Gone are the days you interviewed, got a job offer and then had to take a perfunctory writing test. Today, a growing number of companies and agencies now require applicants to pass writing tests before they even get considered for an interview.
Perhaps this new wrinkle stems from the fact that over 60% of applicants score C or worse on most writing tests,” according to a freelance writing test grader. So, you can separate yourself from the pack by creating a winning game plan to address the inevitable writing test.
“It’s not a do or die situation,” one agency recruiter told me. “But a blatant fail will nix your job chances. So the best way to stay in contention is to do just a little bit of preparation.”
Most writing tests are now administered on an honor system around applicants’ schedules, submitted to the candidate at an agreed to time. You receive the assignment via email and have an hour or two to complete the exercise. Some firms still require the work be done in the office where they know you aren’t accessing help from others. You can expect the test to include questions proper use of grammar, an editing exercise and a request to write something about the company. Don’t be afraid to ask the person arranging the test to describe what you might expect. S/he won’t give you details, but will often explain the general testing approach.
Here a few tips that may help you ace the writing test:
- Scan through the AP Stylebook and then keep it handy so you can quickly check any writing questions against the writing “bible” most organizations use.
- Since editing existing work is part of most writing tests, post a chart of common proofreading marks next to your computer.
- Know and avoid making the 30 grammar mistakes that included in most writing tests.
- Research the agency or company, making sure you read all news releases over the past year. Study the nuances of corporate jargon. Notice little details, such as the fact some use commas before Inc. and others don’t. And never forget to end any news release writing assignment with the boilerplate description of the company usually at the end of most news releases.
- Proof. Proof. Proof. Recruiters say they are amazed with the number of simple mistakes that could be caught if applicants carefully re-read their work before pushing send.
- Ask for feedback. If you don’t advance in the search, ask for feedback. Was it something you said or didn’t say? Or was it about your writing? Too often, applicants move on without seeking important insights that can be gained by simply asking for helpful feedback.