How to Prepare for Practical Tests Set During an Interview

  • June 20, 2019

When you apply for a job in communications or marketing, it’s not unusual for your interview to end with a practical test. This is a popular exercise among recruiters as it reassures them that they have identified your profile correctly, and after talking about your career path and your skills, it’s your chance to show them what you can do! You will usually receive advance notice about the test, and when you do, don’t hesitate to ask the recruiter about it by email beforehand in order to know how the interview will play out.

What exercises will you be asked to do? What are they looking to learn about you? What constitutes a successful exercise? Here, Welcome to the Jungle gives you the lowdown for what you can expect and what to do when the time comes.

Case study

This is the most traditional test used in an interview and involves resolving a communications/marketing issue in 30 minutes and presenting the results of your work. You will be given a brief containing the initial elements, then it will be up to you to seek out the necessary complementary information. Usually, you will be provided with a computer and a wifi connection.

The task may involve one of the following:

  • An industry analysis, a company with a profitability issue.
  • A launch of a new product or service.
  • A launch in a new market.
  • Increasing sales.
  • Working on the reputation and image.

The objective

The recruiter is looking to gauge your reasoning skills and how you deal with challenges.

Our tips for success

  1. Rephrase the problem in your own words. Don’t repeat it the same way it was shared—reword it to display your mastery of the subject and use vocabulary that indicates your expertise (such as retargeting, targets, insight, positioning). If you want to stand out and you feel up to it, you can try to challenge the issue by proposing a different angle of attack. The idea is not to refute the problem entirely, but to take the risk if your thinking seems relevant. You’ll never be reproached for asserting a firm conviction if it’s well argued.
  2. Ask the recruiter questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’ve got any doubts. But be sure to ask questions that show you fully understand the profession and that you’d like to apply the best-fitting operational strategy. “What objective has the company assigned to the digital team?” “Who is the target audience of this communication?” “Are there any other communication tools available?”
  3. Demonstrate your strategic vision. Get an overview of the subject and set up the basis for your thinking using a tool such as SWOT, or the 5 Ps, or a work procedure (a workshop, design thinking, or a social-media room) to show how you would undertake this in “the real world.” Use good sense and stay simple and clear. Present your ideas using visuals for better understanding and to better pace your presentation.
  4. Give a unifying thread Stay structured so as to not lose your audience: At the preparatory phase, establish a plan that you can announce during your oral presentation, which should include a recap of the issue, a diagnosis, an analysis, recommendations, and a conclusion.
  5. Be creative. Opt for an unexpected choice while citing your sources and indicate that it’s taken from your usual research. This will show that you’re up-to-date on the latest campaigns and what’s going on in the field. Also, show how keen you are to use digital tools—it’s impossible today to imagine communication without employing what’s available in this world, the medium for all innovation.
  6. Demonstrate the efficiency of your proposed actions. Speak about KPI objectives, as it’s not possible to set up a strategic operation without establishing numerically measurable goals. For example, if it’s an awareness campaign, determine how many points must be earned and measure the evolving awareness using a before-and-after study.

Market sizing

This is a simplified calculation method for quickly estimating the potential of a market—in other words, the number of consumers and projected turnover. It’s about giving a logical estimate of the size of the market, so use your best judgement! See our example below:

  • The question asked: “Could you give me an estimate of the number of cigarettes sold each year in Russia?”
  • Proposed solution: Population of Russia: 150 million people. Percentage of smokers: an educated guess by the candidate, let’s say a third. The number of cigarettes smoked each day by the smoking population: let’s put it at 20 cigarettes, the amount in a pack. Based on our hypothesis, the number of cigarettes sold in Russia annually would be the following: (150 x ⅓) x 20 x 365 = 365 billion cigarettes, so 18.25 billion packs.

The objective

The recruiter wants to gauge your reasoning and your mental-arithmetic capabilities.

Our tips for success

  1. Use round figures. Justify the estimates by using round figures to calculate as quickly as possible and avoid making mistakes.
  2. Keep calm. Your body language is being read, so you need to inspire confidence. Show that you’re passionate and dynamic so as to not lose the interest of the person evaluating you.
  3. Think out loud. It’s important for the recruiter to understand your way of thinking, and it will help to keep you from going off in the wrong direction.

The in-basket test

For one or two hours, you’ll be put in charge of some of the duties of the position you’re applying for. The recruiter will come up with a scenario, you will then find in your inbox a number of issues to deal with or decisions to make.

The objective

The recruiter is looking to gauge how you prioritize tasks, your organizational skills, and your ability to delegate.

Our tips for success

  1. Take comprehensive notes. This will help you to organize the tasks by level of importance and to create your to-do list.
  2. Argue your choices based on your experience. Speak openly and honestly about past situations where you had a poor grasp of what was going on as well as those where you were able to rise to the challenge, and then explain the lessons you learned from both scenarios.
  3. Show that you know how to delegate. Incorporate delegation into your working process to save time and foster a group dynamic.

Stress management

It’s possible that the recruiter will want to test how you deal with stress and your ability to not let yourself get overwhelmed by a difficult or unexpected situation, especially if you’re applying for a job where good client relationships are essential. You will be confronted with questions and comments such as, “You didn’t convince us with this one aspect,” “You’re quite young for this position,” or “What makes you think you’ll be able to pull this off?”

The objective

The recruiter is looking to get a reaction out of you and wants to see how you respond when you’re unsettled.

Our tips for success

  1. Have confidence in yourself. If they’ve called you in after seeing your résumé, they’re interested in your profile.
  2. Put the ball back in their court. Ask your interviewer questions to figure out why they’re asking theirs, all while demonstrating that you’re listening.
  3. Address their concerns. Once you’ve got all the answers to your questions, address the concerns of the interviewer by highlighting the experience and skills outlined in your résumé that establish your credibility.

The group test

For this, you will be required to solve a marketing/communications task in a team, for example, a product-marketing plan.

The objective

The recruiter is looking to gauge your ability to find your place in a work group, as well as the way you interact and show initiative.

Our tips for success

  1. Divide the group into subgroups. If the task has a lot of aspects that need to be dealt with, dividing the group up will mean a task can be assigned to each subgroup, allowing enough time for everything to be resolved.
  2. Become the coordinator. In other words, be the one who compiles and organizes the information, alerting the group if a particular aspect has not been dealt with, thus guaranteeing everything is done on time. Shouldering the role of organizer will prove your thoroughness and commitment. However, don’t put yourself front and center too much. Taking the lead means assigning tasks and organizing a work group, but everyone should be able to contribute and feel like their involvement is valued.
  3. Be proactive. Offer summaries, solutions, and graphics using all the materials you’ve been provided with.

So, you now have everything at your fingertips to succeed in the most common test scenarios and secure your place within the tribe of your dreams. Occasionally, the recruiter might finish the interview with small tests of your motivation, logic, personality, or even skill (such as competence in a particular language), but don’t forget that it’s your personality and your motivation that will really make the difference!

Translated by Kalin Lindsmith

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Audrey Depommier

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