INTERVIEWS / NOV. 20, 2013
version 2, draft 2

Alternative Interview: Taking An Exam

For most job seekers the majority of advice given, in terms of being hired for the job, is in relation to the interview process. Dress smart, speak clearly, don't be too informal. It's a nerve wracking experience, being face to face with your potential employer, making that all important first impression. For most of us, it's a great way to demonstrate our personalities and show a potential employer whether we're the right fit for the role. However, while it's all good and well saying "this is how I would handle this situation", employers now look for active proof that the job you are applying for is something you really can handle. 

My experience…

I received an email from one such employer that had taken interest. My CV had impressed them, but they wanted some solid evidence of my skills. First of all, I had to reply to their email, showing my interest. I wrote in a formal tone, making sure to include formalities such as "Dear" and "Yours Sincerely", as well as to double check the spelling before sending it off. Their response was to send me an online exam, and asked if there was a suitable time for me to take it. I responded with 12pm the following the day; they agreed. When the time arrived, I made sure to already have the computer loaded and emails open prior to the 12 o'clock mark, and constantly refreshed the page until the email appeared.

The exam itself was nearly identical to every English Language paper I have ever taken, with a clear task, time limit, and several sources to quote from. 70 minutes, 2 questions, 500 words. Although I have taken countless exams in my life, it was unlike any other. Nevertheless, I got through it, and managed to send off my answers before the time limit expired. The whole process was a great boost for my ego; an employer had taken enough interest to give me a chance, and I was able to write in a style I was unfamiliar with, and therefore adapt and increase my writing skills. Sadly, I did not get the job, but more on that later. For now, let's go through some tips on how to take on an online exam:

  • Be professional right from the start. Every email you send must be written well and in the right tone, don't slip into Facebook mode.
  • If they request a time, try and make it as early as possible in the working day. The employer talking to you is probably busy with loads of other things, and it shows you can be prompt.
  • Speaking of prompt, make sure you're up and ready, with your internet working and no distractions. As soon as they send that email, it's go time.
  • At the risk of sounding patronising, READ the questions, RE-READ the questions, and if you really must, READ them again. Make sure you're fulfilling exactly what the employer is expecting from you.
  • Proof read, spell check, grammar check, tone check; make sure you've done everything perfectly.
  • Manage your time. If one question is taking too long, leave it for now and move onto the next. Once you've finished, proof-read if you've time to spare. Make sure you send it off before you run out of time.

Once it's done, sit back and relax. It could be a few days before they respond to you, or it could be a few hours. As I said before, I was rejected, but the exam did more than just show the employer what I was capable of, it demonstrated what I could expect from the job as well. My exam involved writing about two subjects I was completely unfamiliar and uninterested in, making the exam more stressful than I would have liked. It is clear to an employer if you don't enjoy the task at hand, and that can lead to a lack of motivation, and show that you are not an ideal candidate. Nevertheless, it never hurts to ask for feedback, but don't be surprised if it doesn't come, these people are working professionals, not examiners. 

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