Situational judgment test (SJT) is one of the most popular assessments in the hiring process across many industries. It provides a comprehensive view of someone’s decision-making ability and problem-solving skills in work settings. Recruiters often include this test type in their assessment stage to pick out the most fitting candidates.
This article will dive deeply into situational judgment tests: a detailed definition, common question formats you may encounter, and tried-and-true advice to help you ace the tests!
Situational judgment tests, often untimed, are pre-hiring assessments with questions built around hypothetical workplace situations. Test takers must decide the effectiveness of each response or solution based on given scenarios. Through this, recruiters can assess your decision-making capabilities, working behavior, and how these align with the company’s culture and values.
Situational judgment tests are widely-used in across all industries. These can be the banking sector, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Danske Bank, or remarkable financial institutions like the Big 4. Also, we cannot miss out famous FMCG companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, or AB InBev.
Situational judgment tests, as mentioned above, is an effective tool to give companies a detailed insight into your personality, behavior, and working approach. Using these data, employers can assess the suitability and problem-solving skills in workplace settings, further predicting candidates’ performance when joining the team.
Besides the screening purpose, situational judgment tests are powerful assessments as scenarios in the tests can be tailor-made to specific requirements of different departments. Unlike other aptitude tests which assess cognitive ability in general, hypothetical situations are built based on “real” tasks of a particular role, testing how a candidate can respond when dealing with the jobs.
Situational judgment tests focus on how you examine given responses and decide which is the best solution for a problem. However, the tests can come in different formats, including the 4 common ones as follow:
- Most and Least Effective
- Ranking Responses
- Rating Responses
- Most and Least Likely To Do
Keep scrolling, as the next part will show what you can expect from each question format!
Most and least effective
In Most and Least Effective questions, you will be presented a set of options, from which you have to determine the most and least effective ones for a scenario. Typically, this format comes in multiple-choice questions, where you click to assign the label for your chosen responses. Here is an example to try out:
Answer: M - D, L - A
The most effective (M) response is D. Before any changes, you need to align with the manager about your opinion. If you re-write the document without permission, there will be a conflict between your summary and others’ grasp of the original report.
The least effective (L) response is A. Re-writing the document can take a lot of time, which doesn’t guarantee the quality of your summary. Moreover, the manager and team need to approve any changes to reach a consensus.
Rating responses questions ask you to arrange options based on their effectiveness in a given situation. The most common format is to drag and drop responses in the correct order. Let’s examine a sample question from SHL:
Answer: The order is D-B-A-C
The most effective response is option D. Helping customers is always the staff's top priority, but you also need to announce the coworker, so they don't have to wait.
The 2nd should be option B. Taking time to know the customer's insight helps assist in selling; however, it can be time-consuming, and your colleague would have to wait for a long time without any announcement.
The next priority would be option A. It is your responsibility to show them the party section. However, this customer doesn't know what to buy, so this response is just average and cannot solve their problems.
Finally, option C is the least effective in this case. It may indicate your neglect of the customer's problem though you know well about the party items, and there's no solution for them as you cannot be sure if there's a coworker to help at the section.
In the Rating Responses question format, there will be a series of initiatives for a given problem, and you need to rate their effectiveness based on your judgment. Each level of effectiveness is either encoded by numbers (1,2,3,4,5) or denoted in words, such as Fairly Effective or Highly Effective. Let’s look at the example below:
Option A - 2
Option B - 5
Option C - 3
Option D - 4
Option A: This response can be rated as ineffective or counterproductive, as it is crucial to give customers a wide variety of choices to reach their insights better.
Option B: This is the most effective answer when you ensure the information given to the customer is concise and detailed, as your colleague better understands the new model.
Option C: This response seems slightly effective when you offer the new model but cannot give the customer comprehensive information. However, it isn’t a big deal as they can research independently.
Option D: Your enthusiasm is highly appreciated, making this option an effective one. Still, this is not optimal as your research can be time-consuming, and your customer may consider another brand.
Most and least likely to do
This is a question format where you pick 2 responses that you are most and least likely to perform. This question is a variation of the Most and Least Effective questions, as your selected responses are typically based on their effectiveness for a given scenario. Here is a sample for you to practice:
Source: University of Nottingham
Answer: A & B
Most likely to make: A. Not only do you need to raise the situation, but it is also important to motivate the housekeeping staff, making them feel their contribution worth. Also, it is crucial to announce what is happening to everyone involved in the task.
