Let’s spend a few moments on the subject of testing. This would include all kinds of psychological, aptitude, and intelligence tests. Since 1973, I have seen candidate testing ebb and flow in popularity. Believe it or not, it seems to ebb and flow depending on the economy. Testing of job candidates can become very expensive, so it is one of the first things that companies stop doing when the economy gets difficult.
Be prepared for what I call the paradox of testing. Every company that has ever used testing as a part of its selection process is going to tell every candidate that, at most, the testing only accounts for 25 percent of the final decision. Don’t believe a word of it! Whatever kind of test is used, from grapho-analysis to psychiatric interviewing, is a qualifier that you must pass with the minimum standard arbitrarily set by someone or some group in the organization, or you aren’t going to go further in the interviewing process. Whether hiring authorities or companies will admit it or not, the test becomes a binary, black-and-white, proceed-or-go-home qualifier.
So, when a hiring authority tells you something like, “Oh, by the way, we have some psychological (or aptitude, or skills, or intelligence) testing you need to do as a candidate, but don’t worry about it. Everybody who comes to work here has to take it and it doesn’t really account for much more than 10 percent (or 25 percent, or 50 percent) of the decision,” don’t believe a word of it! Testing becomes the gate that has to be passed through before you can be considered as a viable candidate.
Testing objectifies the hiring process. When, supposedly objective tests decide on your viability as a candidate, no hiring or interviewing authority involved in the process of hiring has to have their butt on the line, has to take a stand on your candidacy, or has to run the risk of being the only person who likes you and wants to hire you. Now, a hiring authority is still going to have to make a decision in choosing someone to be hired. But the convenient thing about testing is that it also functions as a cover-your-butt issue. If hiring you turns out to be a mistake, but you did well on the company’s battery of tests, the hiring authority can turn to everyone else and say, “Well, she did well on the testing!” It is just another way of passing the buck of responsibility. The tests become a qualifier, screening out tons of candidates so no one person has to, and it’s convenient and easy.
Please don’t tell me that testing is stupid and it doesn’t work. Part of my graduate studies—admittedly almost 50 years ago— included extensive studies about testing. I can make the case that testing will never measure passion, commitment, focus and, in general, “heart,” the real things that separate a top performer from an average one. But, as you know, the people who manage companies don’t really care what you or I think. If somebody sells a company on the idea that any kind of testing will help them hire better people and they invest thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in their testing, they’re going to use it—no matter what.
Does the testing work? Well, it certainly creates an environment of homogeneous people. Being included or eliminated in the interviewing process by a testing procedure is just as valid or invalid as any of the other crazy reasons by which you may be included or eliminated. And it’s like the old joke of the guy that snaps his fingers to keep the pink elephants away. Since he keeps snapping his fingers and no one sees any pink elephants, this system works. If companies never hire anybody that doesn’t do well on whatever kind of testing they have, they never really know how valid it may be.
My gut— and it is only my gut—tells me that the companies that use any kind of testing don’t have any more or less success or turnover than companies that don’t. But, hey, what do I know? They ain’t asking me my opinion, and they don’t care. If they invest in testing, claim that it gets them better employees, and so on, then I guess it does. (I worked with a company five or six years ago that hired a CEO. They had a succession of three CEOs in three years—all miserable failures. They hired a candidate of mine, and after a couple of weeks on the job, they discovered that she hadn’t taken the company’s testing. They gave her the tests, and the tests indicated that she would not be successful. Well, they certainly couldn’t let her go over that, so, as with a lot of stuff that goes on in businesses, nobody said a word and just let it be. She was not only one of the most successful CEOs the company ever had, but grew the company 115 percent in four years. When the company was sold, she, as well as the major stockholders, made millions of dollars. The company is now a division of a major corporation and, guess what—they still use the testing to qualified candidates before they hire them. Go figure!
How to Take Tests
First, whatever you do, don’t bitch and moan to the prospective employer that testing is a lot of nonsense. In some cases, it very well is, but if a prospective employer does it as a routine part of the selection process, your opinion isn’t going to matter. If you voice your negative opinion too much, you’ll be eliminated for that reason alone. So, just decide to take the test in stride and resolve to do the very best you can. And, don’t say something stupid like, “Oh, my God, I’m absolutely awful when it comes to tests.” This may be true, but for goodness sake, don’t tell that to a prospective employer.
Second, before you go to take the test, get lots of rest, eat a good meal, and relax. Do the very best you can. Look at it as a challenge. Take it in stride. Trying to prepare for it is hard. Do not be over analytical and agonize over each answer, nor be flippant about the answers that you give.
While not as prevalent as they used to be, there are still some companies out there that test candidates with a face-to-face interview with a psychologist or psychiatrist. If this kind of thing is involved in your interviewing process, approach it the same way as you would approach a paper-and-pencil or computerized test. Be thoughtful of your answers. Be consistent in your answers and, for goodness sake, don’t try to read into every question what the interviewer is trying to get at. That’s a losing proposition. Don’t become belligerent, challenging, or argumentative with the interviewer.
No matter what you do, no matter what kind of test you’re given, whether it be multiple interviews with the psychologist or psychiatrist, written essays, multiple-choice intelligence, character, or personality, do not try to outguess the test! Don’t sit there and ask yourself what they are trying to find out when they ask that question? Because if they’re trying to find out “that,” then I will answer “this” so that they will think “that” of me, you will be finished! You can’t outguess them.
If you are going to be given a computerized test, psychological test, and the like, you might want to go online and practice with tests that you can buy for yourself. Tons of intelligence and psychological types of tests are available on the Internet for very reasonable prices. Some even give feedback and corrective advice. Studies have shown that practicing these kinds of tests make you better. You’re not likely to be able to do this with psychological or personality tests, but you certainly can with math or intelligence tests. So, practice when possible.