Preparing for assessment tests

If you’re getting ready for an interview, but are worried about the accompanying assessment test, here’s some advice to help you make the grade.

The three most common types of tests used are detailed below:

1. The in-basket test
This test is mainly used for managers. Candidates are given a stack of memos, letters and various requests to sort through. To be successful, applicants must demonstrate effective planning skills by prioritizing the tasks at hand. Among other things, they will have to determine which documents need to be filed, which require immediate attention, and which can be assigned to other team members.

This type of test may sound easy, but many candidates find it very stressful due to the enormous quantity of documents and tight deadlines involved. Speed reading exercises are an excellent way to prepare for this type of exam. To practice, give yourself 10 minutes to read through a complex document, and then try summarizing it in a single sentence.

2. Role-play exercises
These structured improvisations are most frequently used for positions involving a customer service focus. Candidates are first given background on a situation (e.g., are told they work at a merchandise return desk), and are then asked to serve a client, represented by the recruiter.

Recruiters use this method to check candidates’ abilities to meet client’s needs while establishing appropriate boundaries. Acting skills won’t necessarily help you ace this test – instead, focus on serving your client and dealing with the situation at hand (e.g. handling an aggressive client by staying calm and offering him effective solutions). Practice at home by asking a friend to act out a workplace scenario with you and provide feedback on your performance.

3. Task simulations
If you are applying for a position requiring specialized skills, such as mastery of a software program or advanced knowledge of French grammar, you will probably be asked to participate in a workplace simulation. You may also be tested on your ability to use certain features of the software program in question, or asked to revise a document containing several errors. Be sure to get some practice in before you take the exam. For example, if you are applying for an administrative assistant position and don’t use Excel on a regular basis, spend an hour or two reviewing the program, as it may be needed in the position you are applying for.

Éveline Marcil-Denault is the author of Du CV à l’embauche (From Resumé to Hire), Ed. Quebecor, 2005.