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Employment Tests: Get an edge
By Erica Klein


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When you are in the running for a job there is a good chance you will be asked to take some tests. There are things you can do to help make this a win-win situation for both you and the employer. I'm going to give you a general overview of employment tests, discuss the types of tests you might be asked to take, provide pointers for doing well in pre-employment testing, and describe how you can come out ahead even if you don't get the job. If you don't feel like reading that much, here are the top three things to know about pre-employment testing:

  1. Keep a good attitude during the testing.
  2. Preparation can help for some types of tests.
  3. Find out if you are entitled to feedback and get as much as you can.

The Basics of Employment Testing

Know your tester and know your rights.
The cost of testing a single job candidate can range from $10 to more than $5,000. Employers are making a significant investment in testing you. Unfortunately, there is virtually no government regulation regarding who can design and administer employment tests.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Erica Klein's PDF book, Employment Tests: Get The Edge.

The more you know about tests, the more thoughtfully
you'll approach them
and the tests you take will help
you win the right job! Order your copy of the 36-page PDF book Employment Tests: Get The Edge now! New from Ask The Headhunter and North Bridge Press!

Most large human resource consulting firms and some corporations will use organizational psychologists to develop and perform assessments. Psychologists abide by codes of ethics and guidelines that ensure tests are reliable and valid, laws forbidding discrimination are scrupulously followed, and test takers are treated with respect. If the assessor is not a psychologist, he or she is not necessarily bound by a professional code of conduct.

Of course, you could refuse to take a test, and you can also refuse to participate in any part of any test. This will probably result in being rejected for the job. If you believe that the testing was illegal in any respect you can pursue legal remedies just as you can for any unfair and illegal employment practice. If you felt the assessor at any time treated you unfairly or with disrespect, you may want to bring that up with the employer and/or the assessment firm.

At no time should you be asked any questions about disabilities you may or may not have; this is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Questions about sexual orientation, sexual practices, with whom you live, your religious beliefs or your ethnic background are also inappropriate although not necessarily illegal.

Testing the tests: reliability and validity.
Good testing results in better predictions of job performance but not perfect predictions. A good test is reliable and valid. Reliable means it works the same each time it is given. Valid means it measures what it is supposed to measure. A vision test given outdoors would not be reliable if it was given sometimes on bright days and sometimes on cloudy days. A reading comprehension test would not be valid if it was given to people who read well but in a different language.

A test compares you to the ideal employee.
The principle behind this testing is that the employer has identified the qualities (often called "competencies") it takes to do well at the job and wants to see to what extent you possess those qualities. It is important to understand that employers will be comparing your scores to some ideal profile of a good employee in that job. In other words, if you are being tested for extroversion, analytic ability, communication skills and attention to detail for a customer service job, you are most likely to get the job if your scores match the profile of an excellent employee in that position, not if you score as high as possible. In other words, it is possible to be too analytical or too extroverted for a particular job.

An employer should administer an employment test to you in good faith, and the test and its interpretation should be legitimate. You must use what we have discussed up to this point to judge whether you want to proceed with an employment test.

Get An Edge on 5 Major Types of Tests

There are five major categories of tests you might encounter. For each one, you should be prepared to take steps to to improve your performance.

Intelligence Tests
There are several types of tests you may encounter. Most assessments will include more than one type of test. Intelligence tests (also known as cognitive ability tests) are part of most pre-employment assessments because intelligence is the best single predictor of job performance.

Personality Tests
Personality tests are also very popular with employers. These tests can be very long and will usually ask you to rate the extent to which a statement applies to you or to select your preference from pairs of options. Some of these questions might seem odd and unrelated to employment. Often, people try to select the answers that will show them in the best light.

You can learn much, much more about each type of employment test in Dr. Erica Klein's PDF book, Employment Tests: Get The Edge!

This advice-packed guide is loaded with
myth-busting answers
from an Industrial Psychologist who
develops and administers employment tests,
and who has taken every type of test
in the book herself!

  • 36 pages of insider information about tests

  • 25 Get The Edge tips

  • 12 advice-packed sidebars, and

  • Over 30 links to online references and example tests selected by Dr. Klein herself.

