When you apply for some positions, you may be required to complete multiple steps in the selection process in addition to applying online or completing an application form.  Employers across many different industries and fields may utilize an “assessment” as one step.  It may be referred to by other names such as a “skills inventory”.  You would probably just call it a “test”.  There are many different assessments that measure a wide variety of skills: customer service focus, industry or position specific knowledge, leadership style, bilingual skills, office equipment/common program proficiency.  The list goes on and on.

So, are tests really required? Can you opt out and still pursue the new job?  The short answer is they are often required and no, you cannot opt out if the employer uses one for the type of position you are seeking.  Employers must have fair and consistent selection processes, so if a test is required for the position and one person is required to take it, then all applicants for that position must also take it.  That’s only right.

Often, tests will immediately follow your application submission and occur before the interview process.   Many are conducted online, which gives you some flexibility on when you take it. And yes, it may have a scoring component that could restrict your ability to move forward in the interview process.  Some have a pass/fail or successful/unsuccessful score, while others may function on a scale the employer uses to determine potential fit for the position.

  • Tip #1:  Take the time to pay attention, in a quiet place with limited distractions, and do your best on the assessment without trying to speed through it half-heartedly.

When notifying applicants that the assessment results were unsuccessful, I often hear “How can a test say I can’t do the job without a full interview?”  While it can be frustrating or discouraging to hear you are being declined because of the assessment results, let me suggest a different perspective.  The assessment provides better insight into the role by giving you an idea of what additional skills and/or experience you need to be successful.   An assessment you had taken in the past might have saved you potential heartache you would have otherwise experienced, realizing the job was not a fit.  Even if you are successful, that insight might help you decide whether you still want the position.

  • Tip #2:  Answer the questions honestly and openly, without trying to decide what answer the employer “wants”, so that both you and employer get an accurate gauge of your fit for the job.
  • Tip #3:  Think about the assessment as being a “job preview” that helps you (as well as the employer) decide if the position would be enjoyable and one where you could excel.

If the results of an assessment disqualified someone from getting the job, many employers establish a waiting period before these tests can be retaken.  That timeline information is generally provided by either the assessment system itself or by the recruiter.  This timeline exists to provide applicants an opportunity to grow and better prepare themselves for the position.

  • Tip #4:  Use any waiting period to research the company and role, enhance your skills and experience, and prepare to take it again.

The bottom line is that assessments are a tool that employers use, but they can provide valuable intel for you as well. Use that newfound knowledge to your advantage!