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Today I took a timed online test for a company I want to work for. It consisted mostly of technical questions, as well as some interview-style written questions (“why do you want to work for us?”, “what are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?” etc.) towards the end. I believe I did well on the technical side of the test, but I do not write well under pressure; running out of time, I rushed my answers to the written questions, and they ended up not effectively conveying what I wanted to say.

I was considering emailing the employer explaining that I do not feel my answers to those questions accurately reflect my thoughts. My question is – should I? Would it do more harm than good? I don’t want them to think I have poor communication skills based on my test answers, but nor do I want to seem to be scrabbling to save face – or, worse, attempting to “cheat” the test by elaborating on my answers in the email.

Edit: The job is a specific entry-level role, the test is part of the next stage in the recruitment process after the initial application and is not available to the general public, and I have been in email contact with a recruitment coordinator since my initial application.

  • Communication is a valuable skill, so if you can write a high quality and deferential note which augments their impression of you and does not make any sort of request that's unlikely to be a serious negative. Though for a large pre-screening its also a gamble if it will ever even be seen by interested human eyes. – Chris Stratton Mar 19 at 20:00
  • Can you give some more context besides just "a company I want to work for?" Is this part of an application process for a specific opening? Are you in contact with a recruiter or any other actual human? Have you received any response, or any specific instructions on how the application process works? Is this test freely available to anyone on the web as some sort of generic prescreen, or is it part of an actual hiring process? Where does this test fit in the bigger picture? – dwizum Mar 19 at 20:03
  • Thank you - I've updated the question with more information. – JeffM Mar 19 at 20:18
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A timed application is timed for a reason. Not necessarily a good reason. But if they wanted to give you unlimited time so that you could formulate your thoughts with maximum clarity, they would have done so. They didn't.

They were instead looking for what you could do in the time allotted, just like all other applicants. At best, they wanted to see what you could do within that amount of time, or possibly how you handle deadlines on these sorts of tasks-- perhaps writing under pressure is part of the job.

Emailing an explanation/excuse for what you imagine to have been a poor performance might send good signals:

JeffM understands his limitations, and is aware of the quality of his output and seeks to correct/improve where necessary. That's great!

It might send bad signals:

JeffM performs poorly under time pressure and then is panicky afterwards. We can't have that when deadlines are approaching!

It might send no information at all:

This email is from a recent applicant, and the subject line says "explanation of application issues". I'm not going to read it.

I doubt it would harm you to reach out, but I don't see how it could do much good for you either. Leave it be.

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Today I took a timed online test for a company I want to work for.

I believe I did well on the technical side of the test, but I do not write well under pressure; running out of time, I rushed my answers to the written questions, and they ended up not effectively conveying what I wanted to say.

That happens. It probably wasn't an accident that the test was timed. Almost everyone can write better given an unlimited period of time.

My question is – should I?

No.

Certainly you aren't the only one who didn't do as well on the test as you would have preferred. If they wanted everyone to follow up via email, they would have clear instructions to that effect.

Would it do more harm than good?

It almost certainly wouldn't make any positive difference.

You would fall into the bucket with all the many other "why I didn't do as well on your test as I think I can do in real life" folks.

Leave it alone. Hope for the best while you continue your job search.

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If you don’t want them to think you have poor communication skills, then I would not make sure they know you have poor communication skills. Which is what you will do if you send them an email specifically pointing out your poor communication skills.

You have no idea how seriously they take this test. They may take answers to the technical questions seriously but it's very likely that they rarely get any interesting answers to the other questions, so the only thing that matters is if you wrote anything at all. Think about who reads these things. I mean, how many times can you read some BS like "My biggest weakness is that I'm too dedicated to my work" before you discount the question entirely?

Do not send an email.

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