Order your copy now!

Integrity Tests
Integrity tests assess job applicants' likelihood to engage in counterproductive behaviors on the job. These might include stealing, lying, cheating and dishonesty. Integrity tests look at applicants' attitudes about these behaviors and they could look at applicants' past experience with these behaviors. Employers tend to assume that past behaviors predict future behaviors.

Situational Judgment Tests
These tests post hypothetical (What would you do if...) questions to job applicants about how they would behave in realistic job situations. Situational judgment tests can be specific to certain types of work and certain employers--in other words, a situational judgment test for a retail position with a large shoe store chain might be very different from one for a management position in a business office.

Job Samples
The third major category of tests you are likely to encounter is simulations. These are essentially role-plays. You might be asked to do one or more of the following:

  • sort through an in-box,
  • meet with your boss,
  • meet with your subordinates,
  • meet with your peers,
  • deal with customers, or
  • give a presentation.

Usually all the simulations fit together and draw on the same information. In fact, you may learn something in one simulation that you can use in another.

Get The Most from Your Test Experience

Get feedback.
Whether you get the job or not, you usually have a chance to leave the assessment with something of enormous potential value: feedback. Use the feedback session to learn as much as you can about your perceived strengths and areas for improvement.

Share your thoughts.
Don't argue if you disagree with some aspect of the evaluation. If you think it is relevant, go ahead and provide some information that the assessor might not have known. For example, you could say, "I'm afraid I did poorly on the first test this morning since I just found out my daughter is failing math and I was worried and distracted."

Since your final assessment score is usually determined by applying some subjective judgment to combine all your results, the assessor may take your comments into account.

Be an active, enthusiastic participant.
Try to come to an assessment well rested, well informed about the job and the company, and optimistic about the value of the assessment experience. If you are enthusiastic and engaged in the experience, you will likely perform better than if you are passive and uninterested.

Companies that use pre-employment testing tend to make better hiring decisions, have less turnover, and be more competitive and successful than companies that rely on resumes and instinct. When a company administers a battery of tests to you, it is making an investment. That's a good sign that the company may be a good place for you to invest your time and energy.

Learn More!

You've just read a short excerpt of Dr. Erica Klein's insider guide to employment testing.

Employment Tests: Get The Edge!

Have you already lost a great job?
Or a chance for an interview?

Get The Edge over your competitors!
Learn from a testing expert!
Prepare to perform at your best!

Get your copy of
Employment Tests: Get The Edge

Learn to master:

  • Cognitive Ability Tests
  • Personality Tests
  • Integrity Tests
  • Situational Judgment Tests
  • Job Samples
Get the edge on:
  • Why employers use tests
  • How tests work
  • How to perform well
  • How to compete for the job
  • 36 pages of insights and advice to help you in any test encounter.

  • Over 30 links to online references and example tests selected by Dr. Klein herself.

  • 23 Get The Edge tips to help you prepare for your next test.

  • 12 sidebars, including coaching and guidance about:

    • How to overcome anxiety.  

    • How to handle intense Assessment Center testing.  

    • How the limits of intelli-
      gence testing affect you.  

    • How to protect your rights.

    • How to ask for information you need before testing.

  • And much, much more!

PLUS: A Crib Sheet to help you prepare
for any test you encounter, so you'll have
the edge to do your best every time!


Employment Tests:
Get The Edge!




Please tell us what you think of this article. (We are also interested in hearing your stories about assessment experiences you've had: good, bad or weird.)

Erica Klein is a Ph.D. Industrial Psychologist who has worked in the field of strategic, competency-based selection and assessment since 1998.  Her roles have included internal and external consultant and trainer in industries ranging from public sector to healthcare to professional services. She is a popular conference speaker and author. Her passion is to take the insights that benefit employers and share them in a way that benefits jobseekers -- a win-win for all parties. Find her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericarklein/. Erica tweets job search tips at @EricaKleinPhD #jobsearch. Dr. Klein can be reached by e-mail at EKlein@yahoo.com.


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