Things to Know about Pre Employment Testing

So you have earned your college degree and are ready to dive in to a corporate job. Did you know that your eligibility for a particular job might hinge on more than just the interview?

Pre-employment testing is on the rise. In the past five years, 60% of companies have increased their use of workplace-behavior assessments, according to a survey of more than 500 human-resources professionals at U.S. companies from Spherion Corp., a staffing firm based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Here's what job candidates should know about pre-employment testing:

Senior executives are not exempt. In fact, the higher you aspire to climb the corporate ladder, the more likely you are to be evaluated on how well you might fit in personality-wise, says Joel H. Wilensky, an executive recruiter in Sudbury, Mass. His clients require most candidates to undergo assessments, he says. "It's almost an absolute for jobs that pay salaries of $300,000 and up," he adds.

Curb your antagonism. Many senior candidates scoff at having to take a test, says Deborah Sawyer, a partner in Atlanta at executive-search firm Morgan Howard Worldwide, whose clients require assessments for most candidates. "They see it as being unnecessary and don't put enough energy into it," she says. "Then they can't make it to the next round."

Your candidacy can benefit. Erin Vadala, 40, took a personality assessment two years ago for her public-relations-manager job at Warner Communications in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. "I was surprised at how accurate it was," she says, noting that the results indicated she's outgoing. "I'm constantly talking to people and telling stories," she says. "When you are a public-relations professional, you can't be a wallflower."

Clear your schedule. Ask recruiters about how long a pre-employment assessment might take. You may need to devote anywhere from a few minutes to several hours of your time, says Bill Erickson, executive vice president of human-capital management at Kenexa Corp., a provider of pre-employment-testing technology in Wayne, Pa. Some assessments are oral and administered on site by an industrial psychologist, while others may be completed online from any location, he adds.

Exercise your brain. Familiarize yourself with pre-employment assessments by taking free ones on the Web, such as this personality quiz from eTest Inc., a pre-employment testing and assessment company in Atlanta. Practice tests can help you feel more comfortable for when it's your turn in the hot seat, says J. Larry Tyler, founder of Tyler & Co., a retained search firm headquartered in Atlanta. "

Weak results may not matter. Ms. Sawyer says in 2002, a candidate for an executive position at a client of hers was hired even though results from a behavioral assessment suggested he was a poor fit. "He did well in the interviews and they thought he had the innate competencies to do the job," she says. "They said, 'We're going to dismiss it and go on our gut.' "

I think the last point is good to keep in mind. There is no test to exactly assess you and your personality - or your fit in to a specific company. But do be prepared for pre employment testing.

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