Situational Judgement Tests: The Basics

quiz-1373314_960_720A situational judgement test (SJT) forms part of the recruitment process for many graduate schemes. From an employer’s perspective, they are an efficient way to sift through high volumes of candidates. Candidates are presented with a series of  work-related scenarios and need to choose which solution or action is the most effective from a series of options provided.

The task could include:

~ ranking a list of 4 or 5 responses in order of merit

~ choosing the best answer from several possibilities

~ deciding on the most effective and least effective answers

These tests are tailored to individual employers to reflect situations relevant to the job and look for the characteristics important to them. They measure your ability to make the right decision in a difficult situation and scenarios could range from ethical dilemmas to difficulties with workload, colleagues or clients.

See WikiJob for some example questions, with explanations for each answer. For some detailed information about each question type and what they look like, see this excellent resource from Assessment Day. You can also find a free situational judgement test to practise.

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Could gaming be the future of recruitment?

It has been predicted that over 70% of global 2000 organisations will be using gamed-based recruitment campaigns in the next two years. Already Deloitte, BBC and Network Rail are using games to recruit candidates, amongst others.

So how is gaming being used to recruit candidates?

skyrise city

Games-based assessments are the next generation of psychometric testing and are games designed to test your mental agility, cognitive speed, attention span, spatial aptitude and numerical reasoning – not skill. They tend to be delivered through app-based platforms and are tapping into the technology that students have grown up with and are used to. The image to the left shows an example of this type of game – in this instance, Skyrise City developed by Arctic Shores (image credit: Arctic Shores).

Jill Summers, Head of Assessment and Development at GradWeb, suggests that “Games-based assessments provide a much more engaging and motivating experience for candidates, which is why recruiters will continue to move toward them. They assess some attributes and traits that aren’t easily assessed by traditional cognitive or personality tools.”

Why is it being used?

  • Research from Deloitte last year has found that 80% of applicants have expressed frustration with the application process, which can be lengthy – involving tests, assessment centres and interviews.
  • Students can prepare in advance for tests and competency questions, which means that the answers they give may not indicate their decision-making skills, but instead they are simply remembering ‘the right answers.’ Candidates cannot prepare a response to a game-based assessment, so it’s assessing real life behaviours instead of practised responses.

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Useful tools to practise psychometric tests and interviews

We’ve spoken to lots of students this week who are looking for ways to practise psychometric tests and interviews. 

Psychometric tests:

These often form part of the recruitment process for many graduate schemes and are typically timed multiple choice tests that are to be completed independently by applicants. Employers may use these tests to filter down the number of candidates that they invite to interview, or to benchmark a candidate’s attributes against those who have been successful in that role. There are many different types of tests, including:

  • Numerical reasoning – testing your ability to analyse data in the form of ratios, percentages, graphs and tables.
  • Verbal reasoning – a test of logic, from a given written statement. You might be asked whether a statement is true, false, or if there’s not enough information to draw a conclusion.
  • Critical thinking – tests a candidate’s ability to solve new and complex tasks – closely related to verbal reasoning.
  • Situational Judgement Test – tests how you might approach a variety of scenarios in the workplace – giving you options of how you might best respond (usually you’ll need to rank options).
  • Diagrammatic reasoning – tests that assess visual problem solving and processing skills.

So how can you practise?

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The Basics: Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests – one of those things that your parents probably never had to worry about when they were applying for work. But now it looks like you can’t get a job without acing one of these tests. But what exactly are they and how do you do well on them?

What are they?

Psychometric tests (also referred to as aptitude tests) are used by many larger recruiters.These are typically timed multiple choice tests that are to be completed independently by applicants. Different employers might use these tests for different reasons – whether to objectively filter down the number of candidates that they invite to interview, or to benchmark a candidate’s attributes against those who have been successful in that role.

There are a number of different test providers, such as Watson Glaser, and within those providers, there are many different test types, including:

  • Numerical Reasoning – deducing an outcome from data in the form of ratios, percentages, graphs and tables.
  • Verbal Reasoning – A test of logic, from a given written statement. Typically candidates might be asked whether a statement is true, false, or if there’s not enough information to draw such a conclusion.
  • Critical thinking – tests a candidate’s ability to solve new and complex tasks – closely related to verbal reasoning.
  • Situational Judgement Test – tests how you might approach a variety of scenarios in the workplace – giving you options of how you might best respond.
  • Diagrammatic reasoning – tests that assess visual problem solving and processing skills.

The type of tests you are asked to do will likely depend on the nature of the role. For example, if you are applying for an engineering role, you will more likely be faced with a diagrammatic reasoning test, than if you were applying for a law graduate scheme – where you might more likely face a situational judgement test, along with verbal and critical reasoning.

They sound scary!

Many students feel anxious about psychometric tests. Some might feel they are impersonal and don’t reflect their abilities, while others feel they oughtn’t prepare for them since employers should already be able to deduce that they have good problem solving skills from their CVs and experience.

Psychometric tests are nothing to be scared of. There are definite ways to improve your likelihood of a positive outcome (discussed further below), and employers aren’t trying to trip you up.

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How are they scored?

