Some companies employ a battery of tests to help them judge whether a candidate will be a good fit. The examinations can range from measuring cognitive ability and personality to evaluating ethics and emotional intelligence. Many employers use skills tests to give them an idea of how a potential employee might perform.
Skills tests tend to mimic the kinds of work you would be performing on the job. A basic computer skills test, for instance, might measure your proficiency with tasks like using email and doing Web searches. More advanced tests might relate to creating spreadsheets or editing. No matter what type of test is used, you should listen carefully to the instructions. Under the pressure of a timed test, many test takers rush through the instructions and proceed without a full understanding of the assessment, which can lead them to perform more poorly than they might have otherwise.
Sometimes, skills tests are administered in person, in which case you should ask any questions you may have about the test before you begin. Employers work hard to select tests that provide accurate, consistent results and conform with equal employment opportunity laws, so be sure that you give skills tests the attention they deserve. Some employers test widely and use the results to create a short list of candidates to interview, so testing may be an imperative part of getting a job.
You can often give yourself a leg up by preparing for a skills test before you take it. If the employer informs you about the test ahead of time, ask questions about what will be on it and brush up on those skills. If the details are sparse, look at the job description for clues. Online tools can also allow you to take practice tests of basic skills like word processing and typing.