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In this ultra-competitive job market, the race is on for companies to identify and hire the most impressive, qualified workers for their teams. And, because the most important roles often demand applicants with specific experience or skills, these companies increasingly turn to certain tools and tests to streamline the hiring process.
For job seekers caught unaware by pre-employment testing, the experience can inspire panic or doubt. With a little preparation and planning, however, market-savvy applicants can use these tests as an opportunity to stand out from the rest of the pack and significantly increase their chances of securing a coveted callback.
Below, we'll go over the types of job assessment tests you're most likely to encounter when applying for a role, why companies use them, and how to turn them into an advantage when interviewing.
The Growing Popularity of Pre-Employment Testing
From their role in getting Americans back to work after World War II to their use by Han Dynasty emperors to evaluate would-be civil servants, pre-employment tests have a long, storied history.
Even so, perhaps no other era has seen these tests used as frequently and near-religiously as they are by companies in the 21st century, where more than 82% of hiring managers use some form of pre-assessment test to sift through potential hires.
But why has testing become so pervasive, and how can job seekers turn this trend to their advantage?
Benefits of Testing for Employers
For the average company, it costs anywhere between $4,000 and $20,000 to hire a new employee—and that's before any salary, benefits, or signing bonuses. Even then, prolonged candidate searches, top applicants dropping out during the final rounds, or even hiring the "wrong" person can double or triple this number.
Because of the amount of time and money invested in finding good employees, a skills test or other career aptitude test can help a hiring manager get the maximum return on investment and increase their chances of finding the perfect fit. Beyond that, career aptitude tests can help companies:
- Objectively evaluate multiple candidates at once to ensure fairness.
- Gain deeper insights into a candidate's career interests and goals.
- Predict how well a candidate will perform in a certain role.
- Gauge whether a candidate will be a good fit for the company's culture.
- Increase efficiency by screening for compatibility before time-intensive interviews.
Benefits of Testing for Job Seekers
While career tests may seem like a daunting aspect of the application process, the truth is that these tests offer the well-prepared job seeker another opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Approached correctly, pre-employment testing can be used to demonstrate skills and values, show that you've done your homework about what the company is looking for, and ensure your application finds its way to the top of the stack.
- Demonstrate what you've learned along your career path.
- Showcase skills and abilities you couldn't fit into your resume or cover letter.
- Highlight your personality and how you'd fit into the company's culture.
- Go beyond surface-level impressions.
- Prove you're committed to the opportunity and role.
A Breakdown of Common Assessment Test Types
Modern pre-employment testing is incredibly diverse, with different companies using different methods and testing procedures during the hiring process. Whether that means personality tests, values assessment tests, or even physical ability tests, researching a potential employer's test of choice can help you pass with flying colors when the time comes.
Some of the most common career assessments used today are:
From the Big Five Model to the DISC, many companies have begun using psychology-backed personality tests to determine how well an applicant would perform in a specific role, team, or the company's culture as a whole.
Typically, tests of this type will assess an applicant's affinity for certain predetermined personality traits, such as reliability or creativity. For example, JobTest.org's personality model CAPBOI uses the six areas of Communal, Analytical, Pragmatic, Bold, Orthodox, and Imaginative to sort its users.
Although it can be more difficult to "study" for this kind of test, taking a personality test early on in the job hunt can help you identify the companies and roles best suited to your natural personality.
Cognitive Ability Tests
As some of the most objective testing you'll encounter, cognitive ability tests measure things like your memory, analytical ability, attention to detail, and problem-solving capabilities. These may be more common in some industries than others but generally include tests such as Raven's Progressive Matrices or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.
Skills Assessment Tests
A skills assessment is a straightforward evaluation of what an employer can expect from your job performance. Depending on what the job description requires, this may include hard skills such as coding, proofreading, welding, or mathematics. Often, this type of test will be given as a sort of "homework" for applicants to complete prior to the next round of interviews.
Emotional Intelligence Tests
Over the years, emotional intelligence (EQ) tests have grown in popularity among hiring professionals to nearly rival other types of intelligence tests. Unlike their hard skills-focused counterparts, these assessments measure things like trustworthiness, loyalty, conflict resolution abilities, and leadership skills, then predict how well a person will perform in a given role.
Job Knowledge Tests
Similar to skill tests in many ways, job knowledge tests evaluate how prepared an applicant is to hit the ground running in their new role. Typically, this involves tests to gauge proficiency in different types of software, pieces of equipment, or other tools used specifically in the role for which you're applying.
Understanding How Personality Tests Are Used by Companies
While the type and specific purpose of personality testing may differ from one company to another, the general intent is the same: to see whether an applicant has the necessary personality traits to flourish in a role.
