To practise or not to practise? What’s the best way to prepare for an employer selection test?

Written by Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant at The Careers Service

When it comes to applying for graduate jobs or internships, the chances are you will face a selection test along the way. Ranging from numerical or verbal reasoning tests, to some of the more recent developments like situational judgement tests and games-based assessments, graduate employers frequently use tests to provide a more objective assessment of your capabilities and likely performance in a role.

How can you ensure you give your best performance on the day and what really makes a difference?

Let’s start with the reasoning test

Numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests explore how well you reason with data and information such as graphs, written information and patterns. Your performance in these test can be a good predictor of your likely performance in a job. But what if you are not able to give your best performance? 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 in a test (like percentage calculations, ratios, currency conversion for numerical tests), can make a real difference to your performance. If you want to do yourself justice, get practising. You don’t need to pay to sit practice tests – we’ve got you covered. You can log on to Graduates First, for example, and practice their tests for free. You can also find out what the right answers were and how you should have come to the answer. 

A closer look at the situational judgement tests

Put together to give applicants a valuable insight into a job, these tests present scenarios and dilemmas that you are likely to face in the role. They usually appear relevant, and fair to job candidates, but they can and do catch applicants out. The responses sought by the recruiters may not be obvious and more importantly, can differ between employers depending on what specific qualities they are looking for. Whilst practicing these tests certainly helps, our tip is to find out much more about the job you are applying for, the skills sought, the qualities required and what the organisation’s values are. Check their website and study their recruitment information closely and you should feel more informed about which behaviours are most important to the organisation and therefore in these scenarios. 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.

Your Careers Service’s 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 games-based assessment

Marketed as an alternative to a traditional personality assessment, and 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 your qualities and preferred ways of behaving. It could be about memorising number sequences, deciding whether to take a risk during a task or deciding how you respond to various facial expressions. Not something that it is easy to, or necessary to prepare for.

Whilst being a seasoned gamer or practicing gaming skills won’t convey advantages – it’s not often about speed – having a go with games-based assessments may still help some people to feel more comfortable and explore their levels of concentration and speed of response. Graduates First have a few that you can practice. 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 interpret what a test is looking for, 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 again on which qualities the recruiting employer is looking for with the games. Trying a few other personality assessments online could also give you an insight into some of your typical behaviours and how they may slot best into the world of work.  

Is that it, are you good to go?

Nearly! It also 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 social media updates right in the middle of a game, will not do you any favours.

For more information: www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/psychometric/

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