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Shop Test for Job Applicants

Paul Downs

People keep asking me for a copy of the test I use in my hiring process. I thought that there was a copy available on this site already, but apparently it's gone. So here it is again. We also developed two other versions, one for CNC operators, the other for an office administrator. I've included them as well. Woodweb: please don't remove these files! Everyone else: if any of you have your own versions, and want to share them, feel free.

Click the link below to download the file included with this post.


Click the link below to download the file included with this post.


Click the link below to download the file included with this post.


9/3/15       #2: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
james mcgrew Member

Thank You !!

9/3/15       #3: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Jerry Cunningham

Very well thought out Paul, thank you for sharing!

What does your employement application look like?

Is most of your recruiting/new hires still word of mouth, or do you use Craigslist or other online outlets?

9/3/15       #4: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

Does your applicant get extra points if he asks why you have the dovetail pins on the front of the drawer?

9/3/15       #5: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Jason Rogers  Member

Website: woodproacademy.com

These are great... thank you so much!

I am fascinated by these as I have a dedicated interest in exactly what you have done here.

I also have educational background specific to education and am very curious about the area of assessment (testing) that really works.

Does it really work for you?
Do you have better success at hiring the right people based on your testing?

Our own system definitely works for us ... We don't always get a lot of people with a lot of direct experience w/ casework & millwork shop drawings. I will train anyone and have developed a lot training material & pre-employment tests over the years. There are no guarantees and I really believe in committing to the right employee investing a lot into training but if I can narrow the candidates down from 50 to 5 ... that's a big deal!

The main reason is that I have a history of hiring the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Resumes are deceptive and interviews are even worse. My solution has been to remove myself from the equation as much as possible. I will not look at a resume and definitely will not speak to anyone about a job until they have taken and passed this test. There's just no point in it.

I could talk about this a long time but I can also show you. This is our employment page with a message to all applicants... http://www.trademarkdrafting.com/employment/

This is the test we use for people who claim to have experience ... it's online. I'll leave this temp user account open for a few days ... after that anyone interested can contact me and I'll get you access.


username = woodweb
password = 8&rODvCv

Btw... we love feedback.

Pre-employment Screening

9/3/15       #6: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Paul Downs

@TS: No. Nobody else (including me, who did not draw the picture) noticed. So you get extra points.

@Jerry: we advertise on Craigs List, Woodweb, and send our ads to Stevens Tech, where we've gotten good employees before. Stevens is by far the best source of woodworkers.

@Jason: as you noted, interviewing woodworkers doesn't tell you much. I do take a good look at resumes, mostly to see if there are gaps in employment and to check for mis-spelled words, both indicators of possible trouble. I find that tests are by far the most useful part of the process, as they are objective data. Incidentally, for shop floor guys, only a perfect score is acceptable to us.

9/3/15       #8: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Bruce H

Jason, I couldn't get the link to work?

9/3/15       #9: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Professional speller

Paul, technically, you misspelled "mis-spelled," there's no hyphen in the word.

Does that mean that you're possible trouble?

Just kidding. Really. Or, do you have employment gaps indicative of prison time, too?

I kid. Seriously. I really am pulling your leg.

Your test is very easy, but I'll guess that maybe 2% manage to score 100% on a very simple test of really, really basic stuff.

Sad, isn't it? Glad I don't have to hire anyone.

Good luck to anyone who does.

9/4/15       #10: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

"your test is very easy"

To whom? You do realise that even some very talented and productive woodworkers do not know the meaning of "parallel" and "perpendicular". Doesn't mean they suck at woodworking, but finding a woodworker that knows the meanings, difference and how they relate isn't exactly meaningless. Why not aim for what you would like the most?

Hiring/applying process can be as much as a crapshoot as online dating for both parties. Pooping on an attempt at parametres is a little silly if you do not know these pains. I would personally be quite enthused if I walked into an interview with a math test. ("Bring it!!" )

9/4/15       #11: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Professional speller

To whom?

To anyone who has more than a couple of working brain cells.

I don't have to realize anything and I wouldn't want anyone who doesn't know the difference between parallel and perpendicular anywhere near anything.

Paul's test weeds out the leakers who have no chance of succeeding on his or any other shop floor. Simple as that.

What's your point?

9/6/15       #12: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

I had a guy working for me, very hard worker, great personality, enthusiastic, got along very well with everyone. I had to let him go......he probably would have scored 50% on Pauls test, and would have struggled to get that grade. He just couldn't figure the math out without a calculator.

I agree with others assessment, this is a 100% pass test.

9/6/15       #13: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Kerry Fullington


You probably screwed up. Buy the guy a calculator.

9/6/15       #14: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

One small criticism. Questions 35-38 don't have the measurements in the traditional order of thickness, width, length. Yeah, I know its picky but.....

Otherwise a good test.

9/6/15       #15: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Pat Gilbert

Do you have a copy of the test in Spanish?

9/6/15       #16: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Paul Downs

No Spanish. If you can't read English, and speak it well, we won't hire you for a cabinetmaking position.