Rather than "labeling" or "sorting you into a box," these tests look to help employers better understand you as an individual and a professional so that they can supply you with the resources and opportunities needed for success. This may mean putting you on a team of people with complementary personalities, giving you duties or projects that energize you, or finding methods of motivation that resonate best with your values.
Depending on the personality assessment used, this kind of test measures personal qualities such as:
- Leadership Style: Do you prefer to delegate or collaborate? Are you straightforward with directions, or do you let projects develop organically?
- Work Environment Preferences: Do you work better within a rigid, reliable structure, or do you prefer flexibility and variance?
- Energy Source: What types of tasks energize you? What types drain you? What kind of rewards or praise can be given to help you feel fulfilled?
- Response to Pressure: Are you the type to perform best in a high-stakes environment, or do you need a predetermined plan to confront times of high pressure?
- Feedback Preferences: Do you work best with constant input and directions or do you prefer the freedom to own your successes and failures?
- Conflict Resolution: How do you handle disagreements or conflict in the workplace? Are you blunt, diplomatic, or conflict-averse altogether?
With personality tests, it's important to remember that there are no inherently "good" or "bad" answers. You are who you are, and a hiring manager's job is simply to see whether your personality is a good fit for the role in question. That said, knowing how best to communicate your personality traits and preferences can often mean the difference between impressive and lackluster results.
How to Prepare for Cognitive and Skills Assessments
Unlike other types of career assessments, cognitive and skills tests have clear right and wrong answers that can determine whether you land the job or get a dreaded rejection letter. Fortunately, this type of test's objectivity means you can practice for it like any test you may have encountered in school.
When going into a cognitive test or skills assessment, here are some tips to help make sure you perform at your best:
- Learn the exact skills, tools, and concepts you'll be tested on, then spend time studying them.
- Find practice tests or sample problems that match the test's structure and time limit.
- Identify the materials or subjects most challenging to you, then dedicate time to memorizing important ideas.
- Think of ways to communicate your history and experience with specific, high-value skills.
- Get plenty of rest and nutrition prior to the test.
- If testing from home, prepare the space in which you'll take the test.
What to Expect from Emotional Intelligence Tests
As one of the more recent types of pre-employment testing to earn widespread use, emotional intelligence tests can seem foreign or subjective to those unprepared to face them. Even so, employers are increasingly recognizing the value of hiring employees with high emotional intelligence, especially in high-pressure roles or positions of leadership.
Usually, this type of test will gauge your emotional stability, conflict resolution skills, and how well you manage various challenges that could possibly arise during your day-to-day in the role. When approaching an emotional intelligence test, there are some hard and fast rules to follow to make sure you leave a lasting impression:
- Don't try to game the test. Answering honestly and consistently will almost always work in your favor.
- Remember that these questions are more subjective than with some other employment tests. Read or listen carefully and make sure you understand each question fully before answering.
- Extremes are okay—but only in moderation. Avoid defaulting to one end or another of any scales you encounter while taking the test.
- Nuance and thoughtfulness are clear signs of maturity and high emotional intelligence, so don't neglect either in your answers.
- Trust yourself and your instincts, but refine them with professional language.
- Be authentic. It may be tempting to answer the way you think the company wants, but this often only kicks a problem of compatibility down the road.
How to Use Practice Tests for Professional Growth
When preparing for an upcoming assessment, one of the most important weapons in your arsenal is the practice test. Far from simple flashcards or memorization exercises, a well-built practice test can almost perfectly emulate the process you'll experience with an employer. That way, you can be calm, comfortable, and experienced when the time comes to take a test for real.
With JobTest.org's career tests, for instance, you'll gain the opportunity to:
- Identify areas in need of improvement and proactively seek out learning opportunities.
- Practice questions that may trip you up in a more formal setting.
- Develop more persuasive, impactful language to discuss your strengths and work history.
- Reflect on your personality traits and how they might improve your performance in a specific role or at a certain company.
- Learn ways to communicate weaknesses in an earnest, mature way.
- Determine whether additional help is warranted, such as career coaching.
Get a Head Start with JobTest.org
If you're looking for a way to get comfortable with pre-employment tests—regardless of which type you encounter—JobTest.org is here to help you gain new insights, sharpen your skills, and learn the tricks necessary to ace any job application from start to finish.
When you take our career test, you'll experience firsthand what to expect from even the most challenging job assessments. Once you're done, you'll have a custom-built set of results to take with you and use to practice, refresh your resume, or help build a compelling cover letter.
For those looking to take that advantage one step further, we can pair you with an expert career coach to provide insider tips and personalized advice designed to get you into the job of your dreams.
The right career is out there, so why not get a head start finding it?