Be Prepared for a Tough Examination; Career Mail

Article excerpt

Byline: LUCIE CARRINGTON

A POLISHED CV and smooth interview skills are not always enough to get you the perfect job. Most job hunters can also expect an entrance exam.

It could be a personality questionnaire, an ability test, presentation, group discussion, role-play or a mix of them all. Whatever the challenge, you need to be ready for the increasing variety of assessment techniques employers are using to match the right person to the job.

'When firms take on a member of staff, it's like any investment, and they want to do their research thoroughly,' says Steven O'Dell, of Oxford Psychologists Press, which develops assessment tests.

'These techniques show an employer is taking things seriously.

While job interviews are here to stay, the days of a general chat followed by a job offer are over.' Any tests or exercises you will be asked to complete should be directly related to the job you're applying for.

For example, accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers expects its trainee accountants to be numerate and puts them through a rigorous numeracy test at the first interview.

EXPERTS such as Mr O'Dell insist you can't fake assessment tests and your best approach is to go with the flow. But the important thing is not to be taken by surprise.

'Always ask what any assessment process is likely to include,' Mr O'Dell says. 'And find out basic things such as when, and how long they will take.

Any other preparation depends on the tests. If you are expected to give a presentation, take part in a group discussion or role playing, then some research goes a long way, says Andrew Carr, of Recruitment and Employment Services Confederation.

'For example, if it's a sales job, you need to research the market, customers and potential competitors.' It's not just about amassing facts that you can regurgitate at the right moment. 'You look beyond that and explain how facts can be turned into a business opportunity,' says Mr Carr.

When it comes to personality and ability tests, there are plenty of opportunities to practise. If you are a student, your careers advisory service can probably offer such help.

Whether or not you get the job, be sure to get some feedback on your results so that you can learn from the experience, says Robert Wood, a professor of employment studies at Nottingham University. 'Find out why they knocked you down.'

Organisations that develop assessment tests regard this sort of feedback as an ethical must. Professor Wood says: 'So if an employer doesn't give you very satisfactory feedback, then maybe you don't want to work for that outfit.'

Testing time

* CHECK out what tests and exercises you will be given.

* FIND out how long the assessment will take.

* CHECK if you need any information in advance, such as a brief for a presentation.

* ASK for any practice tests to give you an idea of what you will be up against. …