By Caroline Ryan, Intern at LH&A
Have you ever applied for a PR, communications or marketing position and had to face the dreaded writing test? If you haven’t yet, you most likely will soon. Writing tests are a popular way for employers to screen potential candidates. Lynn Hazan, president of Lynn Hazan and Associates, has been working for 37 years in the communications and marketing recruiting business. She emphasizes the importance of companies testing their applicants.
“Every organization has different skill set needs,” said Hazan. “Writing tests are very important because they are specific to the company that is looking to hire.”
At LH&A, we’ve seen a trend in candidates who do poorly on these writing tests. Candidates are failing due to three key mistakes. First, their lack of attention to detail. Second, candidates are not proofreading. Lastly, a very common mistake, frequent spelling errors. We want to prepare our candidates to be the best choices for employers. That is why we emphasize the importance of writing tests as part of the professional interview process.
To be successful communicators, candidates need to be excellent and versatile writers. These skill sets are in demand for careers in public relations and marketing, as well as tech and medical.
Employers are looking for candidates who can write on deadline. Using timed writing tests, employers seek to assess the skills and knowledge of applicants under deadline pressure in a “real world” setting.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply finish the test in the allotted time. The content must be well written and letter perfect, all the while representing the standards of the company.
Candidates can use these tests as opportunities to showcase creativity and a deeper understanding of client needs. It is a skill that goes beyond resumes and writing samples. Through these exercises, they can highlight their expertise and express their adaptivity to changing needs.
“If you send a writing sample that might have taken you a week to put together, that’s your own initiative,” said Hazan. “When you are given a writing test, it is the client saying to you, “This is our area of expertise, show us how you can write to fulfill our expectations, so that you can be the candidate of choice.”
4 Things You Can Do To Be A Better Writer:
Read daily, read often, and pay attention to what you are reading.
“Acing your writing test starts with reading,” said Hazan. “The more you read, specifically the more you read in the style of writing that is required for success in your desired organization, the better you will understand how to mirror the kind of work that they produce.”
If you will produce business style writing, it’s important to look at different business publications. Pick up The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or the Washington Post. Figure out the audience you will be writing for by becoming them.
Practice, practice, practice. A professional in the communications field needs to write every single day. The best way to improve is by doing. Write about your work or your day, take practice tests to prepare, write samples that could be applicable for your desired position.
Apply the journalist’s mantra to anything you write, W5 + H; who, what, where, when, why and how.
- Double Check Your Spelling by Proofreading:
Spelling mistakes will take your reader off track from the work you have presented. If you are not double checking your spelling mistakes or simple typos, you’re not doing enough.
“Train yourself to stop and look and ask yourself if this word is spelled correctly,” said Hazan.
When you have finished writing, you are not done with your test. Tedious as it is, it is equally important to read over every single word and check for errors. You can use your mouse cursor or a pencil to guide your eyes, line by line, to make sure every word is accounted for.
- Brush Up on Your Punctuation Skills:
Just like that, you’re back in middle school trying to remember when to use a comma versus a semicolon versus a colon. This is a test, and using improper punctuation will give you a failing grade. Be sure to also use proper tenses, grammar, and syntax.
3 Resources To Help You on Your Next Writing Test:
- Indeed.com compiled a list of different kinds of writing tests your employer might give and they take you step-by-step on how to ace them.
- Opm.gov has some great writing test samples you can use for practice. They even include a rubrik on what you should consider while taking your test.
- It’s important to understand the other side of the interview as a potential employee. Inc.com gives an inside look into how employers will critique potential candidates with regard to their writing skills.
© April 2022 Lynn Hazan & Associates, Inc. www.lhazan.com