Getting put to the test to get hired

Published On: Feb 24 2014 07:14:18 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 25 2014 06:45:00 AM EST

When Alyssa Sharp applied to be a marketing specialist, the folks in human resources put her to work, unofficially.

"They sent me this project that they asked me to do over the weekend," Sharp explained.

And before Jesse Robinson landed his executive assistant role, he had to demonstrate he has what it takes, and complete an online exam.

"Outline the steps that I would take for arranging travel for him, another one was sort of outline my thoughts behind a critical decision within the, within the department and how I would handle that," said Robinson.

The hiring process Sharp and Robinson went through is increasingly common, according to Matt Stevenson, a consultant with Mercer who helps companies manage their workforce and increase productivity.   

He explains personality testing has been part of hiring for some time, and now more and more companies are putting skills testing, to the test.  

"Now, with you know, computer games and all these sorts of things, you can actually build tests that are more like you walking through a simulation and being given tasks to do," said Stevenson.

One potential benefit for prospective hires?  Tests might help you get noticed if you have the talent but maybe not a lot of experience.

"By doing tests online we can now gather all sorts of people who otherwise might have been excluded from a lot of job searches and actually pre-qualify them beforehand," explained Stevenson.

Lauren Hodgson with Infusionsoft, who helped hire both Sharp and Robinson, says testing is a critical part of finding the candidate who is the best fit for each position, more important than what you can read on a resume.

"When we don't do tests, we're kind of taking a, a gamble and that's not something that we're interested in," explained Hodgson.

"Your performance on the job typically has very little often times to do with what that GPA was or where the referral came from," said Sanjeev Angrawal who created collegefeed, a website that matches college graduates with employers.

Angrawal believes these tests might eliminate good candidates who just don't test well.  but, he acknowledges they can give applicants a good sense of the company and the job requirements.  He says preparation is important.

"Read up online, look for whether there are books that can prepare you for these tests.  I'd say talk to people who have been in similar roles," said Angrawal.

Sharp and Robinson each admit they worked hard to get the job, but both liked knowing they were a fit before they even started.

"It was a little intimidating, but in the end I liked it," said Sharp.

"For me, it instilled some confidence that I am in fact the right choice," added Robinson.

It's not just company created tests that are popular.  Some job applicants are submitting their standardized test results, like GRE or Collegiate Learning Assessment scores, for prospective employers to consider along with their resume.