Tests at interviews

Some employers give candidates different types of tests as part of their hiring process. This article describes the types of tests you may come across.

If you can find out which selection process is used by the employer you can, to an extent, prepare yourself. Some employers will inform you about the selection tests they use. Occasionally you may be sent a leaflet explaining the tests and giving some examples.

Why do employers give these tests?

Employers use selection tests to provide extra information about applicants that cannot be obtained from their application forms or interviews. Tests can gather information on an individual's attainment, aptitude, interests, learning styles and other relevant characteristics.

Some employers invite all job applicants to sit tests, then make a shortlist based on the results. However, usually only selected candidates are asked to sit tests.

If you are applying for a job through a recruitment agency you may take the tests with the recruitment agency rather than with the employer.

What types of tests can I be given?

Aptitude tests

Aptitude tests are used to predict how well you can perform a particular job or task. They examine your potential by testing aptitudes that are relevant to the job or task in question. They are usually timed against the clock. They may test:

  • spatial awareness (dealing with diagrams and three-dimensional shapes)
  • verbal reasoning
  • numeracy
  • problem-solving
  • manual dexterity or hand/eye co-ordination.

Skills and knowledge tests

These exercises measure the knowledge, skills or understanding you have about a particular subject. They are usually timed. A common example is a test of computer keyboard skills and your knowledge of word processing packages.

KiwiSkills offers a programme designed to help New Zealanders develop their computing skills. 

Personality assessments

Although there can be no such thing as a right or wrong answer in a personality assessment, the employer is likely to compare your personality profile with the profile that is regarded as most suitable for the position in question.

On the day of the tests

  • If you are asked to sit a test, before it starts you will be given a clear explanation of how to complete it. You should have the opportunity to do some practice questions first.
  • Listen carefully to instructions, but don't be afraid to ask questions if you are not clear about what you have to do.
  • Try to concentrate on each question in turn, but don't waste time on difficult questions if you get stuck; it is better to move on and come back to them at the end if you have the time.
  • Don't worry if you don't finish the test. Many tests are designed so that few people will be able to answer all the questions in the set time.

Tests are not the only things that count!

Remember, these tests are only one aspect of the selection procedure. The person who performs best in tests may not be the most suitable candidate for the job!

Try to relax beforehand. Unless you know for certain that a particular kind of test will be given, don't go to extremes trying to predict and prepare for tests that you may never be required to do!

Updated 4 Sep 2018