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How to Take an Assessment Test

By Cheryl Buxton

Wall Street Journal, Career JournalThe upside to a down employment market can be the push it gives organizations to make an inventory of their assets – not the least of which is their human capital. To do this they employ a wide range of sophisticated assessment tools that can highlight strengths and identify areas for professional development in their managers. However, research has told us that the typical interview – even when conducted by a well-trained professional – can only reveal a person's leadership style (what he or she does to influence others). Simulation based assessments, on the other hand, can go a little deeper and determine a person's thinking style, how he or she makes decisions "when the door is closed."

However, when asked to take an assessment, many job seekers are hesitant. After all, many people dislike tests – especially when they're designed to identify personal strengths and weaknesses. An algebra test only tells you how much algebra you know (or don't know), but an assessment exposes the insecurities and flaws you've tried to conceal your whole career, right? Well…Not exactly. Here are some recommendations from experienced executive recruiters on how to easily "ace" an assessment test:

  1. Relax.
  2. Even chief executives can feel intimidated by the assessment process. But it's important to remember that there are, in fact, no right or wrong answers. Advanced assessment methodologies use business case studies that are hard to game, so what's most important is to be yourself and respond candidly and authentically.

  3. Give yourself plenty of time.
  4. An assessment test typically lasts 45 to 60 minutes, and is conducted via an online survey, paper questionnaire or, for some organizations, over the phone. Remember that ultimately the purpose of the test is to raise or clarify questions, rather than provide 100% foolproof answers about your abilities.

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  5. Be open to receiving feedback.
  6. Once you've finished, the administrator may walk you through the results, asking more questions to get a clearer picture of your strengths and weaknesses, such as: Does this sound familiar? When are you more likely to use this style? How has it helped you? Does it ever get in your way?

    This is a chance to not only learn more about yourself, but also to put your behavioral patterns into perspective and demonstrate a high degree of self-knowledge.

  7. Help the assessor understand your own interpretation of the results.
  8. Doing this can help shed more light on what you bring to the table, as well as how you apply your unique style to a variety of situations. This is especially important if your assessment scores look different from what the hiring manager expected. In such cases, another interview might be arranged to address areas of concern. If everything checks out, they will continue to move you forward in the process, and may even recommend specific coaching once you are hired to fill any gaps.

As a stand-alone, assessments are not sufficient for making hiring decisions. However, when combined with all the information that is available about you, the data they provide are an excellent supplement and can add an important dimension toward understanding who you are. They can also offer another level of confidence that you will thrive in a new position. This process not only helps to maximize the hiring organization's investment in top talent, but also helps you to maximize your talent to perform at your best, even when the job market is struggling.


Cheryl Buxton. This article is reprinted by permission from www.WSJ.com, © Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

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