Every recruiter would love to spend less time reading resumes.
If that’s resonating with you, then pre-employment skills assessments are exactly what you need.
Research suggests 82 percent of companies are already using some type of pre-employment assessment in their hiring process. Skills assessments, in particular, can help you screen out unqualified candidates, hire more skilled employees, and improve retention.
At TestGorilla, we oversee hundreds of skills assessments every week and have seen how this type of assessment radically transforms the way companies approach hiring and makes the process better for everyone involved. Our goal to help you make more informed hiring decisions faster and with greater confidence.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about skills assessments. We’ll explain what they are, what they test, how to use them in the hiring process, and why they’re such a crucial part of hiring great employees.
What is a skills assessment?
A skills assessment is a collection or series of tests that allow you to evaluate and screen prospective job candidates on the skills needed to succeed in their role.
A skills assessment allows you to objectively evaluate a candidate on a variety of soft and technical skills that are most relevant to their role while avoiding the biases that can come with screening candidates using (subjective) CVs and resumes.
Even when candidates may look great on paper, it’s possible they’ve inflated their abilities. Skills assessments allow you to evaluate whether a candidate is well-positioned for the role before you spend time interviewing them.
But it’s not just about screening out candidates. Skills assessments also allow you to identify the candidates that are most qualified for the role. Skills assessments administered before the job interview can help you identify strong candidates to interview and give you specific points to discuss with candidates about their knowledge and experience.
At TestGorilla, we recommend using skills assessments as the first step in your screening process and tailor the structure and length of our tests specifically for that purpose. For example, candidates can apply for open positions by completing the skills assessment you created for that role. As part of the assessment, you can ask them to upload their resume or CV and ask them any additional questions, like “Why are you the perfect fit for this role?” This 360 view of candidates’ strengths and experience will help you identify the strongest candidates to invite to an interview.
Skills assessments vs. Skills tests
One key point is that a skills assessment isn’t one test: it’s a group or package of skills tests. Our platform lets you tailor a skills assessment to your open role by choosing the skill tests that are most relevant to your role.
Why every company should use skills assessments
A candidate’s resume is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their actual abilities. Skills assessments uncover the hidden strengths and weaknesses of a prospective hire.
They can help you understand potential gaps you need to fill with hiring or highlight extra training you may need to provide as part of your onboarding process.
Here are seven reasons why skills assessments should be part of your hiring and training strategies:
1. Screen candidates objectively - The most obvious benefit to skills assessments when hiring is to screen candidates objectively. By testing candidates on the skills directly related to the role, you can tell who’s a real contender and who’s just a pretender.
2. Make a great first impression on your candidates - Having an engaging and interactive hiring process shows off your organization as an innovative place to work. Employees will have more confidence that they’re joining a progressive company that values diversity of thought and bringing in great people.
3. Interview fewer candidates - Even if every applicant were qualified, you may not have time to interview them all. Skills assessments can help you identify the most qualified candidates that are worth spending your time on.
4. Improve retention - By hiring candidates who are more suited for their roles, you can reduce employee churn. More than just traditional skills, skills assessments can also include personality and culture fit tests to help you identify people who’ll thrive in your specific work environment.
5. Identify employee strengths and weaknesses - By assessing a candidate’s skills as they enter your organization, you’ll already have a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses. This can help guide career development conversations and highlight where improvements can be made over time.
6. Save on training costs - By bringing in candidates that already have the technical skills needed for the job, you can spend less time and resources on training. And by identifying candidates that are quick learners by including cognitive ability tests in your skills assessments, you can target candidates that are faster learners.
7. Increase profits - A 2012 study showed that companies who excelled at recruiting experienced 3.5 times more revenue growth and double the profit of companies that cited recruiting as a weakness.
As you can see, skills assessments are a powerful tool for a recruiter to improve their organizational health as a whole.
What do skills assessments measure?
Skills assessments measure the competencies required for a job. But what are these competencies? These competencies range from directly observable, technical skills to innate, under-the-surface attributes that are harder to prove objectively without testing.
They can be split into two broad categories:
1. Acquired Knowledge, Skills, and Experience
The first category is made up of hard skills that are directly correlated to on-the-job tasks. These skills can only be learned through training or direct experience, and are more likely to be role-specific.
Some example skill tests from the TestGorilla Test Library include:
- Role-specific skills: Customer service, Google Ads, Data science
- Programming skills: PHP (coding), Node.js, Python (debugging)
- Software skills: Salesforce CRM, MS Windows, Shopify
- Language skills: Dutch (intermediate), Italian (proficient)
One point of note is that while these hard skills are often necessary to do a particular job, they’re also easier to train than soft skills. For example, it’s much easier to train an employee on a learned skill like Google Ads than to teach them a soft skill like empathy.
