A reader writes:
I just had an interview today that involved a written test. The employer is a law firm and I was intertviewing for a legal assistant position. I was informed I would interview with 2 current paralegals and then take a written exam. I was given no information as to what the exam was about, only that it was timed.
The actual interview went okay (not glowing but not a total bomb at all), but I was a little intimidated once I started taking the test; it involved a lot of research I was not familiar with. I kind of had to wing it. I got to use the internet for about half of the test to do my research with. Needless to say, I did a lot of googling. I had to even google an abbreviation to make sure I knew what it was.
I didn’t finish the test, so the person interviewing me came in to let me know that my time was up. We then discussed what would happen next, I thanked her and then left… without exiting out of any of the browsers and web pages I had used! I kept some of them open in case I had enough time to go back and tweak my answers. I guess it wouldn’t be that bad if I knew where to find the information and didn’t use google so much. Did I blow it?
Well, it depends on your definition of “blowing it.”
Here’s the thing: They are testing to make sure that you have certain types of knowledge, because they’ve determined that that’s an important factor in whether you’re the right fit for the job. If you don’t do well on that test, that’s not just a sign for them not to hire you; it’s also a sign for you that this isn’t the right job for you. You don’t want a job that you’ll struggle in — and it’s reasonable to assume that if you were struggling with the test (and “winging it” counts as struggling), you’d struggle with the job.
(Caveat: I suppose that there’s a small chance that that’s not true. Some employers use badly designed tests that test knowledge of things that a good candidate could pick up in a day if given a chance. But in general, these exercises tend to be reasonable ways to assess whether a candidate has certain key skills/knowledge.)
My guess is that you’re not going to get this job — because you didn’t finish the test in the time they’d allowed, if nothing else. They’re looking for someone who can do that exercise and do it in the time they allotted. But if you’re not quite what they’re looking for (and it sounds like you probably aren’t,) it’s a good thing for both of you to find that out at this stage. The test did what it was designed to do — show both of you that this probably isn’t the right match.
In fact, assume that this exercise gave you information about the fit just as much as it did them. And you do not want to get a job if it’s not the right fit for you. You really, really do not.