To practise or not to practise? That is the question! What’s the score with the latest employer selection tests facing students?

actestpicAmanda Conway, Careers Consultant at The University of Manchester, explores whether practice does make perfect with 3 of the main tests facing Manchester students.

When it comes to applying for graduate jobs or internships, the chances are you will face a test or two along the way. Whilst some favourites remain firmly embedded in employers’ selection processes, like the numerical reasoning test for example, newcomers in recent years have included the online game assessment and a nemesis for many students – the situational judgement test! So what to do? How do you give a test your best shot on the day and what really makes a difference?

The old favourite – the reasoning test

Numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests explore how well you reason with data and have rated well for their ability to predict performance in a job based on performance in a test. But what if you are not giving it your best shot? What if you are simply not ready to sit the test? This is where the practice effect comes in. Being familiar with the types of questions you are likely to face and more importantly, brushing up on the techniques you will need to use (like percentage calculations, ratios, currency conversion for numerical tests), can make a real difference. If you want to do yourself justice, get practising. You don’t need to pay to sit practice tests – your university has done that for you. Log on to Graduates First, for example, have a go and find out what the right answers were and how you should have worked them out. There are even video tutorials on the site for any numeracy skills needed.

The friendly but feisty – the situational judgement test

Put together to give applicants a valuable insight into the types of situations they may face in the job, these tests usually appear relevant,  fair and quite friendly. But they can and do catch many students out. The responses sought by the recruiters are often not obvious and more importantly, can differ depending on what qualities the employer is looking for. Our favourite tips are to find out much more about the job you are applying for, the skills sought, the qualities required and what the organisation values are. Check their website and study their recruitment information closely.

If you need a steer, consider the importance of customer focus, client care, professionalism, or taking action in the job. Doing nothing in a situation is often not a good strategy. The Careers Service website has a good section on situational judgement tests and links you to practice tests on Graduates First, Assessment Day and other sites where you can also reflect on the preferred answers.  It can be a balancing act between understanding more about professionalism and not trying to be someone that you are not. Being yourself and happy in your work is not over-rated.

The new kid on the block – the online games-based assessment

Could this be that test – the one you can just sit, without any advance practise required? Claimed to give a truer picture of yourself and your personality than a questionnaire, these assessments immerse you in short online tasks and games to uncover some of your qualities and preferred ways of behaving. It could be about memorising number sequences, deciding whether to take a risk or responding to images. Not something that it is easy to prepare for.

Whilst being a seasoned gamer won’t convey advantages, it may help some people to explore their levels of concentration and speed of response– so practising brain training apps, like Peak  or Luminosity, could help familiarity. Scoring could reflect qualities such as how you approach problems, plan ahead, your determination in the face of setbacks or your ability to stay focused. However, it’s not always easy to see what these tests are getting at, so it’s best not to second guess. You may try to show you’re focused on profit-making, for example, and yet a game is more about your trust in others!

One thing you can do, though, is be clear on what the employer is looking for. Trying a few other personality assessments online could also give you an insight into some of your key characteristics and how they may slot best into the world of work.  After all, do you want to work somewhere that is not a good fit for you?

Is that it, am I good to go?

Nearly! It goes without saying that a good night’s sleep, a calm mind and an absence of distractions on the day will improve your performance, but remember, this will also mean turning off the notifications on your phone. A call from your parents or Snapchat updates from your chums, right in the middle of a game, will not do you any favours.

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