Can You Prepare For a Pre-Employment Test?

Landing the perfect job is a life-altering event, one that can improve your career, raise your socio-economic status and boost your self-esteem. But standing in the way between you and a job offer is a pre-hire test, one that may play a pivotal role in your future.

Is it possible to prepare yourself to score higher on a pre-employment test? While the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ for tests that measure subject-matter expertise, the answer becomes a little fuzzier when the question at hand is your personality itself. On the other hand, sometimes the questions asked are transparent and test-savvy applicants can mold themselves to seem more collaborative or empathetic.

Dr. Karine Schomer, president of Alameda, Calif.-based Change Management Consulting & Training, contends that pre-employment tests are not for eliminating applicants, but rather for gaining a better understanding of their skills and aptitude.

Of course, flunking an aptitude test for something like Java programming sends a message to applicants that, in those situations, they can always seek further education.

While extreme forms of pre-employment test preparation may undermine the process itself, there are some things job applicants can do that balance the integrity of the process with good common sense. First, job applicants should seek to understand the corporate culture and background of the potential employer. That will help applicants understand how the contents of the test relate to what the company is looking for, and better explain how their skills will match the company’s needs.

Schomer notes that companies may test applicants for their adaptability to other cultures besides their own, testing their threshold for tolerance and flexibility. Don’t be surprised, she adds, if the company asks to administer the same kind of test to your spouse. “The reason many [foreign] assignments end is not because the worker has failed, but because the spouse is not adapting to the new country,” she says.

You might also consider taking a free personality test as a form of practice such as this one by eTest Inc. or this test by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Finally, don’t be shy when it comes to getting information about the tests you’re going to take. Maarten Van Beek, leadership and organizational effectiveness manager for international consumer-products firm Unilever in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, recommends asking to see the tests ahead of time. “We do that with every test we offer,” he says. “I believe the process should be open so that they can prepare to their maximum ability.”

Of course, not every company is as liberal as Unilever in that regard. But applicants – especially those in countries where tests may be used to narrow pools of people – need to understand that a test may be only one piece of a longer interview process, and thus they shouldn’t fear them.