Different assessments, similar goal
How can we combine tips for two very different types of assessment?
The answer is that both assessment types tend to examine the same sort of thing:
- Who you are
- What you do
- How you do it
- What your behaviour patterns are
- What your attitudes are
When we put it like that it might seem a bit daunting. How on earth are you supposed to convey all that under pressure, when you might have trouble answering if your partner or mum decided to ask?!
Answering in the right way
The good news is that the way these assessments are designed is that by responding to the questions you will be providing the information the assessors need to fill in these gaps. You just need to answer the questions using the right format. That can be the tricky part.
Here are a few tips we’ve been able to share with candidates who have worked with us to improve their application and interview answers in advance of their assessments. These should steer you in the right direction, and if you want more help, either use the discount code to purchase one of our detailed workbooks, or drop us an email (or look in our store) for more info on our review and feedback services.
- 1. Put YOU into your answer.
A lot of applicants and interviewees are pretty good at explaining the situation and often also detail the task they had to do quite well. What they don’t do is clarify their approach to any action that was required. For instance they might state ‘I followed the procedure and completed the necessary forms’. This is an action anyone would have been expected to do. What you need to do is explain how you did these things e.g. ‘I followed the procedure by breaking it down into steps, tackling each one fully and checking I had done it correctly before moving on to the next step..’ ‘I completed the forms accurately by double checking what details I needed to insert and asking a colleague to verify what I had done.’
- 2. Set the scene.
In your application form the challenge will be to do this in the limited space provided. But if you don’t do it, the assessor won’t have a clue what you are writing about because it will read like you have ‘jumped in in the middle’. It needn’t take much space, it can be the difference between ‘when I volunteered at the soup kitchen, one day I arrived on shift to find…’ to ‘I arrived on shift to find…’ In the second example the assessors are at a disadvantage as they don’t know what you are referring to, and may have to pick it up as they read further. Your task is to make reading and understanding your application answers as smooth as possible. If they are irritated or confused they might not mark you as highly. For your interview the same advice stands, except you have the space to elaborate a bit more. You don’t need to explain everything in minute detail, but at least provide enough context that the interviewers will know how you fit into the situation being described.
- 3. Spell it out!
A lot of our day to day communication involves implying. We imply when we don’t want to confront; we imply when we feel it is more polite than being direct; we imply when we aren’t sure how our comments will be met. For an interview and application form, implying is less useful. It means that the assessors/ interviewers are left to fill in the gaps, and they don’t like to do this. Its far better if you are up front and detailed about what you mean. For instance, you might state that in your workplace you noticed that a certain piece of equipment wasn’t being checked regularly enough. The implication of this might be that it could be less safe; that it could have an impact on profits or reliability; that other colleagues were cutting corners. Unless you specifically state what you took this situation to mean it will be unclear what the point is of you mentioning it. You will have missed your chance to define what the impact was.
- 4. Stay focused.
The questions you are asked in both application forms and interviews will be methods of getting you to talk about your behaviour and attitudes in relation to certain situations. Don’t get so caught up in your story that you forget the point of it- which is to answer the question being asked! The further you stray from that, the harder it will be for your assessors to score you against the criteria they have in place to measure you against.
- 5. Use varied examples.
You may feel that all your best evidence can be found in one environment i.e. your most recent job. However, if all the examples you use come from one source there is a danger you will look one dimensional. If there are 5 questions you can use the same setting for 3; try to find something different for the other two, so the assessors/ interviewers can see there is more to you than how you behave in one environment.