How to Pass a Pre-Employment Assessment

If you’re actively job hunting at the time you’re reading this, you’re likely to run into at least one behavioral assessment during the interview process before landing your dream job. But what can an online test completed in 20 minutes tell employers about you? Not to scare you, but it can be indicative of everything from a measurement of your learning ability to how likely you are to get your work done once you’re hired.

Doesn’t seem fair to come to hiring conclusions based on a test? Well consider this: 53% of all job applicants lie on their resume (Society of Human Resources Management, 2003). Also, positive references can be extorted or fabricated and an in-person interview only gives a quick snapshot of what you have to offer.

An assessment test, on the other hand, makes hiring more than a coin toss. It adds science to the equation. The scientific insight the tests provide is the catalyst for the prevalence of assessment tests in recruitment today.

Types of Assessments to Expect When Job Hunting     

Depending on the industry, while job hunting you could encounter any of the following assessments or combinations thereof, and many more:

  • Predictive Index, which is a behavioral assessment measuring personality to indicate potential success at performing job function. Essentially, will you do the job if hired?

  • Caliper and Myers Briggs are behavioral assessments measuring your general behavioral tendencies. These tendencies are then matched with the general tendencies of people who would be considered successful at the job.

  • Wonderlic is a cognitive assessment that measures learning styles. It tells potential employers how quickly you grasp diverse concepts and make sense of them. In a sense, can you do the job?

  • Honesty tests are sometimes given in retail environments to determine the likelihood of a potential employee stealing merchandise.

  • Sales Skills tests measure the aggressiveness and personality among others traits of the applicant.

  • Meeting with a psychologist to determine emotional stability is even a possibility at the Senior Executive level of hiring.

How likely you are to receive a test is usually based on the test model. Some tests are licensed to companies for unlimited use and others are offered on a fee-per-test basis. The Predictive Index test is an example of one that you would be more likely to encounter because of its cost structure.

Possible Assessment Outcomes

Now that we have you expecting to be blindsided by an assessment and likely sufficiently concerned about what it might tell your possible employer, let’s talk about the possible outcomes.

Outcome 1: You Get the Job!

The possibility you’re probably hoping for is that you get the job. The companies employing tests for hiring are aiming to find out what type of person will best fit the job they are offering. If you take a pre-employment assessment and you get the job, you can be confident that you are scientifically predicted to be a great match and also perform highly in the job. Hooray!

Outcome 2: You Get Offered a Position Other than the One to Which You Applied

Depending on the company, if you’re deemed a mismatch for the job to which you applied you may be considered for a different position. The likelihood of this happening is related to the type of company to which the job is attached.

Steve Picarde, Sr. is President of PI Midlantic, a Predictive Index consulting firm out of Annapolis, Md. that is celebrating 30 years in business in April.

Picarde shares, “If the job you’re applying to is in an aggressive sales environment, it could be black and white: you either have the aggressive yet personable qualities or you don’t. However, a hotel is like a mini city where there are many different roles available for all personality types. Companies who have the tools and the talents and are committed to putting applicants and employees in the roles that are best for them are most likely to bring you on board even if you don’t fit the behavioral profile of the job. If the hiring managers understand applicants’ needs through behavioral test results, they can better utilize them overall.”

Outcome 3: You Don’t Get the Job

We hate to tell you this, but you didn’t get the job…

It may not be what you want to hear but if you took an assessment and you didn’t get the job in part because of your test results the job probably wasn’t a good fit for you. You might have been a mismatch for the environment or your talents may have been misaligned.

Regardless, the test shouldn’t be the only measuring stick to which you’re compared. “No assessment tool should be the definitive answer to whether a candidate is hired,” remarks Picarde. “There are many other factors that come into play like talents and experience level.”

“The results may even show that you have the potential to learn to do the job but that you’re not ready to be hired yet,” Picarde continues. “It’s possible to apply learned behaviors to overcome tasks we don’t naturally do well.” You may need to try again for this type of job a little later on down the line.

One last silver lining when not being offered a position is that some companies choose to send their applicants home with a leave-behind report. Applicants who get to review their test results have the opportunity to learn more about their own abilities and for what type of job they may be best suited.

How To Pass

I don’t care about all of this advice; just tell me how to pass!

There are two structures of tests: those that ask questions that can be perceived as leading and those, like the Predictive Index, that have you select traits from a checklist.

Leading Questions

If you study the company, the job requirements, and troll the hiring manager’s online profiles enough you might be able to figure out what the ideal answers to the questions on the leading type tests could be. Hiring managers are looking for someone whose communication style fits well with their management style; who has the skills and personality type to do the job; who is good fit with the existing team; and who shows the most that they will actually get the job done.

Trying to trick the tests could only be successful with a healthy amount of self analysis. If you feel there is a function of the job or a trait of the company culture in which you are lacking, then make plans for how you can grow and change. The more you plan the more likely you’ll become closer to the ideal candidate and know the best answer when you see it.

Adjective Checklists

Tests that don’t use questions, like the Predictive Index, are much harder to guide. The Predictive Index simply offers a series of adjectives.

“[The adjectives] leave you feeling cold,” Picarde says with a chuckle. “You can only check the boxes that describe you. It’s nearly impossible to determine which adjectives would indicate you as a best candidate because there is nothing leading.”

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

All things considered, the best thing to do when confronted with an assessment test is to keep an open and honest mindset. Fill in your selections quickly and don’t over-think them. The more naturally you answer the questions the more accurate the results will be. If you trick the test it won’t describe you.

“If you successfully fake the test and get hired as a result, you’ll likely find that performing the job is like writing with your opposite hand. You’ll feel like you’re turning yourself inside out every day you go to work,” says Picarde. “You’re far less likely to be good at the job.”

To avoid assessment results negatively affecting your chances of getting hired, take some time before you begin applying to jobs in order to search your own mind and heart. Picarde recently spoke to Duke University students to whom he advised, “The most important key to a great career is to be self aware. Know yourself, how to do well with what you’re talented in, and surround yourself with people who are good in areas that you are not. That is the best way to learn.”

See the “types of pre-employment assessments” companion cartoon.


Steph McGuinn is CEO and Founder of HeartBuzz Small Business Marketing and SEO. HeartBuzz focuses on the Christianity, pet, psychology, cruelty-free beauty, and health industries and Steph writes content within those categories. Content authored by Steph aligns with her values and beliefs.

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