Typically, tests are not scored in terms of getting more than x% means you have passed. Instead, psychometric testing bodies test people who have been successful in their chosen career areas, and used these scores to benchmark applicants against. Therefore, there’s nothing to say that achieving 40% won’t mean you progress – it all depends on the benchmark – and this is something we cannot know. It’s always a good idea to do your best!

Ok, so how can I best prepare?

You can do a lot to increase your likelihood of scoring well. Familiarity & confidence have been shown to positively impact psychometric test scoring by up to 30%.

Do the test on the last day you can to give yourself time to best prepare. Typically you will be given a 3-7 day window in which to complete the test. Use those intervening days to try as many of the following tips as possible.

Practice intelligently – if the test requires you to do 30 questions in 30 minutes, it’s potentially a really good idea to do many of the practice tests under no time conditions at all. Many candidates have reported doing really well after taking 10 minutes to answer 1 question in practice – in order to understand the different ways in which they might approach the question, and also try to understand how the test writers are operating. In this way, candidates can better appreciate their favoured method of answering certain question types, and so can save time in the real test as they already know how, for example, they’ll approach a question relating to ratios.

In this way, let the speed build naturally.

Find out what kind of psychometric test the employer might be using: websites such as Glassdoor, Wikijob and Studentroom might help, or failing that, phone up and ask the graduate recruitment team! Use this information to ensure you’re practising on the right kind of tests.

Check out the QMUL Careers & Enterprise website – we have some terrific resources there which tell you all about psychometric test and you can have a practice using the Assessment Day website which we have a subscription for.

Always read the instructions of the tests – specifically around possible negative marking for incorrect answers.

Lastly – be fully rested, and find a room where you won’t be disturbed for the test.

The team at QM Careers are completely behind you, and wish you the best of luck!

Psychometric tests – what are they and how can I do well?

What are they?

Otherwise known as aptitude tests, you will be asked to answer a number of questions within a given time limit. These questions could be used to measure your numerical, verbal, or critical thinking skills for example, and are another way (in addition to application forms and interviews) for employers to see whether you are right for the job.

What do they look for?

High scores! It is important here to balance speed and accuracy. You need to make sure you don’t spend too long on each question, but you also need to spend long enough so that your answers are correct! The time limit also puts pressure on you, so be aware of this too.

How do I do well? 

Well, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Trying both sample questions and full-length psychometric tests before you sit the real thing will give you an insight into what to expect, will boost your confidence and will help you improve your exam technique. It will also give you a sense of where to focus your revision if there are certain types of questions that catch you off your guard.
Register here https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/qmul using your qmul email address to access a range of sample tests and their answers. You can also visit www.careerstagged.co.uk and use the tag ‘psychometric tests’ to find more practice questions.

What to avoid? 

Spending too long on one question, leaving questions unanswered and leaving your preparation to the last minute. If you are applying for graduate schemes you can almost guarantee that you will be given a psychometric test during the process, so try and put aside some time every week to practice.

‘I just can’t do numerical reasoning!’: What to do when you can’t pass recruitment tests

Often in my role at the Careers & Enterprise Centre I speak to students who are anxious about upcoming psychometric tests or assessment centres. Sometimes – they might have failed previous psychometric tests or underperformed at assessment centre tasks. We have a range of information and advice we can provide to prepare, but you might always want to have a think about your other options.

Why do employers use assessment centres?

Many large organisations use these types of recruitment practices as a way of filtering, in a cost-effective way, the thousands of applications they get for their vacancies. However, a large proportion of the UK workforce is actually employed by SMEs (small to medium enterprises). Because smaller companies receive fewer applicants they tend to have more flexible recruitment practices. SMEs are not an easy option, and you may still have to sit certain skills tests: it’s just that if you might have more opportunity to shine when applying to a smaller organisation. In fact, speculative applications are a great way of finding work in an SME. Which leads me to my next point…

Recruitment Flexibility

To ensure standardisation of its recruitment, large companies may have set hiring practices with managers unable to deviate from these norms. They may have specialised recruitment staff so that the person who hires you is not necessarily the person you’ll be working under. This is often designed to rule out accusations of bias or discrimination, but it also can sometimes mean less chance for you to demonstrate your personality. Smaller companies tend to have more flexibility in this regard. So if you make a good impression on the interviewer, they are more likely to be able to hire you based on their own judgement.

Networking

As an anonymous applicant – one among hundreds if not thousands – one way for a large organisation to try to glean more about your personality and abilities is via psychometric testing and assessment centre tasks. A way to avoid these practices is by making yourself known to an employer before applying for a position. Again, this works better with SMEs, but even large companies are more likely to hire you for a permanent role if you have already interned for them, because they know who you are. Indeed, in certain sectors, such as the creative industries, recruitment is done almost entirely by personal connection and reputation. So use the power of social media to get talking to people.

You haven’t failed

I understand that, if you’ve had your mind set on a particular job or a particular company, it can be hard to accept that you just might not be able to pass their tests. I’ve seen a number of students who find this demoralising. But instead of feeling like a failure think of this as an opportunity to reassess your job hunting plan. Also consider: if you are struggling with the way a company recruits, would you actually be happy working at that organisation anyway? You never know – by accepting you limitations and focusing on your strengths you might find a job much more suited to you.