Pre-Employment Testing With A Buzz.

A number of the folks I’ve been working with recently have been asking about pre-employment testing; specifically, psychological tests, and how to best prepare for them.   Of course this type of testing has been going on for years, and it is really pretty surprising that employers have not faced more legal challenges concerning the viability of these tests as they relate to potential employment discrimination.  That said, it is what it is.  Let’s deal with it in a minimalist fashion because the reality is that they are seldom the sole determining factor regarding the the hiring decision.   They are merely a piece of the puzzle, and are more widely used by employers as confirmation of data they have already received from you through the application, resume, and interviewing process.

Let’s first define and categorize pre-employment tests.  Pre-employment tests outside of drug screening are simply administered to find out the best candidate for a given position. They typically include some form of personality test, an aptitude test and some form of general educational assessment. The perception that has been manufactured is that they are these formal and structured psychological instruments.  They reality is that you need to relax. Think e-harmony after the first date rather than before.  Now in my opinion, that’s a good thing because there is no way in hades my wife 48 years, Linda would have dated me if I took a test before the first date.

Good luck is the intersection of hard work and preparation.  Unfortunately for me I was never really a lucky test taker. Nor was I ever very well prepared.  Fortunately for you, I learned over the last gazillion years in HR, staffing, and outplacement counseling to focus in on the following prior to and during the pre-employment testing process.

  • Studies have proven that if you prepare well, you can improve your pre-employment test scores.  Now this flies in the face of conventional wisdom which has held for years that these tests accurately measure intelligence, and cannot be improved upon. Now you’ll probably need to start giving your brain a regular workout which is not a bad thing, right?  This may sound fluffy, but start doing puzzles, word games, and some simple mathematical equation problems.  Get online, and research any number of online testing models, and take the practice tests.  Most are short and provide your results quickly, and free.  There are literally hundreds of free IQ tests out there.
  • Most  pre-employment tests provide certain sample questions that have already been solved to help you comprehend the style and structure of the particular test or section.  Take your time here and really scrutinize these examples.  Nothing is worse that getting half way through a section and then being uncertain as to whether or not your interpreting the questions in the intended fashion.  If you find yourself in that place, stop.  Bury your ego, and ask do not hesitate to ask for help.
  • Slow down and read the questions carefully.  Many candidates score low because of  not understanding the questions correctly. You must not sacrifice correctness for speed.  This is not a race.  Employers want things done accurately and quickly.  However, they would much rather have the accuracy over speed.  Speed will increase with familiarity and repetition. It is much better to have it done right the first time rather than quickly, but with poor quality.
  • When reading a question, circle or make a separate note if online of important words and keywords. For example, focus your attention on questions that contain words such a s “not” or “except” and circle them.   These are always tricky and this will help you to remember that a question in the negative probably needs to be answered with the true/false answer.  Now in the case of “except” type questions it becomes easier to select the exception.  Clear as mud, huh?
  • The experts, including me, myself and I advise that while answering multiple choice questions, you should use a process of elimination. Most of the multiple choice questions contain the answering options in this way:
  • A: One Impossible Answer
  • B:  Two Improbable Answers
  • C:  One Possible Answer
  • D:  One Correct or the Best answer
  • When you get stuck, which happens to me quite a bit, read a question and start eliminating the choices using the process defined above.  I can’t guarantee the right answer, but I can guarantee that doing this will be an improvement over the “blindfolded dart throw” approach.
  • There are some words such as “all”, “never”, “none”, and “always” that are referred to as absolutes. such as all, never, none and always.  Generally, they leave no room for exception. When you see these types of words in the answer, in most of the cases, that particular choice would be the correct one.

Look, you’ll do fine.  The bottom line is to remember that if you find yourself in the position of having to take a test like this, there is a strong likely-hood that you have made it pretty far into the process.  Also keep in mind is that if you have come this far by being able to demonstrate your value through the resume, and interview process, and that this test will not be the only factor taken into consideration when making a final decision by the prospective employer.

Buzz Smith is SR Curmudgeon & VP Consulting Services, OPI National Outplacement.  OPI National Outplacement and Career Transition Services Located in Knoxville, Tennessee.  865-531-9154.


About Buzz Smith

Welcome. My name is Charles “Buzz” Smith and I’m the SR Curmudgeon of Consulting Services at OPI National Outplacement. My role, in addition to agitating our sales personnel, and consultants is to take the lead on delivering outplacement and career transition services that are effective. I blog about career stuff when my wife of 40 years, Linda banishes to the garden.

Posted on June 7, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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