/ Asked by Randy
I work in a career services office for a large university. Our research has discovered that employment testing (i.e. personality tests, skills tests, etc.) are becoming more prevalent as a screening tool during the interview process. Does anyone have thoughts on these tests, and which ones are most popular? What should we be telling our students about them?
Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Thursday, May 22, 2014
You are absolutely correct that many employers utilize cognitive, competency, and personality testing nowadays! There are quite literally hundreds of assessments available to employers, so it’s difficult to comment on which are the most popular for any given industry. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for an organization to select and administer different assessment combinations for different roles, even within the same department, at the same company.

It’s been my experience that assessments traditionally fall into three categories:

Cognitive tests are often timed, and may highlight problem-solving strengths, the capacity to work well under pressure, the ability to make educated-guesses, and other related talents. These might include a combination of language, logic/reasoning, and math problems for candidates to solve. There are several well-known organizations which create and customize cognitive testing for employers, and free practice tests are sometimes available online for candidates to try.

Skills or competency-based assessments are tailored to the precise needs of the position (i.e. Microsoft Word and Excel testing for a role which requires that expertise). They may or may not be timed, and can be extremely specific. There are assessments such as these for just about everything under the sun, from customer service skills, to circuit-board assembly. Similar to cognitive assessments, it may be possible to find free practice tests online.

Personality testing (sometimes timed) usually centers around soft-skills and strong-suits aligned with a job opening. For example, a personality assessment for a sales role might involve questions related to overcoming client objections, motivations for success, and the need for recognition and reward. It’s always best to “keep your professional hat on” when completing these, and I advise candidates to be honest and trust their instincts. Personality tests may give the interviewer a better picture of what a candidate is looking for, and spark follow-up questions to be used in additional conversations prior to hire.
Answered by John, Hiring Expert at DuPont, on Tuesday, May 27, 2014
You are correct.  Tests like the ones already mentioned are becoming more common for certain positions.  I suggest you ensure that students are aware that the selection process may include pre-employment testing, but also let them know that they should not be overly concerned.  

A significant focus of employment tests are evaluating capabilities/skills that will be part of the job or assessing the candidates fit with the type of work and culture of the company.  Students should understand that these assessments are beneficial to the company and also to the candidate.  

Tests or no tests, students should review their experiences and the qualifications/responsibilities of the position they are pursing. They should participate in mock interviews, if possible, to hone their interview skills and research the company and get a general understanding of the their business and overall culture.   While tests such as these might be part of the process, typical preparation activities will still be effective.

Thanks for your question. 
Answered by John, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., on Wednesday, May 28, 2014
There is definitely an increasing trend in utilizing personality and skill tests as a screening tool during the interview process.  Students should be made aware that these tests are becoming more popular when going through the screening process for a job but it should be emphasized to not be too concerned with the tests. 
These types of tests are mainly used to see what the candidate’s personality is like.  Companies are looking to see if the candidate’s personality will work well with the type of work he/she will potentially be working in along with the culture of the company.  A suggestion might be to tell students to take these types of tests while in school.  It can be very beneficial for the students to know their strengths and weaknesses after taking a skills test.  If students know about their personality and strengths and weaknesses then they can assess the types of jobs they are looking for based on the results.  Don’t get me wrong, these tests are great and are being used utilized more often, but students should use these tests as a guide for themselves and not dwell on the feedback they are given from these tests.  
Answered by Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., on Monday, June 16, 2014
Employment testing (e.g., personality inventories, skills test, simulations, etc.) are a recommended best practice in the hiring process. Research has shown that these types of tests provide accurate measures of people’s skills and abilities and, therefore, we (at AT&T) use tests to identify people who are the best match for the job. The type of test we use depends on the type of job in question, so we perform what is called a job analysis before recommending any testing. The best rule of thumb that I would offer to candidates/students is to answer questions honestly – you have the best chance to succeed in finding a good job match when you are honest.
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