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Using Assessments to Improve the Candidate Experience

December 17, 2013

Let’s be honest, most people don’t look forward to taking tests.  But if you’re a candidate applying for a job, you’re likely going to be required to take some sort of test. That “test” may be an application screen, a more formal knowledge test, a personality screen, a simulation or an interview; they are all tests of one form or another.  Most companies want to create a positive candidate experience while at the same time gather the most job relevant information they can in order to make an accurate and fair decision about the people applying for their jobs.  Sometimes those goals can be at odds with one another but ultimately it doesn’t have to be that way.


Candidates tend to react more positively to job-related simulations than they do to traditional tests.  There is a growing movement focusing on the ‘gamification’ of tests.  In other words, making pre-employment assessments appear to be more like games than tests.  After all, most games are actually tests of some core set of abilities anyway.   The challenge is not to get so caught up in making a test into a cool game that we forget about the primary purpose of the assessment, which is to measure specific job related competencies in an accurate and fair manner. 

Job-related simulations, when developed properly, do a fantastic job of balancing these two goals.  While everyone wants to do things faster, most candidates would prefer to spend 20 minutes working through an interactive simulation that appears to be relevant to what they will do on the job rather than answer a 10 minute personality scale or logical reasoning test.  That’s not to say that personality scales and traditional cognitive ability tests don’t have their place.  These traditional types of tests provide very useful information.  But if the goal is to attract and engage top talent, including job-related simulations in the hiring process is likely to go a long way towards satisfying both goals of being both predictive and “cool”. 

We’ve incorporated job-related simulations as part of our selection solutions since our inception 20 years ago.  The reaction from candidates is very consistent.  Whether they got hired or not, they typically felt that they were given a fair shot to demonstrate their skills and abilities and tended to agree that people who did better on the simulations would likely do better on the job.  No one likes to get rejected for a job they want.  The fact of the matter, though, is that for attractive jobs at employers-of-choice there will always be more candidates than jobs and more people are going to get rejected than hired.  But, by engaging candidates in the process and allowing them an opportunity to participate in something that feels more job relevant to them, everyone comes out ahead.  



all employee assessment alike

Matthew O'Connell, Ph.D. Matthew O'Connell, Ph.D. was the Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Select International, which was acquired by PSI. For more than 20 years, he was a driving force when it comes to designing, evaluating and integrating selection tools into systems that meet the specific needs of Global 2000 organizations. He is the co-author of the business best-selling book, Hiring Great People.