only answer questions that you know are correct. Assessments are structured and are scored differently in this area.

5. For personality tests, go with your gut, be honest and let it be. This will assess your fit for the culture of the company and the job. It’s really hard to move the dial in this area and faking it is not advised. If you do, you probably will not be happy with the job or company.

6. A third type of assessment and the most valid of all tests (in my opinion) is a Skills Test. These tests assess your competencies required for the job. For instance, software programmers are asked to program something, copywriter/PR people are asked to write a press release etc. If you’re qualified for the job, this is a no brainer and these tests gives you a chance to show your stuff. However, knowing the testing process allows candidates to prepare and avoid anxiety and overthinking the assessment.

Forbes estimates that 57% of large companies are using these tests to optimize their hiring process. If you’re asked to take an assessment as a condition of employment, ask the right questions and do advance preparation for the type of test you’ll be taking. For most of us, it’s been years since we did basic algebra and solved for “x” or had to choose the most appropriate vocabulary word. Don’t assume it will all come back to you! Shake off the cobwebs and do some practice runs to get your mind functioning in “test mode” again so you can avoid getting sidelined for your dream role by being culled out in the preliminary process.
Accessing the key to open the proverbial front door of a company, depends on your ability to prove yourself qualified and capable. Doing some advance refreshers and practice while preparing yourself mentally for pre-screening assessments, will enable you to move forward in the interview process with confidence.

Denver-based career strategist Kate Culligan coaches professionals during turning points in their careers to locate and secure fulfilling jobs or move to the next level within their current organization. Services include: personal brand development, accurate articulation of value and guidance in navigating the many tactical activities required during the process. Contact her for a complimentary initial consultation via and don’t miss her popular and upbeat Tuesday morning professional networking event, Career Connect Coffee Club . It’s been a staple in the Denver market for many years and is open to anyone in career transition.

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