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DEPARTMENT STORE SALES JOB LOST TO PERSONALITY TEST

Dear Joyce: I applied online for a sales job at a major department store company and was required to take a personality test.

Additionally, I submitted my resume to the HR office at the company's local store.

The local store department manager interviewed me and said he'd like to hire me as soon as he received the results of my personality test. After receiving my test results, he said I was classified as "not hirable."

What do you think really happened?

-- F.D.
Dear F.D.: A 23-year-old in my office took the online 46-question, multiple-choice test to search for age sensitivity or other killer issues.

The questions cover preferred working conditions, human interaction, success at previous jobs and math skills. Queries were also made about past criminal history.

A few examples:

How often do you have minor mishaps or accidents because of things you forgot to do?

Compared to other co-workers or students, how fast did you learn new material?

If you have a problem to discuss with someone, how would you rather do it?

Although you were asked to rate your abilities with math, you also had to answer such math questions as "An employee buys a dress for $60. She is entitled to a 15 percent discount. How much will she save?"

Some questions include answer choices that are ambiguous, such as: "I'm better than anyone you know." How would you know who the test-giver knows?

Next time, game the test. Register with an alternative name and study the questions in advance before committing yourself for real.

Anticipate which answers will present you as a team worker, good with people, honest, cheerful and helpful.

And no, the company doesn't have to show you the rationale for why you flunked the test.

Back to school

Dear Joyce: I am 34 and have a GED, not a high school diploma. I am very interested in becoming a physical therapist but have no clue as to where I should even start. I am eager to learn new things but fear that after being out of the scholastic realm for many years, I can't remember my multiplication table, let alone algebra. Where do I go from here?

-- T.L.M.
Dear T.L.M.: Don't worry about substituting your GED for a high school diploma when you apply to a physical therapy program; see the American Physical Therapy Association Web site, www.apta.org and also the Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/oco.

As for your math moments, get a tutor at one of the growing number of tutoring firms and learning companies.

Seeking a raise

Dear Joyce: Looking for a job that pays a decent wage and benefits has taken me three months. I finally took one that isn't at the pay level I expect. How soon can I ask for a raise?

-- B.E.
Dear B.E.: One year would be the norm but there's no reason you can't start angling for a raise after six months if you can come up with the justification. But expect negotiating to be more difficult than ever.

The coming months will be problematic for getting what you want. Many companies, hit by the cost of health care coverage, are expecting to balance out ballooning health insurance costs by decreasing salaries, cutting training, holding back on hiring new staff and delaying investments in technology. This is according to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Contact Joyce Lain Kennedy at jlk@sunfeatures.com (use "Reader Question" for subject line) or Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.

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