Dear Matt: Why do companies use workplace assessments and how can job seekers prepare for them as part of the interview?

Matt says: Employers use assessments to gauge an individual’s personality, values, strengths and aptitudes to help prevent making a bad hire, says Dennis Bird, Senior Consultant in the Minneapolis office of Right Management (right.com), a Manpower Group Company that regularly helps employers administer workplace assessments as part of the transition or hiring process.

Employers are relying more on big data, predictive analytics and results from workplace assessments to help make hiring decisions. For many jobs, the standard interview process isn’t enough to determine the best candidate. Research by Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH.com), an outplacement and career consulting firm, shows that in 2001 only 26 percent of employers used pre-hire assessments. That number increased to 57 percent in 2013.

While you can’t complete pre-assessment prep courses or prep books, individuals use sites like glassdoor.com to share information about their interview experiences with a particular company and may provide insight into what pre-hire assessments were administered, says LHH spokesperson Helene Cavalli. There are a wide range of assessments. Some are behavioral, which look at interpersonal skills, personality traits, motivators and attitudes. Others are used to test for certain talents/abilities, such as problem-solving, math, vocabulary and grammar, and some test for leadership styles.

When you are asked to take an assessment, ask the recruiter or hiring manager which assessment they use and what it measures, says Bird. You may have completed similar assessments in the past or you could tap into your network to see if anyone has experience with the assessment. The more you know in advance, the more you can prepare.

For multiple choice questions, go with your gut reaction. Don’t over think it or try to figure out what the assessment is trying to measure. “Your first response is usually the best one,” says Bird. If you are doing assessments that require problem solving, skip a question you are stuck on, if you can, and come back to it later after you have answered the other questions. “Focusing on a question you can’t solve will only lead to frustration and anxiety,” says Bird.

If you are completing the assessments at home, pick a time when you have the most energy and a place you can concentrate. If the assessment is at the company or a third party vendor, give yourself plenty of time to get there.

“If you are asked to take an assessment, this is good news,” says Bird. “This means that the company or organization is interested in you and wants to get to know you better. Be confident in who you are and do your best.”

Contact Matt at jobslink@startribune.com.