Assessment testing – how to make it work for you

The traditional interview process in recruitment is only as good as the interviewer. Furthermore, interview styles can vary as much as the human personality, from the highly structured competency-based approach to gentler, sometimes rambling, conversations.

Yet the cost to an employer of making the wrong hiring decision can be dramatic. They can lose money and productivity, risk upsetting existing employees and, in the worst-case scenario, have to undergo a repeat exercise a couple of months later.

While employers often train their management teams to conduct effective interviews, many also invest in testing that will be able to provide them with an objective assessment of the applicant’s likely suitability for the role.

What are assessment tests?

Assessment teststypically comprise ofexercises and questionnaires that are intended to identify the best candidates based on their ability and aptitude.

There are tests that are appropriate for all stages of the employee lifecycle, from recruitment through to succession planning, Regardless of whether they are used for assessment or development, these tests can ensure that you recruit and retain the right people – provided they are used accurately and as part of an established process.

Assessments are available in various formats, both off the shelf and bespoke. The formats vary from online tests and paper questionnaires through to group- and scenario-based exercises. Although online testing is usually unsupervised,it is possible to reduce the risk of cheating by incorporating a second, supervised testing stage for shortlisted candidates.

Why assessment testing is becoming increasingly popular

Assessment testing can be a quick and efficient way to help hiring managers to screen out inappropriate and speculative applicants. What’s more, they compel the uninitiated hiring manager to better prepare before the recruitment process starts. This ensures that candidates are examined based on the skills relevant to the vacancy, thereby reducing the risk associated with making the wrong hire. Testing can be used at all levels for contract, permanent and temporary hires.

With the cost of hiring the wrong person estimated to be between two and five times the first year’s salary, bringing in a higher level of control and objectivity to the recruitment process means that hiring managers can be more confident in the decisions they make.

Benefits of assessment testing

Assessment testing offers a number of important benefits. These include:

  • Reducing the cost of recruitment.Assessment tests identify unsuitable candidates early so that only the highest calibre candidates make it to the interview stage.
  • Getting the right person for the job. The assessment tests provide some reassurance that the candidates hired should have all the competencies that are essential for doing the job.
  • Making recruitment fairer. Objective assessment means that every candidate is considered on the same basis.
  • Recognising potential. Assessment testing enables employers to lookbeyond existing skills and to identify future potential.
  • Being a supportive tool for managers. Assessment tests enable line managers to become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of new recruits, which means they can manage and develop staff more effectively.
  • Improving employer branding. Candidates leave the recruitment process with a favourable impression of the company, regardless of whether they were successful.

Types of assessment tests

Many different types of assessment test exist, but here are some examples of the most commonly used ones:

Ability tests

Ability tests are designed to measure a candidate’s current ability and their future potential. The tests include numerical and verbal reasoning, managerial judgment, manual dexterity, problem solving, spatial recognitionand technical understanding. Tests can be used to screen out applicants so that only those candidates with the right skills are taken through to interview stage.

Personality and motivation questionnaires

Personality and motivation questionnaires give hiring managers an insight into a candidate’s work styles and behaviour. Using these alongside skills and ability tests will help hiring managers to select and retain the best staff.

There are many personality tools available. Among the most widely used are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the OPQ32. Motivation questionnaires revealthe kind of tasks that the individual enjoys and where they can add the most value. Many can also provide insight into the individual’s leadership qualities or their potential as a team member.

Competency tests

Defining the competencies required for each role in the organisation is an essential part of talent management and identifying future leaders. Having the right people in leadership roles is essential to business success so, by identifying the key skills and behaviours needed, hiring managers can ensure that they attract and retain the top performers.

Things to consider

  • It is important to remember that assessment testing is only part of the recruitment process. So you shouldn’t allow the results of a test to dictate whether someone should be hired or promoted. Psychometric tests will only tell hiring managers what applicants think about themselves or how they perceive themselves to be. They do not indicate how other people view those applicants. So hiring managers need to take their own instincts into account when recruiting and they should use other testing techniques if they have any doubts.
  • When you analyse the results of the assessment testing, make sure that you focus on the desirables associated with the role and don’t be swayed by things that don’t particularly matter. If a low score on a certain point does not matter to the role, then it shouldn’t matter to the hiring manager.
  • Be aware of professional participants. If candidates are seasoned participants or havepreviously used assessment tests, they may understand how the tests work and know how to project themselves so that they are perceived in a certain way. That’s why it is important that psychometric tests are not seen as the be-all-and-end-all of the decision-making process.
  • Incorporating psychometric tests into a recruitment programme can lengthen the process considerably. Take into account not just the time that it takes to do the tests, but also how long it takes to analyse the results.
  • If you are trying to recruit a highly desirable candidate, you may potentially lose them if the process takes too long. Soit is important to manage their expectations.