What are written tests for job interviews? (With types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If an employer receives a lot of applications for a role, written tests can help them create a shortlist of potential applicants based on how they respond to like-minded scenarios. Written tests are a quick and easy way for employers to access candidates' skill sets. They usually take place before an interview, either online or on the day of the actual interview. In this article, we look at why employers use written tests, with examples of the different types of written tests for job interviews and tips on how to deal with them.

What are written tests for job interviews?

Written tests for job interviews help employers to assess your skills, abilities and knowledge. They're a requirement for most job interviews today and have a big impact on your chances of landing the role that you're applying for. A good test can tell employers a lot about how you approach and solve problems, but the wrong type of test can mean you don't get to showcase your true abilities. The purpose of these tests is to make sure that you have what it takes to succeed in the position you're applying for.

What is the purpose of a written test?

Written tests allow employers to get a sense of whether you and other candidates have the skills necessary for the job. Written tests offer several benefits:

  • They help to eliminate candidates, meaning employers don't waste time reading CVs or interviewing unsuitable applicants.

  • You can carry them out anonymously, which eliminates employer bias.

  • They allow employers to assess several important skills at once, like spelling, grammar, attention to detail, organisation and your ability to work under pressure.

What are the different types of written tests?

There are several written tests that employers can ask you to complete before an interview, including:

Skills assessments

Skills assessments help an employer to measure how well you perform specific tasks related to the job. These assessments may include writing an essay on a topic related to your experience, solving maths problems or answering comprehension questions related to your field of study. Some may ask you to complete an essay on a hypothetical situation relevant to your current situation (such as how you would handle an employee who is not showing up for work) or complete an essay about what makes you ideal for the position.

Skill assessments are useful as they tell the employer how suitable you are for the role by revealing your capabilities. They're a lot quicker to organise and complete than asking each candidate to do a trial shift, and can also help employers to skim through lots of applicants. They only interview the applicants who pass the skills assessment, which saves time and resources.

Related: What is a skills assessment test and how is it used?

Situational judgement tests

Another common type of written test is a situational judgment test (SJT). SJTs assess how you would respond to specific situations on the job. For example, an interviewer may ask you how you would handle a project with very tight deadlines or what you would do if faced with an angry customer who refuses to pay for a meal at a restaurant where they had just eaten dinner. They help to reveal your thought processes, allowing an employer to see if you're suitable for the role.

Personality tests

A personality test, such as Myers-Briggs or Hogan Assessments, is one of the most common types of written tests employers use in interviews. This type of test can help an employer to determine how well you would fit into an organisation's culture. You usually answer a series of questions that measure your level of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and other characteristics. This type of test may be more relevant to sales jobs, as employers actively look for confident candidates who can sell.

Related: Key aspects and strengths of the ISFJ personality type

Verbal reasoning test

This test helps to measure your ability to think logically, process information quickly and solve problems. It often involves an audio recording where you listen to a series of statements before choosing which ones are true or false. The questions may also require you to rearrange words or phrases to make sense of the statement. Employers often combine verbal reasoning tests with other types of assessments (like personality tests) to create more comprehensive evaluations of your skills. These tests are common in customer service interviews.

Numerical reasoning test

This test measures your ability to solve mathematical problems both in your head and on paper. It often requires you to interpret charts, graphs or other visuals that show data about people or situations, but it might also involve some basic maths equations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Employers can use numerical reasoning assessments alone or alongside other assessments like personality tests or SJTs. Employers who are hiring accountants or bankers often use these tests to ensure that applicants have the skills necessary to keep up with the demands of the job.

Related: How to become a retail banker: a step-by-step guide

True/false questions

These questions require you to indicate whether something is true or false, rather than provide a written answer. This type of test can be useful for determining whether you have the particular skills or knowledge for the job you're applying for. For example, if a company wants to know if you can read and understand technical documents before hiring you as an engineer they might ask you to identify which statements are true or false in a technical document and ask follow-up questions about each statement.

Multiple-choice questions

These questions usually have a list of four answers and require you to identify the correct one. Employers often use these questions in screening processes as they require you to demonstrate your knowledge of specific topics. These tests not only help employers to quickly cut candidates, but they're also easy to implement and create.

Related: Pre-Employment Tests: Definitions, Types and Benefits

Tips for passing written tests

Regardless of the industry or the specific test, use the following tips to answer each question effectively:

Have a strategy for each question

If you don't know the answer to a question, make sure you're still able to use the time to your advantage and write something that demonstrates your skills or knowledge. For example, if you don't know the capital of Tibet, write down the capitals of other countries instead, so you're showcasing what you do know. Whilst this might not be the answer, it could show the employer that you have other skills and are resourceful.

Use bullets and numbered lists

Using bullet points or numbered lists can help you to organise your thoughts and communicate them more clearly to the reader. This is because they break up large blocks of text, making it easier for readers to process information quickly, which is important if they're reading through many candidates' responses. It can also help you to get more information down, which is useful in a timed environment.

Plan ahead

It's easy to forget how much time has passed when you're engrossed in a task like writing an essay, especially if you're nervous about the interview itself. To ensure that you get the main points down, manage your time by setting alerts on your phone or watch so that you can keep track of the time remaining. It often helps to spend the first five minutes sketching out a brief plan for how you would like to answer the question.

Read the instructions carefully

One of the most common mistakes that people make in written tests is not following instructions. To avoid this, ensure that you don't overlook the directions given. Instead, take a deep breath and read over the questions several times before you start to answer. This helps to ensure that you understand what the question is asking of you before moving forward.

Pace yourself

Try not to spend too much time on any one question. If you're stuck, move on to the next question and then go back and review it again once you've completed the rest. This ensures that you have enough time to answer everything on the test.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles