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Other ways recruiters could test your skills

As well as the traditional question and answer interview, there are several other tests and exercises that employers may potentially ask you to take part in, in order to assist them with the selection process.

Psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are formal, timed tests designed to assess a range of different things, namely your abilities, your aptitude, and your personality traits.

You are asked a series of questions, normally multiple choice, which provide the employer with quantifiable information about the kind of employee you would be.

Verbal: tests your verbal reasoning, analysis and understanding of written information.

Numerical: tests your ability to analyse data, graphs, charts and statistics, as well as basic arithmetic.

Non-verbal reasoning: tests your special awareness and ability to identify patterns.

Logical reasoning: tests your ability to draw logical conclusions.

Skills specific tests: tests your aptitude in skills needed to do a particular job, e.g. computer programming.

Basic ability tests

You may be asked to take part in tests which measure your competency in basic skills such as spelling and punctuation, typing (speed and accuracy), numeracy and IT. These tests simply ensure that your essential office skills are up to scratch. As with all of these tests and exercises, if you have any special requires, be sure to let the employer know in advance, in order that allowances can be made.

Practical exercises

Often, an interview alone isn’t enough to prove your practical skills. Practical exercises allow companies to assess how well you will actually carry out the duties expected of the role. For example, if you’re applying for a journalism job, it won’t be enough to simply say that you are good at writing; you will be expected to prove it. If you are applying for a job in telesales, you will likely be asked to spend a day in the office making calls. 

These tasks aren’t something to worry about; in fact they present a golden opportunity to demonstrate your skills in action.


These test your ability to present information in a clear, concise and relevant way. You need to find out the presentation topic, as well as basic information such as how long it should last, whether you need to use PowerPoint or a projector, and who you will be presenting to. Try your best to present with confidence – if you are incredibly nervous during this presentation, it will create a bad impression.

Top tips for presentations:

• Be aware of your audience, and structure the content appropriately. Introduce yourself and the topic at the beginning.

• Ensure that the format includes an introduction, a body comprising of around three clear points, and a conclusion.

• If you’re using PowerPoint, keep your slides clean and not too busy, and try to avoid reading from a prepared script, it will sound artificial.

• Don’t forget to rehearse! Run it through with a friend or family member so they can point out any potential problems for you.

Case study exercises

Case study exercises are normally carried out in teams. You and your group will be presented with a situation, or hypothetical problem that could arise in a real-life work environment and you will be allotted a set amount of time in which to devise a solution.

Employers use this technique to test a range of important workplace skills and to identify your individual strengths. Some people will stand out as leaders during these exercises, whereas others will distinguish themselves as the ‘ideas’ people. You will get the chance to demonstrate your commercial awareness, your ability to work under pressure and to a time limit, as well as your general team work and adaptability skills.

You can prepare for case study exercises by researching what the company does and the kind of problems it faces. Remember that the company is looking for common sense as well as some basic business awareness – don’t pressure yourself into devising wild and unrealistic solutions to the problem at hand.

In-tray exercises

Like case study exercises, in-tray exercises are business simulation tasks. In other words, you have to act out an hour-in-the-life-of a member of staff.

The aim of this task is to measure your ability to balance multiple tasks. In your in-tray you will be given a number of different documents. Among your papers, you will find basic information about the company and your position within it, as well as a collection of emails, telephone and fax messages, memos and general correspondence. Your task is to deal with the information in a logical and time-effective order.

Read through the information you’re given, particularly any details about your specific job title. You should use this as the basis for how you handle the documents in your in-tray. You’re being tested on your ability to make decisions, prioritise your workload, delegate tasks, respond to correspondence, and recommend actions.

You need to carefully read through all of the requests and sort them into the following designations – those items which require immediate action, those that you can delegate, and those that you can delay. You’ll then have to explain the reasoning behind your actions.

Technically speaking, there are no right or wrong answers in these tasks; the assessment is based on your reasons for making certain decisions. If you apply a little common sense however, you should be able to deal with each task in a logical way.

Group activities

Employers sometimes use group activities as a preliminary way of judging how well you interact with other people.

Whether you’re taking part in a practical exercise (this could be anything from writing a sales pitch, to constructing something out of straws), or a discussion, group exercises aren’t about shouting your ideas the loudest – they challenge you to collaborate with other people.

Whatever the task at hand, you don’t have to be bossy to get noticed, but you do have to make some kind of contribution. Sitting back and saying nothing is just as bad as standing up and saying everything.

There is never just one winner when it comes to group work, so don’t behave as though you have to work against your team members. Instead, you should do your best to ensure that your whole group stands out as one unit that functions coherently and smoothly.

Assessment centres

For really competitive positions you may have to attend an assessment centre. Employers will occasionally run formal recruitment events, which can last anything between a few hours, up to a couple of days.

Candidates who are invited to assessment centres will be expected to take part in any number of the above exercises.

Assessment centres are rigorous, but they don’t have to be stressful. Remember that in any of these tests, employers are trying to find out about who you are, how you think, and how well you would fit into their organisation.


There aren’t really any secret tips on how to succeed – the most useful information we can give you may sound corny, but it works – simply try to be yourself!