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A peek at how online employment tests work

Online tests are emerging as a popular way to screen job candidates at time when employers are often getting a crushing number of job applications.

More than one-third of new hires reported taking such a test in 2013.  But if you weren’t among that group, you might be wondering how the tests work and what they look like. In some cases, you might face a skills-based test that evaluates, say, your ability to count change from an onscreen cash register quickly or your ability to solve a math problem.  But often, the questions are geared at evaluating your personality to see if you’d be a good fit for a given industry and position.

CEB, one of the largest talent assessment companies in the world, has provided these sample questions to show the kinds of scenarios you might encounter on these tests.  There is no one right answer to these questions, because employers might be looking for different things based on their unique culture and job descriptions.  But these questions give you an idea of the complex scenarios you might be asked to mull before you land a job interview.

Application: Predicting customer service in bank tellers

Question: The next customer at your teller window was in the bank last week. She had a complex deposit and spent a lot of time at the teller window. She was helped by another teller who is very personable. Unfortunately, the other teller’s chattiness often leads to inaccuracies.  As she approaches the window she says, “I made a deposit here last Monday, and I haven’t seen it added to my account. I was told it might take five days for the checks to clear, but it has been over a week now and it still hasn’t been reflected in my balance. I am just wondering if you could look into the issue for me.”  What would be the most and least effective way to response to the customer?

A) I think I know what happened. Give me a minute to look into this for you.

B) I am sorry to hear that we lost your deposit. Give me a minute to look into this for you.

C) I can certainly look into this for you.

D) I am sorry for the delay. Let me look into this for you.

Application: Predicting safe behavior at work

Question: You are working in a noisy environment and after your first day on the job, your ears hurt from all the loud noise.  No one seems to be wearing any kind of ear protection.  What would you do when you return to work the next day?

A) Ask your supervisor if the company can give you some hearing protection.

B) Urge your supervisor to require all employees wear ear protection while working in this environment.

C) Tell your supervisor that you need some hearing protection before you will continue working.

D) After work, call the local safety authorities to report a violation.

Application: Predicting coaching and performance management in front-line managers

Question: An employee you supervise has been showing a poor attitude, coming in late, and missing meetings with customers. She’s received two written warnings for those incidents and a third warning for taking “breaks” during which she was found surfing the Internet. This morning she was heard swearing at a customer.  At your request, she has come to your office.  What would be the most and least effective way to start the conversation?

A) I have reached a decision that I’m not particularly excited about, but I do think I’ve been fair and that this is the right thing to do. I’ve decided to let you go. Today will be your last day.

B) I want you to know how awful I feel about this, and how if it were up to me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. I am supposed to let you go today.

C) Well, you have really done it now. Your behavior was unacceptable and you’ve have left me no other choice in the matter but to fire you. I need you to pack up your things.

D) Heather, the reason I have called you in here is because I have to let you go. Today will be your last day.