Reference Checks And Testing

Whilst reference checking and psychometric or skills testing generally occur at the final stages of the recruitment process, they can still make or break your chances of securing an offer. Fortunately there are some simple steps you can take to mitigate the risks.

Generally, you will be asked to provide the details of 2-3 referees who can attest to your skills, experience and performance in previous employment. Ideally, these will be people you have reported to directly, however it is often unadvisable to provide details of your current boss, especially if he or she doesn't know you are moving on. In this instance, it's fine to provide details of a colleague or someone who has moved on from the company. Try to provide at least one referee who you have reported into previously.

Referee preparation: It is important to brief your referees on the position for which you are applying so that they can provide the most relevant information. Let them know the job you are applying for, what you will be doing in the role, and the attributes the employer is looking for. They also need to be notified when and from whom to expect a phone call. Prior to every reference check, confirm they are still happy to act as your referee and are committed to be available to take a twenty minute call. Essentially, they are acting as your advocate so it's in your best interest to make it as easy and convenient for them as possible.

It is strongly advisable to have a clear idea of what your referees will say about you prior to your reference check. Your understanding of how you and your skills are perceived may not be in line with what your referees believe. Ask them what they see as your core achievements and what they believe are your key strengths and weaknesses. It's better to have this insight than to be surprised by the outcome of your reference check.

Technical Testing
Technical testing is fast becoming a powerful way of assessing the abilities of skilled candidates. In certain markets there are a large number of candidates, but the quality of their technical skills and whether not these skills are up to date varies hugely. While you may claim a certain level of skill on your CV, can you actually perform at that level when it comes to the technical aspects of the role?

Most technical tests are completed through an online portal, allowing you to complete the test in a location where you are most comfortable. Remember, these test are simply used to confirm the extent of your knowledge, in the same way as an interview confirms your previous experiences. 

Be sure to ask for a copy of the results as this will provide you with a guide of where you should invest time to brushing up on your skills.

Psychometric Assessments
Contrary to recruitment mythology, psychometric assessments are not about 'passing' or 'failing'. They are much more about assessing your work preferences, your inherent strengths (such as an aptitude or fear of sales) and your 'fit' with other people within the organisation. Psychometric testing is also used as an ongoing management tool by savvy line managers who want to gain insight into the way you like to be managed and motivated at work. So don't stress!

Preparing for the test: Most often, psychometric assessments are completed online. Generally, you will be emailed a link and login to a testing site where you will be asked to respond to a series of questions. Psychometric tests can't be studied for, as they evaluate your intrinsic abilities and your natural behaviour. Your best course of action is to answer consistently and honestly. If you're adamant you need to prepare, you can take a practice test which will help you feel more at ease with the overall process – it’s just unlikely to affect your real result.

Taking the test: The questions themselves will usually ask you to grade how you feel about something or whether you agree or disagree with a statement. Try to answer as honestly as possible and don't get caught up in over thinking your responses. There is very little point in trying to outsmart the test as the design of most of these assessments pick up on inconsistent answers and will likely highlight this 'strategy' as an issue in the results. Similarly, providing answers that are consistently in the middle of the range is not helpful and can result in feedback that you are 'hedging' your answers. Better just to have a go; answer honestly and follow your instincts

For best results, when sitting any test make sure you are in the right frame of mind. Don't take the assessment if you are tired, stressed, or under the influence of alcohol; wait until the next day instead. Ensure you are in a quiet place where you won't be distracted or interrupted and where you can easily relax and focus.

Top Tips
Do prep your referees by briefing them on the position and making sure they are comfortable and available to act as your referee.
Do take the time to thank your referees properly; you never know when you might need them next.
Do make sure you have everything you need prior to starting your psychometric test. A glass of water, a pencil and a calculator are handy.
Do read the psychometric test questions carefully.  Sometimes if it doesn't make sense right away reading aloud can help.
Do answer honestly.
Don't panic over the tests. If you make a mistake or press the wrong button, leave it behind you and move on to the next question.