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Job Application Assessments: What is it employers are looking for?

More and more with online job applications, there are extensive questionnaires and assessments at the end of the application asking often redundant and seemingly pointless questions.  Often times there can be over one hundred questions.  Despite all of these questions, the instructions almost always say “There are no right or wrong answers, just answer honestly.” However, I sometimes wonder how honest the employers want you to be.

One of the recent assessments I helped fill out with a client was a series of statements followed by check boxes stating “Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree or Strongly Agree”.  Statements included:

  • I like to take risks if I think it’ll help the company’
  • ‘I like to follow the rules’

It’s almost as if these statements are trying to manipulate you into agreeing with one of those statements rather than both.  And which is better?  Does the company look down upon risk takers or do they prefer risk takers? And is agreeing with both seen as an inconsistency?  In my experience, it is hard to know the thought process behind these assessments and there seems to be no correct approach to answering them in a way which you “pass.”

The staff and interns here at Daily Work are hard at work researching ways to figure out what it is that employers are looking for.  Joel Johnson, Vice President of Human Resources at Sunrise Banks, who recently gave Daily Work staff a workshop on key components of the application and interviewing process, suggests that these assessment questions are often used as a screening tool.  Employers can pull key words from the job description and look for corresponding answers in their questionnaires.  Although different employers have different values in the answers, it’s reasonable to assume that they do have preferred answers based on the job you are applying for.

Although there is always conflicting research over how to approach these questionnaires, I believe there is value to these assessments.  It would be a red flag if a job seeker “agreed” with the statement I think stealing is okay.  After researching and working with my colleagues and job seekers, here are some tips:

  • Be reasonably consistent: it can be a good idea to track your answers so that you do not contradict yourself.  The employer might be confused if you said that you work well with people, but then said you do not get along with others.
  • Be honest: if you are honest, chances are your answers will be consistent.
  • Be familiar with the job description: all employers value and look for job seekers who have the qualities identified in the job listing.  Remember key values that the job is looking for and respond accordingly.
  • Avoid overanalyzing the questions: assessments are not worth stressing or worrying over what the “right” answer is. If you think that an answer will look better to an employer, make sure that the related questions are answered in the same manner.

To anyone applying online for jobs, what do you think employers look for in their questionnaires? And what is your strategy when filling them out?  Do you have expertise on the application process?  If so, I encourage and welcome you to share skills and knowledge with us here at Daily Work.  As an intern, I am always looking for new insights on the application process.  If you think you have any knowledge or skills to share with us, it would be greatly valuable to all of our job seekers in landing that interview, so they can be one step closer to landing the job!

  By Annie Myers, Daily Work social work intern and University of St. Thomas student


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