Assess Yourself: Getting Ready for New Public Sector Job Opportunities

Self-assessment. Increasingly, it’s being used by the public sector to enhance the screening process and dig deeper into knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs)—which is why you’ll see more self-assessment questions pop up as you wade through the application process.

In a recent article for MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program, Mary Ryan, associate director of Career & Leadership Services for Working Professionals touts the benefits of knowing yourself better before you apply for a job.

If you are struggling to articulate your strengths and weaknesses, using an assessment tool can be helpful,” Ryan says. “Any strength taken too far can be a weakness, so the results from one of these assessments may provide with you a jumping off point to better articulate your weaknesses.”

Ryan is specifically referring to that pesky “What’s your greatest weakness?” question, but when it comes to getting ready for new public sector job opportunities—it’s more important than ever for you to be able to look in the mirror and understand yourself better as a result.

Federal Self-Assessment Questions

Also referred to as job-specific questions, self-assessment questions are being used with increasing frequency in many government agencies. Though they may seem like a hurdle to overcome, they’re actually intended to simplify the federal application process by replacing KSA job-element statements to help determine job eligibility.

There are a variety of response options available, including the ability to rate yourself on a defined scale. If you’re well-qualified for the job, this isn’t the time to be shy, as experts note that HR specialists will only be interested in top candidates. However, you must also back up your responses by answering secondary questions with specific examples that demonstrate the skill level that you say you have. If your resume doesn’t reflect the story you’ve just told, be sure to update it to align it with your application—since HR professionals will be comparing the two to validate your own self-assessment.

In contrast, if you tick off a low score for yourself, you might want to reconsider your application—and find something better suited to your specific KSAs instead.

Increased Use of Assessment Tools

Federal agencies aren’t the only ones using assessment tools. Recent research shows that about 76 percent of organizations with more than 100 employees are using assessment tools in the external hiring process—and in the next few years, that’s expected to climb to 88 percent. Viewed as an effective means of screening potential candidates—especially for senior leadership positions—companies use them to identify people with the traits and skills required for particular jobs. They provide a nice supplement to the resume and interview process to create a more complete picture of a prospect’s fit for a position.

Valid assessment tests help employers measure three elements that are important to them in candidates:

  • Competence: Usually measured with aptitude tests to indicate a baseline of skills or abilities, and/or situational judgment tests that are linked more specifically to a particular job role.
  • Work ethic: Often tested through self-report questionnaires, such as personality tests, that reveal typical behavior patterns.
  • Emotional intelligence: Often assessed through both face-to-face interviews, as well as psychological tests and situational judgment tests. The importance of emotional intelligence (EI) is increasingly recognized and is linked to overall job performance, entrepreneurial potential and leadership talent—and is not confined to a specific type of role.

There are a number of self-assessment tools that you can use to get ready for your next job opportunity, and Ryan suggests options such as StrengthsFinder, MBTI, or the Hogan’s Derailers. Whatever tools you select, the key is to pull out the mirror and get started so you’ll be better prepared to show who you are and what you have to offer.

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