How (not) to take a pre-employment assessment

September 7, 2010 by Lisa McCallister

The key to completing a potential employer's skills assessment test is to anwer completely, honestly and quickly.

How (not) to take a pre-employment assessment

Many companies today use some sort of personality test or skills assessment for prospective employees. For employers, they can be a useful source of information that provides additional information about a candidate's fit with the organization.

Few prospective employees enjoy such assessments, however. Sometimes candidates feel as though their entire career is being reduced to a pop quiz. There are a few who detest such assessments so much that they would prefer to refuse to complete such surveys. That would be a mistake, since it would likely rule them out of contention entirely.

Organizations use such survey assessments differently. In some organizations, the results of assessments are open to broader interpretation.

In other cases, there is a minimum passing "grade." Candidates may be ruled out based solely on the results. In the medical device industry, Stryker's "Gallup" is widely known as such a make-or-break assessment. If you want to sell for Stryker, you have to pass the Gallup. Even people who have passed the Gallup, but never ended up working for the company, still feel they have bragging rights for having completed the tough assessment successfully.

I have worked with assessments that fall under both categories. There are times when I have received angry emails from prospective candidates about being ruled out because they did not pass a survey. I can understand the frustration. It is important to understand, however, that if an employer decides to use a survey assessment this way, then they have to abide by the results equally for all candidates. They can't rule someone out for not passing the assessment in one instance and then make an exception for someone else. When used properly this way, an objective assessment may actually level the playing field.

The best way to complete an assessment is to complete it honestly and quickly. You should choose the first answer that seems right to you, without any second-guessing. If you over-analyze and try to figure out what the "right" answer is, you may do more harm than good. Since most assessments have ways to measure whether someone has tried to present themselves in a more favorable light, your survey results could actually be flagged as distorted.

The use of assessments is on the rise. They are not likely to go away any time soon. They are part of employers' efforts to find the best match for their organization.