How to Pass Situational Judgment Tests

Brief intro: Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) are a type of online test where you are given a set of situations and responses and must either rank or choose the best response. The aim of these tests is to see if you are a good fit for the role.

SJTs should never be overlooked, even though they lack the intellectual strain of other psychometric tests that require extreme speed for success. SJTs are oftentimes the first tests you will face in an application and if you fail them, you’re stopped too early on in the application process to get a fair chance. Can you prepare for these? Yes, of course, you can and I have no incentive to lie to you about this as my aim is to help you maximise your chances as much as possible.

The simple hack for situational judgement questions is having a set of criteria you use as golden rules for each situation you must choose a response for. Here, I cover the set of criteria that got me through every situational judgement test after I employed the strategy. The reason I am including a whole separate post on this topic rather than including it within the first post about how to pass psychometric tests is that in one of my applications, I failed the SJT before getting to any other stage because questions were framed in a sales & trading styled context that I was less familiar with which is when I found and refined this set of criteria to use for each subsequent SJT. In fact, for some SJTs, getting a fail will block your application for the next year based on my experience (e.g. Deutsche Bank).

Without further ado, here are the criteria I used:

Positive Characteristics to Emulate

  • Helping others: Although you should not avoid sharing your own ideas and perspectives, your chosen actions should be inclined towards helping others and should reflect collective interests.
  • Proactive and relevant responses: While avoiding irrelevant responses that fail to address the main problem in the scenario, your chosen response should involve playing an active role in dealing with the problem resourcefully and with flexibility.
  • Actions you’ve thought through: When you are posed with a variety of decisions or solving a problem, you should aim to reflect a well-thought-through approach i.e. thinking about the implications of a decision and prioritising tasks.

Negative Characteristics to Avoid

Note that the list of negative characteristics to avoid is more extensive because negation works more powerfully in situational judgement scenarios: there are many red herrings the test provider is trying to catch you out on and so although you might not pick an optimal response every time, or there might not be an optimal response, there will always be certain actions/responses posed to you that are deliberately trying to trip you up. You will notice some of these are simply mirror images of the positive characteristics to emulate.

  • Acting too quickly and without thinking: You need to be able to prioritise what is important through careful thought rather than impulsive behaviour.
  • Selfish actions: You must always act in a way that reflects the team’s aims rather than your own personal objectives. But as mentioned further up, you should still speak up if sharing a different perspective that could add value to the team as a whole.
  • Passive actions: Although there will be exceptions, avoid doing nothing to solve the problem at hand. Waiting to see what happens is rarely an option under such intense work deadlines. So do not ignore problems and do not avoid them by procrastinating/waiting.
  • Acting negatively: Identify the competency being tested for in the scenario (see competencies post) and ensure that your response does not contradict this competency because this would act as a red flag that you do not value the competency in question.
  • Irrelevant solutions: You need to prioritise what is important in the question at hand – do not just ditch the difficult decision making to go for a response that although embodies positive characteristics, does not solve the key issue being represented in the question. Missing the central problem or a less important point of friction could work against you.

Although SJTs can take well over an hour and can feel very draining and monotonous, you need to be on full alert and take them very seriously because if you get knocked out at such an early stage, everything else from other psychometric tests, to competency interviews, to networking, to commercial awareness, technicals and the list goes on, will all be a waste of time.

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