9/6/15       #17: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

I didn't screw up, he was untrainable and wouldn't use his brain. Would take freshly sprayed parts, pile them on a dirty bench, then slide them across the table to load more. Just constant stuff like that. Completely lacking common sense.

9/7/15       #18: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Kerry Fullington

So it wasn't just his math skills. Would any part of Paul's test have given you insight into the other problems this employee had before you hired him.

9/7/15       #19: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

I was good until I got to the part with the red and green arrows - for those of us who cannot see red and green that is a showstopper.

I might sue.

9/7/15       #20: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Pat Gilbert

Is attitude part of the interview process?

9/7/15       #21: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

Half his problem was common sense, the other half was math skills/critical thinking. The test would have shown these for sure.

9/7/15       #22: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

I'm happy if they can read, thrilled if they show up on time 3 days in a row.

9/9/15       #23: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Mark B Member

I agree with Mel on many points. This is a great test but, in my area, if you held out for perhaps 80% or higher to hire you'd be hearing nothing in your shop other than your own footsteps.

I know a lot of professional people (not in the wood industry) that would struggle with many of those question, especially the geometry. I honestly dont know a single high school grad in my area (that would be looking at my business as anything other than a way to make a little money before they leave for college) that would fly through that test.

Its an easy test for me, or likely anyone who is working in the trade daily but much of that at least for me is simply because its been drilled into my head. I too was a kid who came out of high school just barely squeaking by (by my own foolish choice) and then had to double time.

I think its a great way to calibrate where a person may land in your operation and give you a good idea of what their capacities are but (not that it was said to be) if its meant to be a go/no go, it wouldnt work at all for me.

Phenomenal test though, and I agree, very well done. I know several guys in my area that have never been able to pass the contractors exam here, 180 questions, 4 hour time limit. If I put a clock on this test I'd really be working alone!!

9/9/15       #24: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...

Paul Downs:

When I hired people, they were given a two-week "litmus test" on a bench, or as a helper, and their future employment was determined by their performance during that period. This was understood at hiring, and sometimes the reality ran contrary to my gut feelings about an individual at the time, both positively and negatively.

I learned to embrace the possibility that I was not as good a judge of potential employees as I would have liked to believe.

While you would never know if someone who did not score 100 percent would have worked out for your company, since you would not have hired them based on that score, have you had occasion where someone who scored 100 percent did not work out?

Have you ever felt, after this happened, that the test is not an impervious gauge, that anyone can have a bad day, and that a hard line towards a 100 percent score may have deprived you of real talent that may have made one careless mistake?

9/10/15       #25: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Paul Downs

@ Transposer: We've been using the test, unchanged, since 2007 and back then we accepted scores much lower than 100%. We also did very little other testing before hiring, as before the recession warm bodies were in short supply. After the crash, I was laying people off for two years, and then my first re-hires were crew that had already worked for me, who I knew well. I started hiring strangers again in 2010, and that's when I found, in two examples, that there was a big difference between a 99 and a 100. In the last two years, I've had a shop manager who was much more interested in training new workers than my previous manager, but we still found that the 99 guys didn't work, the 100 guys were better, although not a 100% bet. So I continue to look for that perfect score on the test as a prerequisite for continuing the hiring process. I don't like extended shop trial periods, as I don't want a new guy working on customer projects without an explicit understanding that they are hired and being trained. There are insurance issues with trial periods, too.

My latest hire was for a social media/marketing position and it was way different from hiring cabinetmakers. First of all, the applicant pool is much larger, so I had 64 applicants to choose from. Second of all, I was looking for phone and email skills, so much of the interviewing was done that way, and produced useful information. I found a very good person at a reasonable price, who so far is doing an excellent job.

I can't say that I've mastered hiring, but the test is an essential part of the process and has been helpful in evaluating all kinds of candidates.

9/12/15       #26: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
David B

Website: http://www.atlantacloset.com/

I started with Paul's test and modified it for our needs, mostly by deleting the solid wood section and focusing on measuring and basic math. I was looking for installers at the time but the test has proven useful for shop workers and recently for filling an engineering position.

I have to say I don't require 100% since in 2 years only one person has scored 100%, and I have employees including my operations manager who have been here since before I started using the test and probably wouldn't do so well on it, but the test immediately weeds out applicants who have no chance and lets me focus on the best prospects. Our work is less skills based and more process oriented, so I'm looking for people who can show up on time every day, follow directions and learn the system, and hopefully help contribute to it although that's asking a lot.

BTW the engineer we ended up hiring left her phone in her car for the interview (another point in her favor) so she did the math problems with pencil and paper and only missed one digit in the long division, so I can't technically call that 100% but it was plenty good enough for me, she was faster than some people who try to use a calculator.

Click the link below to download the file included with this post.


9/12/15       #27: Shop Test for Job Applicants ...
Pat Gilbert

The test that trumps all of the other tests is their resume/job history.

I understand the trouble with getting that info, that does not negate this information.

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