All the ins and outs you should know about assessments

By Nicoline Hermans

In this ‘Business for Dummies’ Nicoline Hermans explains the ins and outs you should know about assessments. She gives insight in what assessments actually are, what to expect and there are some tips discussed on how you can successfully complete these assessments.

Assessment: what to expect?

As you enter the final stages of your studies and start exploring job opportunities in the fields of accounting and finance, you will probably soon come across them: (psychological) assessments. Here’s what you need to know about them.

What is it?

Although the method is used internationally, the name varies. Sometimes it is called a ‘psychological assessment’ or ‘Assessment Center’ and sometimes just an  ‘assessment’. In this article we will focus on assessments as they are used in The Netherlands. If you are doing an assessment abroad, bear in mind that not all of the information in this article may be applicable.

An assessment is a selection method used to determine whether a person is suitable for a certain job. It results in an advice to the client (the company that ordered the assessment):  the participant (you) is either suitable or not suitable for the job. In the Netherlands, it is used across job types and levels, from traineeships at the beginning of a career to senior level management.

Typically, an assessment consists of multiple assignments. The idea behind this is that information from a number of different sources increases the reliability of the advice. This also means that you are given several opportunities to display your abilities. Don’t fret when your performance wasn’t optimal in one assignment, you will get another chance.

What to expect?

There are four categories of assignments:  intelligence tests, personality questionnaires, role-plays/simulations, and the interview. Not all assessments consist of assignments from all four categories. It’s important to find out ahead of time what your assessment consists of (ask the assessment company).

Intelligence tests: used to determine your level of intellectual ability. The result is not an IQ-score, but a score related to an educational level, for example ‘average HBO level’ or ‘above-average WO level’ (where HBO and WO are different levels of education in The Netherlands). There are different types of tests, each measuring a separate aspect of intelligence, such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, critical thinking and analytical skills.

Personality questionnaires: used to gain insight into you character and personality. Your personality partly determines how you will behave in different situations, which is why this part of an assessment.

Role-plays/simulations: give the assessor an opportunity to observe your behaviour directly. In a role-play, you will be instructed to have a conversation with an actor about a certain topic. Example for a management position: confront a member of your team who is underachieving. Other types of simulations are a presentation, an in-tray exercise or a group discussion.

Interview: an assessment interview is usually compentency-based and often the STAR interview technique is used to assess your skills. In addition, questions about your strengths and weaknesses will be part of the interview.

How to succeed?

There are three main pieces of advice to give when it comes to doing an assessment:

–   Preparation is everything. Find out what kind of intelligence tests you will get and practice these online. Prepare for interview questions. Without accurate preparation, chances are that you will score below your actual level of ability due to insecurity or stress (especially when it is your first time doing an assessment).

–   Be yourself. Although clichéed, it is important to realize that it is nearly impossible to present yourself differently from the way you really are during an assessment. Perhaps you are able to ‘fake it’ during a regular job interview, but during an assessment day while trained assessors are observing you, this won’t work.

–   Ask questions. Don’t think that you need to understand everything at once and that asking questions will make you seem insecure. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. If the assessor can’t answer your question because the unclarity is part of the assignment, he or she will tell you so.

Nicoline Hermans is an experienced assessment psychologist and coach who specializes in effective assessment preparation. See for more information: