Craig McGeough, Talent Acquisition Lead, explains why testing during interviews exist, what to expect, and how to prepare.

I imagine that for many the idea of technical testing during an interview process instils, at worst, a sense of dread, and at best something like begrudging acceptance. People’s reactions to this stage of recruitment are something that I find particularly interesting in my role here as Talent Acquisition Lead. However, I see the huge benefit it brings to recruitment processes. Not just for us, but for interviewees too.

What is Testing?

Testing is the undertaking of a practical task, or series of tasks, in order to identify skills that may be harder to demonstrate using interview questions alone. There are various means of testing. The most common are a written technical test, a lab-based technical test, a presentation, a role-play exercise – the list is endless.

Why Does Perfect Image Test?

The testing phase of an interview process should only be there if it serves a clearly defined purpose. Imagine being given a part in a West End Musical and never once belting out a chorus at any stage, or signing for FC Barcelona without ever kicking a ball. The thought is ridiculous! However, some people think that having 2 years’ experience on a CV means that testing is no longer a necessity. To me, it doesn’t seem fair.

At Perfect Image we test – or benchmark – in various ways for various roles. For some roles, we don’t require a practical testing stage at all. We want to make sure people get the chance to prove themselves without just taking their CV as the sum of them as a person. We get to understand the kind of skills interviewees have, and they get to understand what kind of skills we’re looking for. Benchmarking can provide a clearer understanding of someone’s skill level in relevant areas much more efficiently than asking them to try and articulate something practical. For example, we prefer interviewees for consultancy-focused roles to give a presentation, rather than relying on questions about their people skills.

Understanding Your Potential

Beyond this, benchmarking allows us to appreciate your current skill levels and to evaluate what we can build on and how long that will take. At Perfect Image, we have numerous examples of people who have perhaps struggled to meet a particular element of the job description but who have shown a huge amount of potential in other areas during a test – and we’ve ended up hiring them. This wouldn’t have happened if we had judged them purely on their interview or CV.

Chris Hayes, Technical Operations Manager at Perfect Image, shares his views on the role that benchmarking and testing plays in his hiring process: “I often need to know the person can perform specific technical work applicable to the role. A well-structured test can cover that off for me, allowing the main interview to cover a more open conversation about getting to know the candidate. It’s also important that if a candidate is clearly not suited to the role technically, and is not able to deliver work at the base level required in the job spec, we don’t waste their time with a full interview or hire them into something potentially unsuitable for both parties.”

Why is Testing Good for Me?

We understand that not everyone thrives in interview situations. Particularly either those who fall into an inherently technical, task-driven role such as IT support, or a role that involves a huge amount of customer interaction face-to-face, such as sales or consultancy which can be very hard to demonstrate aptitude in, during a potentially sterile interview environment.

This is where testing can even out the process across all candidates.

By taking away the process from a conventional, one-dimensional route of questions and answers, candidates are given a key opportunity to demonstrate their full skillset. Further, if a CV understates a person’s skills or fails to truly portray their particular flair for the role, then testing can help bridge the gap for hiring managers between taking it at face value and seeing that in reality.

Kate Thomson, Head of Marketing at Perfect Image, adds: ‘‘Marketing’ is quite a broad discipline and we look to recruit specific talents into to the team, such as copywriting or technical SEO. The more traditional part of an interview can help us understand what that individual is like and how well they’ll fit in the business, but a short practical test will reveal that person’s aptitude and flair for delivery which you just can’t ascertain from a conversation.”

How Should I Prepare?

Testing should mirror fundamental elements of the role you are applying for. Your preparation should be based around what you know, going over on areas you’re not as strong at, and really ensuring that we see the best possible version of you.

Chris Hayes, Technical Operations Manager, advises candidates who are undertaking tests for his team: “Brush up on the fundamentals of the technologies applicable to the role. In the test itself, if you don’t know the answer, have a go anyway – you might surprise yourself!”

Mindset is key. Not rushing or panicking, but being methodical, thorough, engaging, true to the role and believing in yourself. Trying to show as much of your positive attributes as possible. Chris says: “Don’t rush the test or panic if a question seems difficult – this is often deliberate to find out how far your knowledge goes. A candidate won’t be expected to get everything 100% correct to be considered for an interview. Just answer as best you can and move on. Even if you get some answers wrong, it’s not the end of the world – the thought process you demonstrate in an answer could still catch an eye.”

This is something we see a lot during our testing. Those who shine and stand out are often those who naturally have a sound level of knowledge, and who also have soft skills such as passion, drive, ambition, customer service, and a whole host of other attributes that make them someone we can really see in the role.

Final Takeaway

If you take anything away from this article, it would be that in testing your ultimate goal is to make the hiring manager believe you have the potential to be an asset in their team. A lot of people shy away from it, but use it in your favour to show why are the right person, rather than relying on telling a hiring manager in an interview.

For more information about Perfect Image, our vacancies and how we approach our recruitment process please do visit our website and learn more:

About Craig McGeough

Craig began working within recruitment in 2013 as a Recruitment Consultant across various disciplines, working his way up to become Data Acquisition Team Leader. In 2018 he joined Perfect Image as Talent Acquisition Lead where he has full ownership over the recruitment life cycle. He also continually improves recruitment-related marketing including managing the production of bespoke video content, updating our careers page and liaising with 3rd party organisations. Get in touch with Craig here to discuss careers:

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