Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Testing...testing

Mural detail, Los Angeles Theatre
After a year of sending out job applications, I finally got that rare thing - a response. My application for a job at a nearby municipal agency earned me an invitation to take a written test.

It's a management level position in my career field. It's a step up from the position I've held for seven years. The application asked me to go into detail about my experience managing budgets and facility operations. Yesterday, I put on my nice pantsuit and drove down the 405 freeway to take the test.

Oddly, the test was strictly about supervision. We watched a video with clips of a busy customer-service office, and actors served an endless line of frustrated customers brandishing complicated paperwork. Filling in the bubbles with number two pencils, we were asked to rate the performances of these "employees."

The next section asked us to choose the best from a multiple-choice set of management actions following a made-up scenario.Disciplining, motivating, and supervising staff; also prioritizing tasks and working towards goals. We had two hours to finish - I filled in the last bubble with an hour left.

I've never taken a test on these skills, so it was illuminating for me. Most of the answers seemed, to me, to be obvious. I reviewed my work, and even with the sense of test-induced paranoia and second-guessing that comes in these situations, I didn't feel much need to change my answers.

Here's one problem that was posed - how would you answer?

"You manage a hospital unit. You have exceeded your overtime budget, and have been directed not to incur any more staff overtime for the rest of the fiscal year. It is ten minutes before a shift change, and you receive a phone call that there's been a school-bus accident, and ambulances are on the way with patients. You choose the following action:
  1. Allow the staff to go home and wait for the incoming staff to clock in
  2. Call in temporary and part-time staff
  3. Phone the ambulances and direct them to take the patients to another hospital
  4. Keep your staff on past the end of their shift to manage the crisis "
If my answer was wrong, I don't want to be right.

Side note - it makes you wonder about the dynamics of the organization - this is a leadership position to manage a $2.5 million dollar budget, and operate a complex facility serving thousands of members of the public. Yet the written test focused solely on supervising line-level employees? Maybe it's an HR policy, but I wonder why they thought this was the most important aspect of the job. 

2 comments:

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Unless this particular job involves hospitals, why would they be asking you that particular question?

I'm guessing that the types of questions are so you might know what your employees are dealing with on a regular basis? I don't know...

Aunt Snow said...

No, they're to assess your skills and experience and judgement as a supervisor. The whole test was all about that.