Many companies these days use pre-employment testing in some form to further explore a person’s abilities, attitudes and behaviours. When used appropriately, testing can complement recruitment processes by identifying strengths and weaknesses that might otherwise have been missed during a standard face to face interview.
However, testing does have a negative side with a range of limitations that can easily mislead a manager into making a mistake. Choosing the right test, for the right situation is key, along with understanding how to use the results to make consistently good decisions.
In this blog, we are going to look at some of the most common types of candidate testing methods to help you decide if testing is right for your business and if so, which ones might be most appropriate.
Why do employers use candidate testing?
While there is a wide array of reasons why a company might use candidate testing solutions, they all boil down to one thing: To make better recruitment decisions.
By exploring a person’s abilities or personality in a practical, illustrative way, employers can form informed opinions on a candidate’s skills, increase the quality of their interviews and pave the way for more effective, insightful management plans for the people they choose to recruit.
In some cases, properly utilised testing can speed up the recruitment process too, helping to quickly identify the most appropriate talent.
What are the main types of tests?
- Skills Assessment Tests
- Personality Tests
- Emotional Intelligence Tests
- Knowledge Tests
- Integrity Tests
- Cognitive Ability Tests
- Physical Ability Tests
Skills Assessment Test for IT Recruitment
Skills Assessment Tests are designed to ask a person to demonstrate the application of their skills in some form. For example, if a vacancy requires advanced programming skills, the candidate might be asked to create complex code to complete a task for a hypothetical project, within a reasonable time limit. Alternatively, skill tests can apply to broader, softer skills such as communication or public speaking. IT sales candidates and IT Managers can be asked to create presentations and deliver them during an interview so the Directors can experience first-hand how the candidate might behave in front of a client.
This can be especially useful when dealing with subjective opinions because skill strength is relative to the experience of the candidate. For example, a person’s expertise with programming or presenting might have been superior in one company however, in another, perhaps merely average. This is no one’s fault, just circumstantial.
Downsides? There is nothing wrong with skill testing however, if can take a great deal of time to prepare, experience and assess, especially if more than one skill is being tested. While tempting, we strongly advise against early stage, mass testing.
Our advice for IT Skills Testing:
- Offer the Test to Shortlist and not early-stage mass testing unless you have lots of time!
- An “In House” prepared IT Test will be more relevant to your organisation that a bought in test, ask the line manager to prepare.
- Ensure the answers to the test will be definitive, ambiguity will make the test less effective.
- Ask candidates to describe how they have dealt with situations in the past rather than how they would deal with something and ask for outcomes.
Personality tests were all the rage in the 90’s and early noughties among employers who began to realise the relevance of culture matching. After completing a multiple-choice questionnaire, a computer analyses the results to form a detailed report giving managers useful insight into a candidate’s behavioural traits. Good ones can postulate how a person might prefer to be managed, or their indeed suggest their own management style, reveal how they deal with problems, frustrations, and people, and even describe the best and worst kinds of jobs, teams or environments.
Downsides? There are two common issues with a personality tests. Firstly, if a person truly believes in their ideal self, you will experience inaccurate, ideal-self answers. Secondly, ‘Social desirability bias’ can easily sneak in resulting in people giving you answers they believe you want, skewing the results entirely.
Emotional Intelligence Tests for IT Recruitment
Emotional intelligence tests delve into a candidate’s social awareness and relationship skills by testing emotional understanding. People with high emotional intelligence can quickly assess, communicate, and act in high stress social scenarios. For example, a good manager can quickly spot a colleague experiencing stress and help defuse and relieve their symptoms with appropriate communication. These tests are good for identifying team players and leaders, assessing for adaptability, patience, demeanour, compassion and above all, empathy.
Downsides? Frankly, most tests are quite easy to fake. People are exposed to emotions all the time and have spent their whole lives observing social interactions so, most people know the right answers, even if they rarely apply them themselves.
Knowledge Tests for IT Recruitment
Knowledge Tests are designed simply to assess a person’s depth of understanding gained from their experience in order to gauge compatibility. For example, most IT Project Managers believe themselves to be highly skilled however, as mentioned earlier, self-opinion is highly subjective. A good knowledge test can quickly distinguish between a technical project manager and an organisational project manager. On paper, both may look very similar, but only one has strength in depth when in comes to technical knowledge.
Downsides? Knowledge and skills are very different. A person can know a lot but have very little practical experience making knowledge tests a little dangerous. Also, a candidate’s speed and ability to learn might make a big difference. After all, if someone could learn quickly, they still might be the best match for your team, even without the knowledge.
Integrity Tests are used to understand a candidate’s moral compass. Well-designed examples reveal ethical standing, personal values and decision making integrity in certain scenarios. Gaining this type of insight can be useful to mitigate risk, especially if the candidate is being considered for a senior, influential position. However, integrity tests can be applied to people of all levels to assess cultural suitability.
Downsides? Ironically, faking answers would be extremely easy for someone to do. If this is a test you fancy, the best advice would be to confirm the results via references.
Cognitive ability tests, aka Aptitude Tests, explore someone’s mental capacity to work in a position helping to better understand how they might cope. These clever tests assess logical reasoning ability by looking at how a candidate’s verbal and numeric processes are applied to a hypothetical task.
Downsides? Answers rely on a person’s state of mind. Under test conditions, someone’s ability to perform as they would day-to-day be impaired resulting in an unfair test.
Physical Ability Tests simply seek to prove someone’s strength, stamina and technique to ensure employees avoid injury. For example, IT Engineers are often required to move, transport and install a wide array of equipment, sometimes up stairs or in different building.
Downsides? There is a real risk of discrimination here with so many reasons why people have different physical abilities. Be sure you have a compliant procedure and seek advice is at all unsure. Pay particular attention to how the results are communicated.
Testing can be great, offering valuable insight to give employers the confidence they need to make more informed decisions. But beware! Testing can be flawed and should never be used as a stand alone decision making tool. Be sure to avoid implementing company policies to force all managers to test candidates, despite differences in need or relevance. Doing so can hinder and harm your ability to attract and secure talent, drawing out recruitment processes and putting off prospective candidates. As with all things, use testing in moderation and regularly assess its usefulness to ensure your recruitment process truly improves selection decisions.