Least likely to make: B. It would be a fault if the housekeeping staff wasn't told why they had to work 2 hours overtime, and they would feel it's unfair. Hence, there will be no reason for them to be dedicated to their work.
SHL situational judgment test is conducted under the format of ranking questions, in which candidates must prioritize options based on their effectiveness as a solution. The tests are untimed, so you can think carefully about how you would behave in a worked situation. Some notable companies using SHL situational judgment test are Amazon, Microsoft, and Capital One. Below is a sample interface of an SHL-style situational judgment question:
Cut-e (Aon) situational judgment test is slightly different from other tests from other publishers regarding the format, where you have to answer the question in the form of a hypothetical conversation. The assessment can be timed or untimed; however, a full-length test often takes about 30 minutes to complete. Companies requiring a Cut-e situational judgment test are P&G, Dell, and Coca-Cola. Let’s look at an example of Cut-e questions as follow:
Source: Cut-e (Aon)
When starting the test, you will be presented with unread messages, each of which announces a specific situation for you to solve. By clicking the chat, you can access the message sent.
Source: Cut-e (Aon)
Here you can see recommended options to respond to the ask of customers, managers, or colleagues. Depending on how appropriate each option is to the situation, you can select your reply to all the questions in the test.
In Cubiks situational judgment tests, candidates are asked to rate each action's effectiveness and simultaneously determine the most and least effective responses. The scale of ratings is represented by numbers, while up and down arrows indicate the best/worst options. Cubiks tests are widely used across industries, with some notable clients like KPMG, Danske Bank, Bayer, and Electrolux. Let’s look at the sample interface shown as follows:
Test Partnership questions are in the rating format, in which candidates must decide the level of efficacy of each response: Very Ineffective, Ineffective, Fairly Ineffective, Fairly Effective, Effective, or Very Effective. No time limit is required, but it takes roughly 30 minutes to complete 60 questions. Many companies and corporations are using the tests, including Qatar Airways, Moelis & Company investment bank, Balfour Beatty, London Fire Brigade, and most UK fire departments.
Source: Test Partnership
Situational judgment tests may be approached differently than other aptitude tests, as there are no step-to-step guidelines and techniques for this type of assessment. Accumulated industry knowledge and principles are also not working in the challenge. Still, you can reach your peak performance by following the tips below:
Understand the employer and the role you’re applying for
Each company has its own values and criteria, which are used as the benchmark to evaluate a candidate’s responses. Therefore, thorough research of a potential employee’s characteristics and how well yours align with those qualities can help you become a good fit for the company. You can access the employer’s career website to understand the requirements or further ask the staff and HR personnel for better insight.
Examine each question and response carefully
Sometimes you see a good response to a problem right away, but there may be another that is saner. As a result, take your time, read each answer attentively, and if required, compare them to one another. Be truthful to your own personality, but don’t forget to find the most appropriate solution for the scenario. After all, this test is designed to assess not only individuals’ styles but also problem-solving skills in workplace contexts.
Clarify the issue you are asked about
In a situational judgment test, there are a variety of data, some of which are just distractions. Therefore, it is important to identify the main problem that needs to be resolved, which piece of information is relevant, and possible approaches to the issue. The more you understand the situation, the more likely you can reach the most rational response.
1. Are situational judgment tests hard?
Situational judgment tests are among the most difficult assessments as there is few benchmark or techniques to rely on. Hiring companies often claim that there is no right or wrong answer; however, they only hire candidates with answers that align with the organization’s values. Also, situational judgment tests measure problem-solving skills, a natural ability beyond any prior knowledge.
2. Is the situational judgment test multiple-choice?
Situational judgment tests are often administered online in a multiple-choice format. You will be given a list of possible actions for a proposed problem, from which you need to select the optimal one or prioritize them based on their extent of effectiveness. No further recommendations from candidates are required.
3. Are situational judgment tests timed?
Usually, situational judgment tests are untimed, so you can think carefully and examine each response to decide which suits you best. In some assessments, you can also go back to previous questions to revise for certainty.
4. Can you fail a situational judgment test?
Technically, it is safe to say that you cannot fail as there is no benchmark for passing. However, if your response doesn’t align with the company’s needs and the position’s criteria, hiring managers may reject your application.
5. How are situational judgement tests marked?
A recruiter usually has an underlying benchmark for each question, and each response is worth a specific point. You will get full marks if your answer matches the correct answer the company has set, and if you’re close, you will get partial points.