Can online technical assessment tests catapult you past other job seekers? After all, wouldn't a high score on one of these self-testing sites -- like Brainbench, or relative newcomer Smarterer --help you prepare for technical interviews, or compare your skills to those of other tech professionals? Well, not really. "I couldn’t care less what someone got on some standardized test," says Joseph Steinbrunner, technology services director at Scanner Applications, a Cincinnati developer of scanning technology. "We ask a series of technical questions that are situational and tailored toward our environment."

Face-to-Face and White Board Tests

While some sites allow companies to create customized tests with multiple-choice questions, hiring managers often prefer to pose complex problems that need context and will show them how you interact and think. That can’t be conveyed through a canned, multiple choice test. As Steinbrunner explains, it’s not whether job candidates win or lose on a test that seals their fate. It’s how they play the game. "Do they argue when they miss a question or do they want to know the right answer?" he asks. "How they respond shows whether they’re interested in learning and how they’re likely to behave when they’re on the job." At New York-based Information Builders, UI Web developers are asked to write code and identify errors in lines of JavaScript that are taken directly from the work environment, says Tom Asher, corporate recruiting specialist for the information software developer. The company provides an overview of the exam in advance so candidates can prepare, but even veteran developers occasionally fail.

The Bottom Line

Besides all that, self-administered test scores are irrelevant because it's difficult for employers to confirm the results, says Layton Judd, chief executive of 3 Birds Marketing, a communications platform developer in Chapel Hill, N.C. While some testing sites do, in fact, provide certificates or emails to confirm a candidate’s score, some use adaptive tests and others solicit questions through crowdsourcing. It's easy to see why employers put little stock in the results. And since hiring managers may question the results and prefer information that specifically addresses their job opening, you may be better off devoting your resume's precious real estate to achievements you've obtained either through school projects or at your past employers. On the other hand, taking one of these tests does demonstrate passion and commitment, and using them to prepare real interviews, and working to improve your skills through free sources like Udacity or Kahn Academy, can only help. The bottom line is that proactive testing doesn't hurt your chances in landing a job, but you still have to interview and pass the in-house assessment. Says Recruiter Asher: "I might feel more confident about presenting an externally validated candidate to a hiring manager since they probably stand a better chance of passing our test.... But I don't care whether you're a self-proclaimed expert or the Queen of England, you still have to take (our) test."