Nailing the Tech Hire: Assessment Tips & Tricks

by Sheila Mulholland
June 13, 2023
Nailing tech hiring

With most modern job listings liable to catch the interest of thousands of hopeful job seekers, hiring managers need every advantage possible to properly evaluate as many qualified prospective applicants as it takes to fill a vacancy. Enter technical assessments: Pre-hire aptitude tests that can potentially reveal critical information about a selected candidate’s skills or aptitude, conducted before a job offer is extended.

Especially when hiring for remote roles that are open to a large, global applicant pool, conducting any sort of standardized testing will help sift through the onslaught of applications, ensuring that you select only the best and brightest candidates to proceed to the next stage.
 

Purpose and Types of Technical Assessments

Of course, even when working with a much smaller applicant pool, you still might find a good use case for implementing a skills assessment (or other types of test) during the hiring process. Whether or not this technique makes sense for you will depend on your business priorities; a few of the most common reasons that technology organizations will test candidates are: 

  • To assist in fairly differentiating between and comparing candidates (particularly concerning highly skilled candidates or when hiring for very technical roles). 
  • To verify a candidate’s self-professed familiarity with crucial technologies and frameworks. 
  • To identify candidates who are good “culture fits” (or vice versa) for a company. 
  • To reduce the need for human recruiters to manually pre-screen candidates.  

By far, the most common type of pre-hire assessment given nowadays is what’s known as a cognitive ability test. Most pre-employment cognitive ability tests are designed to measure a candidate’s overall cognitive ability and might focus on specific areas, like verbal acuity, numerical fluency, and logical or inductive reasoning. While cognitive ability tests and the capacities they measure tend to be pretty standard, with some assessments even looking fairly similar to an IQ test when taken, many other types of tests are available to implement, including personality assessments and tests designed to gauge an applicant’s job knowledge. Whichever style of assessment you choose, make sure you’re using it both strategically and correctly by bearing in mind our top three tips for conducting technical assessments in the hiring process.
 

Tip 1: Validity – Does your test measure what you think it does? What exactly do you need to test for, and how closely do the two really align?

When you find yourself mulling over questions like these, you’re pondering the validity of your pre-hire assessment, but what does “validity” signify exactly in this context? “A test is valid if it satisfies its objectives,” reports testing facilitator PrevueHR. “For instance, an intelligence test should measure intelligence; a personality test should measure personality; a Pottermore Sorting Hat Quiz should measure exactly which Hogwarts House you belong to.” (Want our high-level Ravenclaw take on AI for HR? Check out Revolutionizing HR: The Dynamic Impact of AI here.) 

It makes sense that validity is important — but job assessments have an even more nuanced framework: the concept of predictive validity, which reconciles pre-hire test scores with the future job performance of hired candidates. While we’re still a long way away from being able to predict the career arcs of tomorrow’s superstars the day after they’ve applied, the work-in-progress concept helps save employers time and money on tests by “identifying the recruitment tests that are most accurate when it comes to selecting quality long-term candidates.”
 

Tip 2: Connection – Grow your employer brand with customizable assessment tools 

Some pre-employment testing services allow you to showcase your organization’s employer brand, usually allowing customization options like displaying your logo or skinning the UI to match your company’s brand colors. These features shouldn’t fall by the wayside — while they might seem like optional little extras, there’s evidence that underscoring your company culture and employer brand during the hiring process fosters a larger sense of connection with the candidate. If the assessment experience aligns with a solid, relationship-building experience of the hiring process as a whole, new hires can even hit the ground as enthusiastic “culture fits”! 

(Not clear on your employer brand? Start here to find out why your employee value proposition matters.) 

Here’s a quick example of the difference branding can make, just at this one step: Regional nonprofit Beacon Health System understood a pressing need to rework its hiring process. To cultivate excitement and connection in prospective candidates, they implemented a smart, co-branded system that empowers candidates even as it works to elevate Beacon’s brand. With myriad self-service options for applicants to pre-screen, schedule interviews, and take assessments, saving time is only one advantage of the new process. 

“The biggest impact we saw was that we created those meaningful relationships with candidates from the beginning,” reports Alexa Tupper, Digital Recruitment Marketing Specialist, at Beacon Health. Once the issue of keeping candidates engaged throughout the process was sorted, Beacon pushed their innovation even further, pursuing custom text campaigns to alert previous applicants of new openings. Beacon now benefits from faster and smoother hiring in general, and job seekers keep the health system in mind when looking to make a change.
 

Tip 3: Metrics – Monitor the results of your candidate evaluations to highlight their impact 

Don’t forget to keep track of your findings – not only from individual assessments but also the overall benefits for your organization. These can, and often do, come from many different places in the business, so definitely look beyond the realm of hiring and HR practices! For example, in a recent anonymous case study conducted by a major technological company, over half of the participants indicated that taking gamified pre-employment cognitive assessments positively affected their later perception of the company itself. Starting employees off with a strong positive association with your company will pay off every single day they work with you.
 

Have another example: When electronics component distributor Master Electronics realized their operations department had an eye-watering turnover rate of 111%, Head of People Jon Trevor knew he had his work cut out for him. He got busy implementing the Predictive Index assessment throughout the operations department, looking to its behavioral and cognitive insights for guidance during hiring, onboarding, and even orientations.

The effect? “What I’ve seen is that, over the last year, there’s less of an ‘us versus them,” as Trevor puts it. Now that the assessment has been rolled out to the full company, not only is everyone working as a tighter, more responsive team, but that problematic operations attrition rate has decreased to just 58%. It’s estimated that in reducing turnover Master Electronic has recovered close to $2 million in recruiting costs. 

Conclusion

If you need to conduct pre-hiring assessments of any variety, you can and should make sure you do it in a smart, strategic way that’s supportive of future growth. That means having a clear understanding of your test’s validity, capitalizing on chances to showcase your employer brand to candidates through customization, and keeping a close watch on your results during and after the process. The small amount of extra care this takes at the outset is very worth the significant cost recovery it yields. 

 

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