Situational judgement test: what is it, and how is it used in recruitment?

Situational judgement tests (SJT) are now a common part of the recruitment process. They allow employers to assess the suitability, in terms of both drive and core knowledge, of large groups of candidates by providing them with multiple-choice questions and scenarios. Situational judgement tests or SJTs, are one of the most popular varieties of aptitude tests that employers utilise today.

Working with employers and candidates, we are often asked what these tests entail and how they work. Here, we explain how situational judgement tests are most often used in recruitment. 

What is a situational judgement test?

During a situational judgement test, the test takers are given a variety of scenarios related to the day-to-day challenges and responsibilities of the job in question. Each scenario incorporates a range of responses and you’ll be tasked with rating the effectiveness of each response. For instance, if you’re applying for a leadership role, you could be presented with a scenario in which two of your team members are unable to work effectively together and asked to choose which of the example responses would deliver the best results. The scenarios can be presented via a range of media, from standard text to audio and video.

Situational judgement tests assess your responses to gauge how suitable you are for a certain position. You will likely have your test assessment held in the employer’s office, and be given a time limit to complete your set of questions. SJTs are a type of aptitude test that will test your ability at problem-solving in the workplace. It is unlikely that you will come across a question in your SJT that doesn’t reflect plausible situations that you might come across in the workplace. 

Whereas most psychological tests are generic, situational judgement tests are built from the ground up to incorporate the specific demands of the position. As such, they tend to be favoured by candidates as they get a feel for the job and hiring managers can gain a deeper insight into the suitability of the candidates applying for the role.  

Why are they effective?

The bespoke nature of an SJT allows employers to assess a candidate’s judgement against the realities of the role. Not only does this showcase a professional’s understanding of the position, but also demonstrates whether or not they are a strong cultural fit for the organisation.

Other advantages of SJTs have also been identified. A landmark study from Belgium’s Ghent University discovered that the results are less skewed against candidates from minority backgrounds than other types of aptitude test. This is particularly significant given that a survey from the High Fliers Research Centre revealed diversity targets are seen as an important challenge by 69% of organisations – for more than any other factor included in the survey. 

The scenario-based methodology of SJTs can also help to reduce staff turnover. By considering a range of practical, real-world challenges, candidates are given an insight into the demands the role. This means that if you’re offered the job, you should already have a solid understanding of its challenges and complexities.

How are SJTs used during the recruitment process?

The tests are most commonly presented to candidates before the interview stage, as this gives hiring managers an effective way to identify applicants who understand the nuances of the role, and those that will fit in with the workplace culture in terms of attitudes and drive. Ultimately, candidates who demonstrate the best judgement during the test stage are more likely to make smart decisions and perform well, if they get offered the job.

Example SJT questions

If you are unsure about what to expect in an upcoming SJT, here are some example questions that you might come across:

1. You might be given a scenario to read, from which you must select the responses that you think would be best and worst to solve the problem. 

2. You could then be presented with having to imagine yourself in different scenarios. From this, you will need to rank the responses that have been given to you from 1 to 4, in order of which you think will be most effective.

3. Thirdly, you can be presented with a scenario and a set of responses to the scenario. From this, you need to pick the most and least effective responses to that scenario from the list.

4. Lastly, you may be presented a scenario with a series of responses that you will have to rate from ‘very effective’ to ‘counter-productive’ in terms of how effective they will be in terms of solving that problem.

If you want to aim to prepare for your situational judgement test before your interview day, why not try a free practice situational judgement test today.

To learn about the different types of aptitude tests used by hiring managers, read our article ‘Aptitude test: What you can expect in an interview process.’ For more career tips, browse all of our career advice here or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to discuss your career options.

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