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.

If you pass an assessment, consider it a positive sign that you may be a good fit for the job. As a candidate, you should nonetheless always do your due diligence to make sure the organization and position are the right match for your career. Candidates and employers ultimately share the responsibility of ensuring a good match for all concerned. The best way to achieve this is open and honest communication in all phases of the interview process.

Lisa McAllisterLisa McCallister specializes in recruiting for medical device sales and marketing positions with an operating room focus, such as orthopedics, electrosurgery, endoscopy and a wide range of surgical specialties. She has recruited two Rookie of the Year award winners. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her blog,

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