You Should Probably Prepare for Clerical Testing

People may wonder if their prior experience is a good enough indicator of their office skills.  Unless it’s very specific, maybe not enough to convince a hiring manager.

Yes, I took one today.  I’m sorry, but I don’t 10-key at the speed of light.  Since I also had a preliminary interview, let’s hope that mitigated it a bit.

Most clerical tests are designed to weed out people who can’t do the minimum required for the position.  If someone says they’re terrific at using Word, for example, the employer wants to be sure of that.  Alison Green of Ask a Manager says:

“It’s far, far more valuable than simply trusting candidate’s own self-assessments or even relying on their work history, since (a) work history can be inflated or even misrepresented, and (b) their former employers might have very different standards than I do.”  (1/2/2012)

Arvind Balaraman /

If you think that sounds haughty, think about a time when you worked alongside someone who couldn’t handle the basic aspects of the job.  Chances are you ended up picking up the slack, whether it’s because the person was fired, quit or got moved to something less demanding (it happens).

After not impressing myself this morning, I started looking for ways to prepare for and improve on clerical testing.  There are several.  Yay!

Online exercises

Most clerical tests consist of these elements:  data entry, Microsoft Office Suite exercises and typing (sometimes called keyboarding).  Data entry can be either alphanumeric, such as addresses that contain both words and numbers, or numeric, for which you’ll use 10-key touch typing.  Not all tests have the Office stuff; temp agencies usually do.

Look around online for free practice tests, like these from Data Entry Home  I plan to try this one; obviously I thought I was faster than I really am.

Yeaaaahhh...not me.

Image: Jon Whiles /

Take a class

Community colleges, sometimes called “junior colleges,” usually offer business classes and cost less than universities.  Enrichment or workforce development classes can be even cheaper.  I’m taking a Spanish class right now that isn’t very intensive but only cost $49 and includes the book.

I’m not talking about diploma mills, which offer degrees with little or no study, make bogus guarantees of job placement and are often outrageously expensive.  Click on the link to find out how to avoid them.

Taking a class might seem like an extreme solution, but if your skills are weak in one area, it’s a great way to sharpen them.  You should be constantly upgrading them anyway.

Professional organizations

The International Association of Adminstrative Professionals (IAAP) and the Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals (AEAP) offer professional education and development opportunities to members.  It’s not exactly cheap (which is why I haven’t done it yet).  Not only is it a good way to find relevant training, but professional organizations offer networking opportunities.  You might want to join them while you are employed, since membership fees can be difficult on tiny unemployment payments.

In today’s economy, improving your skills gives you an edge over the competition, but more importantly, it makes you a better employee.   You’ll struggle less and stay ready in case the Layoff Fairy pays a visit.

Cute but deadly.

Image: Stuart Miles /





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