Testing, testing…Is this job on?

Free tests allow employers to score job applicants

By CHERY SABOL for the Missoula Job Service

As an employer, you’ve diligently checked out an applicant’s information. You confirmed any required education or certification, contacted former employers and references, maybe even conducted a background check and driver’s record check if that information is related to the job.

After an interview that posed good, substantive questions, your candidate seems like the right fit. But you know a hiring mistake is expensive in terms of wasted training, misspent time, and bruised staff morale. Is there anything else that can help assess an applicant’s fitness for the job? It just so happens, there is. You can ask your candidate to Prove It!

Prove It! is a computerized skills testing program by Kenexa, an IBM company. At Missoula Job Service, it’s free for employers and job seekers to use, giving an impartial, scored evaluation of thousands of job skills.

Law firms and other employers sometimes require applicants to test their typing speed at Missoula Job Service. Employers hiring a bookkeeper might want to see an applicant’s score on a QuickBooks test. There are tests to check a map reader’s acuity, a fork-lift operator’s skills, or an office worker’s ability to navigate Microsoft’s Excel software in Dutch.

Picture17At ROSEBURG FOREST PRODUCTS CO., laborers take pre-employment tests in mechanical reasoning and safety in the workplace. John Mikkelson, Director of Human Resources, said general laborers may start out just swinging a broom or shovel, but the company likes to cross-train laborers into machine operator jobs when appropriate. The tests give a good indication of safety awareness and mechanical potential, he said.
“Safety is self-explanatory,” Mikkelson said. The company stresses safety above all and Mikkelson finds “most people have a good safety culture. I haven’t had anybody really just fall on their face” on the 47-question safety test. Even a cube-dwelling Job Service worker can score respectably on that test, which spans basic to advanced questions (I still don’t know the answer to the question about non-ionizing radiation).

Not so much on the mechanical reasoning test, which can truly humble that same gear-fearing Job Service guinea pig (76 percent, thank you). Mikkelson has found that former farm workers and others who have worked with machinery in the past often do well at Roseburg’s jobs. The test can confirm their aptitude.

“Let’s be honest, at interviews, most people put their best foot forward,” he said. A proficiency test can separate what an applicant says he or she can do from what an applicant actually can do.


USES FOR THE TEST are seemingly endless:

  • A battery of tests for a phlebotomist position last year included phlebotomy as well as business etiquette, basic computer literacy, healthcare terminology, and Microsoft programs.
  • A fast-food business tested applicants on basic arithmetic.
  • A customer-service mindset survey, data entry, and office filing skills assessments were required by a medical office.
  • A writing sample in the form of computer-scored thank-you letter was required for one employer’s job.
  • Clerical proofreading and administrative assisting tests were needed to apply for an office job.
  • A detention officer job requires scores in basic arithmetic, basic reading comprehension, office spelling and grammar, and computer literacy. The same tests are administered to sheriff’s deputy candidates.

Employers can also build customized tests for specialized jobs or to assess essential skills that span a variety of standard tests. Employers can set up test results to go directly from Job Service to them or job candidates can obtain a Job Service certified score in paper or electronic form.

Job seekers don’t have to wait for a prompt from a potential employer. A blazing-fast typist who voluntarily provides a certified test speed of 75 words per minute may tip the scales when a boss is considering finalists for a job. There are also tutorials on Microsoft office programs that can help applicants brush up on their skills or even learn the basics of a new program before submitting a test.

Like all services at Missoula Job Service, there is no charge for testing and no appointment is required.

“What’s free anymore?” Mikkelson asked. “And something of that quality?” He said the tests are a good hiring tool that he would recommend to other employers who are hiring.

At Missoula Job Service, we help employers find workers. And we can Prove It!