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Honing Old Skills For Tests and Interviews: Improve Your Job Market Chances!

Updated on October 3, 2014

The job situation can look pretty bleak when you come to take a squint at it in these days of economic woes and much belt-tightening. Whether unemployment is officially falling, rising or being gently, discreetly massaged, it seems as if all of us know someone with employment issues and problems – and maybe that someone is us!

All of this can make the job search a little stressful, and more important than ever. When you go for a job interview, it's extra important currently to be well-prepared and to be able to handle whatever's thrown at you in the way of questions and tests. A lot of higher level jobs these days do ask you to take a test, either in person or online, that is relevant to the job description and person specification for the job. You may get a chance to do a trial, preparatory test in advance, but either way it can be a stressful and surprising experience.

When you need to ace a pre-job test, or impress at an interview, then you may be reprising current skills and showing off your chops and easy excellence. If so, then good for you. On the other hand, you may be making an appointment to demonstrate skills that are rusty with disuse and were perhaps never put to practical test, merely the certificated result of a few classes some years back. In that case you may need to put your back into your efforts and embark upon some serious revision.

What's the first rule of taking tests for a subject you're rusty in? I think it's just this – take it seriously. Don't be casual, don't make guesses about how much of the subject matter you have a fair grasp of, don't think it probably doesn't matter all that much. (If they're taking the trouble to put you through a test on the subject, then it matters! It matters a lot!)

Get your homework done. Read through old notes, take any practice tests available, do any kind of practical work or modelling available to you, practice as much as you can. Don't just stick to the information and old lecture notes on the subject you already have, either. Most fields have continual developments that professionals and those with an interest in the subject need to keep up with. This is a big issue! You need to get on top of any of these and know them inside and out, especially any that would be directly relevant to your job description.

I know something of that of which I speak: having recently undertaken a pre-interview test in maths and office software for a pretty cushy job (and one that I should really have walked, easy). Maths, right? You love it or hate it. I've always been a mathematics geek: how could it go wrong, even with very little prior preparation? Believe me, quite easily when you're as rusty as I was. And the software thing? Have you any idea how much any particular piece of software can change in terms of functionality and format between versions? A lot. That's all I'm saying. A whole lot.

Don't assume you know more than you do beforehand. Because you know what 'assuming' does... Does all of this seem like rather a lot to ask of you, in preparing for an interview or test with no guarantee that you'll even get the job after all of this work? Well, yes, it is. So what are you going to do about it? The jobs market is pretty tight. Employers can pretty much ask for what the hell they want, and the rest of us have to deal with it. So deal! Ace that test, do your prep to the ultimate level and beyond, don't assume you know more than you really do and whatever you do, don't shrug your shoulders and just wing it. If humans were meant to wing it, they'd be able to fly!


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