Find out about different types of candidate assessments and tips for completing them.
Organisations use a variety of assessment tools to enhance the quality and quantity of information available during the recruitment and selection procedure.
They are most frequently used to help shortlist when many people have applied for the post and for more senior level appointments when extra information is needed to make a decision. Aptitude tests are also commonly used for jobs requiring specific skills, i.e. typing, accurate data input and dealing with high volumes of information.
The positioning of assessments in the recruitment process can vary from company to company. Most commonly assessments over the internet are conducted after the initial shortlisting of applications, although some employers conduct occupational personality assessments at the very start of the recruitment process. Employers will usually repeat and validate assessments which measure ability (numerical, verbal, non-verbal and logical reasoning assessments) at interview stage, so do not be tempted to have your friends complete the test for you.
Some of the main types of assessments are:
- Numerical reasoning - assess ability to undertake mental arithmetic, as well as interpretation of data, charts and statistics.
- Verbal reasoning - assess understanding of written information and evaluate arguments and statements.
- Non-verbal reasoning tests (sometimes called inductive reasoning tests) - assess understanding and evaluation of diagrammatic information or spot patterns.
- Logical reasoning tests - assess your ability to form a conclusion given basic information or using your current knowledge and experience.
These are usually job specific. For example, you may be asked to undertake an administrative judgement test. You may also be asked to undertake dexterity assessments which can include data entry, clerical checking and ICT tests (i.e. Microsoft Word and Excel)
These tests measure your judgements given certain situations. These tests are designed to assess your judgement at work, so therefore try to answer from a work perspective.
These assess your preferred ways of working by asking a number of questions about how you operate at work. Always answer truthfully; there are usually mechanisms built into the assessment that can spot false answers or inconsistencies. They are usually multiple choice and the correct answer is generally the first one that pops into your head. The time allowed for these tests is quite restricted, typically 20 minutes for 60 questions, so do over think the question and certainly don’t ponder on ‘what would they want me to say’. Be yourself.
An in-tray exercise is a business simulation conducted in timed conditions where a large number of tasks come in. These could be letters, emails and reports either in paper or electronic format, simulating an in-tray or email inbox. The challenge is to read each item and decide on what action to take with it and its priority in the short time window (commonly one hour). Some tasks will require a yes and no answer, others longer responses.
As part of the recruitment process you may be asked to partake in a group exercise. Group exercises are designed to assess your communication and problem-solving skills in a team setting. The task may be related to work that the organisation carries out or completely abstract. Please see this guidance from Monster on how to perform at your best in group exercises.
You may be asked to give a presentation as part of the recruitment process. The organisation will usually inform you of the topic well in advance so you will have time to thoroughly prepare. For information on giving presentations in an interview context, please see this Total Jobs advice on interview presentations.
For this type of written exercise you will be presented with some information, both verbal and numerical, pertaining to a specific work related situation. It is presented in a variety of formats that can include text, tables and graphs. You are required to analyse the data in order to produce a report with conclusions and recommendations. The exercise will take approximately two hours, there will also be full instructions provided on the assessment day, prior to undertaking the timed exercise.
Top tips for completing assessments
One of the best ways to become successful at assessments is to practise taking them. Many companies that provide assessments to employers provide practice examples on their websites that can be used for free:
- Psychometric tests from SHL (CEB) include verbal, numerical, inductive reasoning, accuracy and motivation tests.
- Practice tests and questionnaires from Mark Parkinson, author of How to Master Psychometric Tests.
- Preparation guides for aptitude tests from Saville Consulting. Various guides including verbal and numerical reasoning and comprehension, and diagrammatic and spatial reasoning.
Points to remember on the day
If you are taking the assessment at home; take it in a quiet room and try to ensure no one distracts you. Inform the company beforehand if you have a disability which could affect your performance (e.g. dyslexia) and if you need to wear glasses or a hearing aid, make sure you use them during the session.
If you are taking the assessment on the premises of the organisation, make sure you listen carefully to the instructions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any and try and stay calm and focused.
Last updated: October 2019