Online Employment Career Assessments

Many job seekers are reporting that companies are requiring some type of online assessment as part of their overall application. This was common pre-pandemic; however, during COVID, the use of pre-assessments has increased. We anticipate that this will become the new norm and trainees, especially those looking for non-academic jobs, should expect to take an assessment when applying for many different roles.

According to the Harvard Business Review, even back in 2015, 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees relied on assessment tools for external hiring. Companies are using assessments to help them identify people with traits and skills required for particular jobs; organizations feel that not only do these assessments help reduce the time and cost of screening candidates, they also help mitigate conscious or unconscious bias within recruiters and hiring managers.

Most companies use traditional self-report questionnaires, but some employers are now offering “gamified” tests that you need to complete via an app or a website that often has points and badges which add to the feel that you are just playing a game. Even if it seems fun and trivial, employers are often taking these results very seriously.

Types of Assessments – What is Being Evaluated

Employers evaluate many traits through your job search documents and your interview, but now they are also doing so through online assessments. Typically, here is what is being evaluated:

Designed to assess raw reasoning power through objectively correct answers, these assessments can measure anything from IQ to specific skills and abilities. The most common types measure verbal, numerical, quantitative, critical thinking, as well as abstract and logical thinking. In most cases, you don’t need to score in the top 1% of candidate, but you do need to meet a basic baseline to continue on.

Another type of assessment in this category is a situational judgment test (SJT). These generally don’t have objectively correct answers and focus more on a candidate’s practical reasoning performance. Content tends to be more tailored for a job at hand and so it will be important to think carefully about the culture of the company and type of role to which you are applying when answering these questions.

Personality/Work Ethic
Most companies want employees who are reliable and trustworthy as well as ambitious to a certain degree. Personality assessments often help determine who might be a good cultural fit with the organization and a specific role. Remember though that what is deemed a “good” profile can vary widely depending on the type of work and department within an organization. Each department likely has their own desired profile for success.

Emotional Intelligence
EI is often linked to overall job performance and leadership potential. Often EI is assessed through a face-to-face interview, but increasingly companies are using psychological tests to gauge interpersonal tendencies.

How to Prepare

Practice helps boost performance on almost any kind of test because it helps to reduce your anxiety and it helps improve your mindset regarding test-taking strategies. Practice is only helpful though if you are able to do so with a similar type of assessment that you will be getting. Ask your network of contacts or the recruiter what you might anticipate. Some companies even provide practice problems so you have a bit of insight into they types of questions you will get. Assume the assessment will be timed and if necessary, practice under those same time constraints.

Don’t try to scam the test
Firstly, well-designed tests often have anti-cheating features that help detect anomalous responses; however, you also will want a job that is truly a good fit for you. New hires who have misrepresented themselves will be quickly found out once onboard. So, do your best to excel but also be genuine.

Research key competencies
You will never be able to know exactly what the company is trying to measure with these assessments, but it can be helpful to research key qualities, skills, and values (resilience, global mindset, technically savvy) that the organization might be seeking as these competencies are often linked with their assessment tools.

Some resources to help:

How to Interpret Results
Companies will often send you an overview of how you fared during their online assessment, but these can be hard to interpret because they will often say vague sentences such as, “In the quantitative reasoning section, compared to other participants, your completion of the test was relatively fast. You tended to be highly accurate meaning you answered more tasks correctly as compared to other participants.”

Candidates might move on in the application process if they meet the baseline criteria for each dimension being assessed. However, the exact qualification and how highly the company is weighting that in their overall decision, is almost impossible to ascertain.  You might get seemingly positive results from an online assessment but not be moved on to an interview.

Human resources and hiring managers are likely the only ones who know the exact parameters being evaluated. Much like university admissions, the way hiring criteria and the way hiring decisions are made is not often publicized.

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