Job Search Day 2 – Don’t Underestimate A Career Aptitude Test!

Over the years when I was interviewing for sales and sales management roles, it was not uncommon for organizations to conduct career aptitude tests as part of the screening process. Although I never enjoyed doing these test, I quickly realized that most organizations put a decent amount of weight in to the results, so I started to put more thought in to my answers.

In general, the tests would cover these categories:

Leadership

This was more typical when I was applying for sales management roles. High scores in this category would show people who were competitive and could lead others at a high level. On the flip side, a low score would describe people who were less dominant and less assertive. I have seen this line of questioning when applying for outside sales rep positions as well. Employers loved to look for future leaders, and they would typically find them within a pool of candidates applying for outside sales positions.

Emotional

High scores would go to those candidates who were calm and even-tempered. A lower score showed that you had a sense of urgency and tended to be emotionally reactive.

Social

They are testing to see what your level of social interaction is. For a sales role, I think it is obvious that you want to score as high as possible. Being talkative by nature, outgoing, and generally engaging are traits that will give high scores in this category. If you are shy and don’t like engaging in conversations, you may want to look for a different profession!

Interpersonal

They are testing how sensitive and empathetic you are. If you are not sensitive to the needs of others and are not tactful, you will score lower. You will be perceived as more forthright and direct.

Task

How rule abiding and detailed focused are you? If you are conventional and meticulous, you will score high. If you are flexible and improvising, you will score lower.

Conceptual

When I first saw this category, my initial thought was how well could you handle different concepts and be open-minded. I was not too far off. They look to how imaginative and open to change you are. If you score lower, you probably prefer more predictability.

In general career aptitude tests tended to be 20 to 30 minutes in length. They were mostly multiple choice questions. I remember there being anywhere between 100 and 175 questions with these tests over the years. After doing a couple tests, I realized that they tended to ask similar questions many ways to uncover patterns in your answers. My advice is to be as consistent as possible in your responses. If you are stumped on any one question, I would not worry about it too much.

There are no right or wrong answers, but you need to think about the characteristics and qualities that they are looking for in an outside rep.

If you are outgoing, very social, motivated to succeed, and can work under limited supervision – those are probably key attributes that they are looking for.

That will be more desirable to an organization hiring an outside sales person than if you are:

Reserved, somewhat shy, like consistent income and need regular supervision.

As I mentioned above, organizations usually will use the test results as one of several criteria for selecting a candidate. I was hired for a role once, where the company put a lot more weight in the test results than I ever would have, but it worked in my favour!

I was down to one of the last two candidates for a role, and I got the job because I did better on the test. I was very fortunate because we were equally matched candidates.

This process was more difficult than any other test that I had ever taken before. The first test was taken during my first interview, and the second test was taken during my third (and last) interview. I think they both took close to one hour, and had 225+ questions.

Those initial feelings that you get about people in the first interview, and subsequently how they handle other interviews should have as much or more weight than test results, but that is just my opinion. I will save a more detailed commentary for a future blog post!

If I was sick, distracted for some reason, or just not having a good day, I would have missed out on a 7 year career that has changed my life forever. That would have not been fair to me, my family or the company who took the other candidate because they did better on these tests.

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About Tim Mushey

Dynamic and energized sales rep, mentor and leader since 1999. This blog will be about sales, social networking, personal branding, leadership, music and having some laughs! Don’t be surprised if I mix it up on occasion, and talk about something totally different! I thrive on being part of successful, forward thinking teams. I am ready to go from the moment my feet hit the floor each morning, with the expectation that new adventures will be coming my way. It is rare that there isn't a smile on my face, as I take it all in, and have some fun along the way!

Posted on September 24, 2012, in Career, Sales and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ah, assessments. I’m going to greatly oversimplfy the topic here and say I have a love/hate relationship with them. Some folks love the idea (and get easily sold on it) that they can boil the messy complexity of personality, knowledge, skills, etc. into a few simple measures that allow them to get at the essence of the person. From my experience, often, the worse a hiring manager/HR type is with people, the better they like assessments.

    As with any thing, some are much better than others and, although personality assessments can be very helpful for development, I’ve never been convinced that they are all that useful for hiring. As a *small* part of the hiring process, I feel that they are best used to help focus the interview.

    All that said, my opinion matters very little, and as you point it is part of many hiring processes. The hiring process is a very small window of time to prove you’re the best candidate for the job. A lot of it is out of your control. All you can do is show up with your full A-game, prepared, informed, calm/confident, and ready to rock.

    • Thanks for the detailed response Broc! I appreciate it as always. Love the whole comment, but you are dead on when you have to be ready to rock when it is “game time”! Thanks again…

  2. Hi Tim,

    Great post. Assessments are, at best, a snapshot of us in a single moment. As you pointed out, not feeling well at the time of the assessment, or not having sufficient time due to a crammed schedule, will skew the results.

    Their best use is to help the interviewer formulate further areas for discussion at the next meeting – and they should never be used as a decision maker. Being in recruiting, I know many employers don’t view assessments that way. Many do use them as a yes/no switch – so you’re quite correct to put emphasis on being clear headed and in-the-moment when taking them.

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply Susan – with so much detail. I could not agree more. I must admit that I do get queezy (sp) when I see the words “yes-no” switch. It is the easy way out, lazy and probably matches many wrong candidates with organizations . Just sad! Thanks again…

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