I'm going for a temp agency skills assessment. What can I expect?
May 7, 2011 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm going for a temp agency skills assessment. What can I expect?

I have been unemployed for two months now and am going to give a temp agency a shot. I have been asked to come in for a skills assessment for Word, Excel, Outlook, typing, etc. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

What sort of office functions can I expect at the test? It will take about three hours. I have never temped before. I searched the previous questions, but could not find a similar previous question.
posted by Calzephyr to Work & Money (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've had a few skills assessment tests at temp agencies. Generally they stick you in front of a computer and start a program that runs through the various tests. If you've worked in an office before and are pretty comfortable with your office product skills and have a decent typing speed, you should do ok.

The test will likely ask you to open and save documents, perhaps set up an uncomplicated formula in excel, cut and paste, utilize the split screens functionality, insert a graphic, change the font size, that sort of thing.

However, sometimes the way the test was worded/set up caused some confusion for me - I might know how to do something but not know what it's called. At times I lost points because I used a shortcut (I'd ask up front if the test is looking for a specific solution or if shortcuts are acceptable). I just rolled with it, and I always had a strong enough score to rule me in for the kind of job I was looking for.

If you are concerned about acing the test and have a couple of days, you could always brush up on your skills with online tutorials or by getting the "for Dummies" books from the library.
posted by bunderful at 6:41 AM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've taken many, many of those tests over the years. They're very basic for the most part, with maybe a couple of challenging questions thrown in at the end. The hard Excel questions (for me) tend to have to do with macros.

bunderful is right - in most of the tests, you lose points for using shortcuts (which if course is really stupid, since every expert user of those problems relies on shortcuts rather than the more complicated method of doing the same thing). So, brush up on the menus at the top of the screen. I'd also see if you can find out which versions of the programs you'll be tested on, since the newer Office applications are much different from previous versions. Unless the temp agency is on the high-volume, more prestigious side, they're pretty likely to still be using the old version.
posted by something something at 6:49 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I didn't know shortcuts were penalized, which I agree is dumb! I forgot to mention that it will be Office 2003 that I will be testing on.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:57 AM on May 7, 2011

Best answer: One helpful hint - for the questions that I had no idea how to respond to, just browsing through the menu sometimes got me the answer. Sometimes the questions are worded in a way that can help you figure it out.
posted by bunderful at 7:02 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have done quite a few of these over the years. I my experience shortcuts are not penalized, per se, but the software that they use to perform the testing just doesn't recognize or allow right clicks or keyboard shortcuts. Typically you aren't really working in Word or Excel, but in another program that emulates those programs and gives you tasks to perform. The testing program isn't "smart" enough to recognize all the many ways you can accomplish a task.

So stick with the menus and toolbar buttons, and you'll be fine.

As others have mentioned, these are usually pretty basic.
posted by jeoc at 7:15 AM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks much! I feel better now about going :-)
posted by Calzephyr at 7:58 AM on May 7, 2011

Best answer: I just took one of these last week after a hiatus of a few years since my last temp work. There are lots of good tips above about not being able to use shortcuts and the questions being worded helpfully. One other thing: the testing software I used last week allowed me to restart questions if I'd made a mistake (the prompt was essentially "have you answered this question? restart/next question"). So for some where I wasn't sure what menu something was in, I could keep trying. If my number of attempts or time spent answering a question was recorded, the temp agency made no mention of it when telling me how I scored.

One other thing: I forgot that the typing test asks you to keep typing, starting from the beginning, if you've finished typing the passage tested. Lost a few WPM that way, boo. Oh, and corrected errors don't count as errors on that test.

That temp agency continues to test on Office 2003 because that's what most of its clients still use, FWIW.
posted by asperity at 12:35 PM on May 7, 2011

Response by poster: Just wanted to report that I aced my test! Thanks again MeFites!
posted by Calzephyr at 11:34 AM on May 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

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