I hated taking tests in school…I much preferred the term-paper option, which I excelled at (for myself and others, for a small “consulting” fee). Fortunately, I’ve never had to take any kind of employment test because when I graduated from college and started my first professional job, I already had two years of experience in an oceanographic laboratory and in the field. I worked as a co-op student for NOAA and upon graduation, was hired immediately as a research geological oceanographer. From that point on, my skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments opened doors for me no matter where my career path took me.
More employers are incorporating objective assessments as part of the hiring process. In fact, 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees rely on aptitude and personality tests for external hiring, and is expected to jump to 88% over the next few years. According to an article in the July-August 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review, worldwide estimates suggest that tests are used for 72% of middle management positions and as high as 80% of senior roles, compared to only 59% for entry-level positions. And these assessments are becoming increasingly difficult to game, making it easier to weed out candidates who may misrepresent themselves.
According to the HBR article, the tests employers use today focus on three major areas: Competence, Work Ethic, and Emotional Intelligence. Competency includes expertise, experience, and ability to be trained; Work Ethic addresses reliability, ambition, and integrity; Emotional Intelligence covers self-management, social skills, and political (organizational) skills.
Résumés, aptitude tests, situational interviews are tools employers use to evaluate competency. I think that accomplishments and achievements–especially if they can be quantified–speak loudly and go a long way to measure not only competency but the capability to contribute to the higher strategic objectives of the organization. Employers will use references, personality tests, and peer evaluations to assess a candidate’s work ethic. Different types of interviews (think-aloud protocols, situational interviews/values, simulations) and personality tests are common assessment tools.
Rest assured, your assessment scores are not the only criteria for evaluating whether you continue forward in the hiring process. They are used primarily to establish a baseline or threshold to determine the candidate short list. One of the most important factors is your likeability, and there aren’t any assessments for that. It’s how the hiring manager feels about how well you’d fit in with the existing team, department, or organization. And as I write in my new book, Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, many times the hiring manager’s intuition, gut instinct, or determination of “personal chemistry” with a candidate may override any difference in assessment scores with other candidates.