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  • Keith Meadows

The Ugly Truth of Online Assessment Testing – A Hiring Manager’s Guide to Effective Pre-Employment S

Computer screen with check marks in boxes

Most of us have had the experience of taking an online assessment or test as part of a job application. No matter the industry and position, the format is often familiar – the applicant is asked questions covering everything under the sun about how they would rate their work performance and ability to work well with others, and then they are re-asked those same questions again in different ways. The answers are usually multiple choice and these assessments can take as long as 20 minutes to complete or sometimes, take several hours and days to finish for the most intensive online screening tests. A great majority of companies (probably your company too) have these assessments or tests as key parts of their application. These assessments are designed to be an “unbiased” way to narrow down the applicant pool to a much more manageable number. Hypothetically speaking though, let’s say you are a hiring manager for a company that utilizes one of these online assessment tests. Take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions: Do you know what questions are asked on that test? Have you taken it personally? Can you pass it? It may come as a surprise, but many hiring managers and talent acquisition staff have never even seen some of the questions they ask of job candidates and in many cases, those same individuals would be the first to fail these tests. The reality is that online tests and assessments have become an out of sight, out of mind tool for HR teams. Hiring managers know these tests exist as part of their company’s application process but in many cases, that is the extent of their knowledge. Power Shift In the job market of years past, companies could certainly get by with this type of practice. Unemployment was high post-recession, 2007-2008 onward, and companies had the upper hand. There were plenty of applicants to every position and an organization could be choosy and select the best person available. Fast forward to 2018 though and times have changed. With unemployment standing at a 17-year low, jobseekers and employees are beginning to wield the power. A jobseeker can be selective with whom they want to work for and with what companies they want to invest their time with applying. On the other hand, employers are struggling to find talent and in many cases, even finding applicants at all for positions can be difficult. The talent seeking struggle is now real in 2018. So what does all of this mean for employers and hiring managers? It means you need to scrutinize things that you didn’t have to scrutinize before. And it means you need to take a hard look at the online pre-screening assessment tests that may be inadvertently costing you highly skilled and talented future employees. How to Stay on Top Companies lose otherwise qualified candidates for a variety of reasons in the application process, but they frequently lose them at the assessment stage. Jobseekers exit out of the process if they view the test/assessment as too lengthy or time consuming. They also bail on your company if the assessment content is not perceived as relevant or if that content startles them. Think of a forklift operator applying for that job who fields an assessment with nothing but sales related questions (with that job description not mentioning sales at all). Believe it or not, this type of thing happens all of the time. This jobseeker thinks he/she may be applying to the wrong position and leaves the application. Or even worse, they think the company may not have their act together thus damaging the company’s brand in the process. So how can hiring managers and companies capture the talent they may be losing because of candidate drop-off in the online assessment process? A good start is by following these three best practices:

  • Know what is on the test – The fact remains that many hiring managers and talent acquisition personnel have no idea what content or questions are on their current online assessment. I have personally seen hiring managers fail their own company’s online assessment test. You heard that right. The people who control hiring for open positions cannot pass the test for that position! The best companies have assessments that their personnel are familiar with and that must relate to key company desired characteristics and attributes that successful workers should have at that company. Do not have a test just to have a test. Involve hiring managers and talent acquisition personnel in the design of this tool to make it more effective. Every individual responsible for hiring at your company should know what is being asked of applicants.

  • Keep the length of your test under control – Are you getting enough qualified candidates? If not you may want to check the length of your company’s online assessment test. If this takes too long to complete you will lose many great people. You may be saying right now, “Well for our company, if that jobseeker doesn’t want to invest the time to complete this, then we don’t want them.” I can respect that but I would counter with the aforementioned fact that the job market is changing. Employers have had the upper hand for quite some time, but with the unemployment rate low and forecasted to get even lower, guess what? There is going to come a time where you are going to need those qualified jobseekers who do not want to spend half a day completing an online quiz. There is a happy medium but employers need to be vigilant so that top talent doesn’t take flight over something this trivial.

  • Do you really care? Are you sure? – What do I mean by that? As an example, I work with jobseekers with disabilities with applications, interview preparation, and everything in between for companies all over the country. When applying online, nearly all of the online tests list either a 1-800 number or an email address that people with disabilities can reach out to if they need assistance or help with the application/assessment. Shockingly though, a large percentage of these 1-800 numbers are either completely non-functional or they lead to an impersonal and confusing answering machine…yes, I said answering machine. They do still exist apparently! After all of these missteps, the final insult is that oftentimes those messages left by jobseekers with disabilities are either not monitored by anybody or they are never returned. I challenge you to test your own company’s 1-800 numbers and email addresses. Individuals with disabilities are the largest untapped labor pool in the US. I know if I were applying to your company, had an issue that required assistance and got the impersonal responses just described, I would exit out of your application and go to a company who really cared as opposed to one who was trying to check a box.

Online application assessment tests are here to stay. They can be valuable and helpful tool for all parties if given the attention that they deserve. As a hiring manager though, it’s your job to make sure they act as an effective resource to finding qualified candidates as opposed to a barrier that eliminates potential talent.

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