Be prepared for taking a test or assessment. Asking your sponsor if there will be other activities scheduled when making the final arrangements is designed to alert you to the possibility, yet it may still come up unannounced. Being asked to take a test or assessment is a good sign, because employers typically do not waste time and money testing someone they are not interested in pursuing.
Following are the five basic types of tests or assessments you may encounter:
Intelligence/Mental Ability Tests
These tests are designed to test your critical thinking skills, including problem solving, mathematical aptitude, and memory. They are usually structured in a format similar to the SAT/ACT.
Work Simulation Tests
These tests are designed to provide you with example work scenarios or problems which you must work through to a satisfactory result. For example, a test for a Programmer position may ask the person to develop the program logic for a bank statement program.
Specific Skills Tests
Don't try to fool a personality test. It is far smarter than either you or I.
For many highly specialized professions, they will test your skills in specific areas. Many of these tests are tied into certification, such as the CPA or CNE. A subset of these certification tests is the specific skills test. These tests are designed to ask questions at a detail level. They are very specific and very accurate. You will be more likely to encounter these tests in technical professions, such as engineering or information technology.
These assessments are often the best indicator a company has of someone's personality. If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), you will understand the type of comparison questions: "Would you rather fly a kite or read a poem?" or "Would you rather read a book or fly an airplane?"
These assessments are usually reserved for jobs in high-security areas or where there will be access to trade secrets, merchandise, or cash. Many of the questions are repetitive comparisons ("Do you like chess better than poetry?" and "Do you like poetry better than chess?"), although some will ask for absolutes ("Have you ever told a lie?"). You know the answer. And the assessment knows if you are telling the truth.
While these tests and assessments are all an attempt at standardization and greater objectivity, they are all lacking to a certain degree. They still have a subjective element. Be prepared, both mentally and physically, for these tests and assessments. I am aware of at least one company that does not begin salary negotiation until after the person has completed the series of tests and assessments. The theory is that the candidate is so beaten down by that point that he or she will accept almost anything that is offered.
Following are certain points to keep in mind with quantitative tests (math, numbers, reasoning, objective—usually there is a right answer) and qualitative assessments (opinion, viewpoint, comparison, subjective—usually there is not a right answer, but there may be a better answer):