5 popular employer selection tests for students, and strategies for handling them!

Written by Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant

The keys of successYou open the email, it’s from the employer and (yes!) you’ve been invited for interview. But wait, you have to sit a test first? Is it time to panic, or are there any top tips for acing these tests and fast-tracking yourself onto the “selected” pile? We think so.

  1.  The “does your brain melt when the clock is ticking?” test

AKA: The verbal, numerical or logical reasoning tests

Still a firm favourite and used by over 70% of the major graduate employers, these tests explore how well you can reason with either written, numerical or diagrammatical data.

Our tips:

  • Don’t underestimate the impact that familiarity can have on your result. Whilst these tests are generally good at predicting future performance, they don’t account for you simply not being prepared to sit a test. Take a practice test and feel more comfortable with what follows.
  • Watch out if your basic maths is a bit rusty! Check out the free video tutorials on the basics of numeracy from percentages and ratios to exchange rates and beyond. Think “Year 11 type stuff”… nothing more.

Watch out for: The clock will be ticking, but don’t worry too much. Although you need to work quickly, you don’t usually have to finish all the questions to go through.

Best places to practice: Without a doubt, the Graduates First site is our number one go-to recommendation – you get over 20 different practice reasoning tests to try for free, video tutorials for numeracy and better-still, you can even find out what the right answers were and where you went wrong, too.

  1. The “how soon could we let you loose on our clients and customers?” test

AKA: The Situational Judgement Test

Relatively new, and yet increasingly popular, these tests are a “Do you know much about what this job really involves” test where you have to decide on your most (and least) preferred ways to respond in a series of scenarios.

Our tips:

  • Find out more about the job you are applying for – the skills sought and the qualities required. Job profiles on the organisation’s website or on prospects.ac.uk will help.
  • If you need a steer, perhaps think about the importance of customer focus, client care, professionalism, effective communication or taking action.
  • Doing nothing in a situation is often not a good strategy!
  • Take a look at the employer’s website and explore the values or behaviours they aspire to- this could give you a few more clues about what is important to them.

Watch out for: Think carefully over your least preferred option – it’s not just about selecting the most appropriate one. It’s also about being able to recognise how not to behave.

Best places to practice:  Beyond Graduates First, we would also recommend taking a look at Assessment Day.

  1. The “will others want to sit next to you?” test

AKA: The personality questionnaire

Only joking, of course they will. (Why wouldn’t they?) For many jobs and roles, organisations seek a diverse workforce who approach problems differently and bring in alternative perspectives. However, joking aside, for some roles employers find it useful to consider whether your typical approaches are appropriate for their jobs. For example, would you really want to see someone who is not particularly “rule conscious” serving in your police force or someone who doesn’t come across very confidently with new people in your lead sales role? Some jobs just utilise particular strengths more than others.

Our tips:

-Try to answer honestly and consistently – it’s about your future fit and happiness in a role after all.

– Have a go at some of the online questionnaires now, as they could give you a steer on jobs that may be a good fit for you.

– Try not to worry too much about these assessments. Firms often look more at extreme behaviours that would not be a good fit rather than only looking for the narrow profile of an ideal candidate. They will tend to use other indicators from your application or performance to inform their selection too.

Watch out for: Impression management scales are present in many tests to uncover whether you are trying to impress the employer. For example, have you really “always got on with everyone?”

Best places to practice: Graduates First has a personality assessment questionnaire that you can try out. Jobmi.com is also a great site for getting a sense of some of your strengths. 

  1. The “I am no longer a test, I am now a fun computer game” test

AKA: Pymetrics or Games-Based Assessments

New for this year, and being used by a few of the big names, these tests involve either short online rapid-response games like memorising number sequences, sharing winnings (or not), and responding to images, or playing longer interactive games. It’s not always easy to be sure what these tests are getting at but scoring could reflect how you approach problems, whether you plan ahead, your determination in the face of setbacks and your ability to stay focused. Testers stress the value of collecting data from these real-life in-game scenarios, as opposed to relying on how you say you would behave!

Our tips:

– Are you clear on the rules before you begin? Maybe worth reading one more time before you click start?

– Have you made sure you won’t be distracted mid-game? Are all your notifications switched off, is your battery fully charged on your device and have you been to the loo? (This may be one time you don’t want anyone tweeting you the latest “Fail” video or a shot of rabbit on a scooter)

Watch out for: Don’t try too hard to second guess what these games are looking for – different firms will have their own individual requirements from each game. You may choose to focus on making the most profit, for example, to show your commercial flair, when a game may actually be looking for your trust in others.

Best places to practice: www.pymetrics.com or www.arcticshores.com

  1. The “bet you wish you had kept that grammar text book” test!

AKA: Blended verbal reasoning test

The final test in our big five line-up is a new test for 2016, the Blended Verbal Reasoning Test, being used by a few financial services firms this year. Picture a blend of traditional verbal reasoning questions combined with ones about grammar, spelling, punctuation, choosing writing styles for different audiences and communication techniques.

Our tips:

  • Get the basics right and practise your verbal reasoning test taking, then take it up a notch by revisiting some of your old work on Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation. Just googling “Key stage 2 / 3 English Literacy” can help you to access sites like BBC Bitesize http://www.bbc.co.uk/education, and IXL https://uk.ixl.com/
  • To help with professional versus informal communication styles you could compare the style of annual reports or executive summaries with the way organisations present themselves on social media or in the PR section of their websites. Comparing the written styles of the broadsheet newspapers to the tabloids is another strategy.

Watch out for: Although this one is a real newbie, with the stress employers are placing on accuracy and professionalism, this test could really take off.

Best places to practice: CAPP have kindly put some sample questions online at: http://practice.cappassessments.com/Vrt/VrtPage.html

Ready to click go?

So our run-down is complete and now it’s up to you. Get practising, pound the pages of Graduates First and other free practice testing sites and then go show them what you are made of!

www.manchester.ac.uk/careers/psychometric

All Applications and interviews Graduate Postgraduate Undergraduate Undergraduate-highlighted

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