What are your thoughts on testing for job applications? Do you normally perform well in exam situations or do you perform better in interviews? Have you recently undergone aptitude or attitude testing for a job and are eager to learn the results? I have and I was dying to know! If you don’t get a job offer, it’s normal to wonder where you went wrong based on the limited feedback you received (if any). I’m about to reveal how I failed an attitude (psychometric) test and how I plan to beat the system next time!
I’ve gone through testing with two different agencies for vacancies they were advertising. The first included 2 hours of testing covering Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, data entry and touch typing. I was told I performed well on the test and would be an ideal candidate, but the client’s interest in hiring me waned when they asked who would take care of my son if he was too sick to go to daycare…
Do you think a father would be asked that question if he were applying for the same job? No, I don’t believe so. Do you believe that a mother is inherently less credible than other candidates? I seldom used sick days as an employee, and as a mother I’m used to running on empty. In comparison , I’ve worked with several non married individuals who took every other Friday off to recover from a Thursday night out.
Lesson learned: some employers view mothers as problematic contenders.
That’s not really a ‘failing’ I can work around, and quite honestly I wouldn’t want to be hired by an employer who was so intolerant of family commitments.
The second round of testing I did was much shorter and comprised of a ‘can do’ and a ‘will do’ test, in other words aptitude and attitude. Call me presumptuous, but this was for a job I fully expected to get – I’d worked for the company before in a different position, I was successful through the screening and interview process, and felt fairly comfortable that I’d done well in the testing. So when I received a phone call to let me know I was unsuccessful, I began to wonder just how bad my test scores were.
When you’ve been out of the work force for a little while, you do start to worry that your brain is turning to mush and that all your career smarts have abandoned you. I spent the weekend (following my dashed hopes on Friday) worrying that I was no longer capable of basic calculations and logic. On Monday I decided to request my test scores. I wanted to see if I felt I’d done well enough, regardless of whether or not it was enough to secure me the job. Imagine my relief (and puzzlement) when I read that I’d scored in the 97th percentile!
Not braggin’, just sayin’!
So, you don’t need 97% or higher on a logic and calculations test to work out that I must have failed the attitude test! What??? What’s wrong with my attitude?!
The test was a series of questions to be answered on a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. I was aware that answering ‘unsure’ (the middle of the scale) would not only make me look lazy and/or stupid, but would also make assessment of my scores difficult so I didn’t use that at all. I’m not a person who thinks in black and white, or who assumes extreme positions on anything, so nearly all of my answers were agree or disagree. In hindsight this was also a mistake because it kept my scores around the ‘average’ mark.
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Honesty does not always count
My biggest mistake was in thinking that the test was also a measure of honesty and self-awareness. News flash, it’s not! For example, one of the questions was “I don’t feel comfortable in new social situations”, to which I answered ‘agree’. Of course I was aware that the most desirable answer would be ‘strongly disagree’, and I certainly could have selected the ‘right’ answer to every question, but I wanted to present myself honestly. Besides, being uncomfortable in social situations does not mean that I can’t conduct myself in a polite and professional way at work. In fact it’s not uncommon for introverts to ‘act as’ extroverts when required to in the workplace.
I also responded that I always give people my full attention, always try to be fair, regularly volunteer to help others and will often be the first to start a conversation. My overall score in ‘Working with others’ calculated to 2/5. Simply by keeping my scores in the average range by not strongly agreeing or disagreeing to anything, and throwing in a couple of honest but less than ideal responses, I’d tested myself out of a job!
Lesson learned: next time I’m asked to take an attitude (psychometric) test, I’ll be selecting the ‘extremely right’ answers, rather than the truthful answers, having learned that honesty and self-awareness are not valued in these types of reductionist evaluations.