2. Cognitive Abilities and Attributes
These are soft skills that are more about how a person thinks and acts rather than what they know and mostly correspond to soft skills.
You can test personality or situational judgment to assess if a candidate aligns with your organization’s expectations and values, or you can test their cognitive abilities to see if they have transferable skills like problem solving or attention to detail.
Examples of these types of tests include:
- Cognitive ability: Attention to detail, critical thinking, numerical reasoning
- Situational judgment: Negotiation, Business ethics, Leadership & people management
- Personality & culture fit: Big 5 (OCEAN), Enneagram, DISC
Remember, the examples listed above are just individual tests. A full skills assessment is an aggregated group of up to five tests that make up a holistic picture of the candidate or employee.
For more details on creating a well-rounded skills assessment, check out this blog on using different test types.
How to make skills assessments part of your hiring process
When creating a skills assessment, it can be tempting to select a few tests that seem appropriate for your open role and publish them. But for best results, you should take a more strategic approach when incorporating skills assessment into your hiring process to ensure you’re testing for all the right things and hitting your overall hiring goals.
Here’s how to make that happen:
Step 1: Identify your current gaps and needs
Before you dive into creating an assessment for a particular role, start by looking at your organizational needs as a whole.
What skills and attributes must every member of your organization possess in order to be successful? Or, where do you currently have organizational gaps that could be filled by a new hire?
For example, are there any particular soft skills that are crucial to maintaining or establishing your company culture? If you’re a startup with lots of autonomy in every role, you may identify problem solving and critical thinking as key soft skills that no person can be without.
And what technical skills are missing in your organization—even if they’re not specific to that role? For example, you may discover that all of your app developers are experts in Python but have limited experience with HTML5. For your next hire, you could target an HTML5 expert.
The key here is to think about what gaps you may be able to fill with this role that you may have missed if you were thinking only about their day-to-day scope of work.
Step 2: Determine your hiring goals
Your next step is to identify what the ideal candidate looks like. This will help you build out your assessment in the next step.
Start by writing down the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required for the open role. What technical skills must they possess and what soft skills would be ideal for the role? Balance the needs for the role with the bigger-picture needs you identified in step 1.
Based on that list, decide how you will evaluate or benchmark candidates. And are you looking for a well-rounded candidate who passes a certain benchmark for most of the skills you’ve listed, or would you rather find a candidate who’s a superstar in one or two skills, but may be lacking in other areas?
For example, consider the scenario where you have an employee that checks all the boxes but doesn’t show great potential for growth. In some cases, that may be the ideal scenario, as you’re just looking for stability. But perhaps you’re looking for an organizational climber that may be able to fill a leadership role some day. If that’s the case, you may want to put a higher weight on leadership skills or decision-making abilities.
By this point, you should have a fairly clear picture as to what you’re looking for from that role and their skills assessment.
Step 3: Create a skills assessment for your open role
Next, it’s time to create your skills assessment for the role. This means choosing a series of skills tests based on the skills and abilities you identified in step 2.
Armed with the list of skills you picked for the role, you can easily pick out the relevant tests from our skills test library to build out your assessment.
TestGorilla also saves you time and effort by recommending a list of skills tests based on the job function. For example, for the role of Social Media Manager, TestGorilla recommends these skills tests:
- Hard skills: SEO copywriting, Facebook advertising, Technical SEO, Social media management
- Soft skills: Attention to detail, Reading comprehension, DISC (a personality test)
In addition to skills tests, you can also add your own custom questions to an assessment to make sure you’ve covered everything you want to ask. For example, you can ask candidates to attach their resume or upload a video answering a screening question.
Step 4: Give your skills assessment to job applicants
Now that you have your assessment built, you can use it to screen your applicants.
To direct candidates to your skills assessment, include the link in your job description. This way, you can collect the necessary information like name, email, their test scores (of course!), and any other information you ask with your custom questions.
Alternatively, you can also email invites to applicants directly or send them through your ATS (Applicant Tracking System).
You can then track how many applicants have completed each assessment and see how they rank based on their scores. The tests have time limits and built-in cheating prevention, so you can be confident that the scores are actually telling of the candidates’ abilities.
To evaluate which candidates scored high enough to earn an interview, compare them to the benchmarks or hiring goals you created. This may take some judgment, as the test scores won’t always shape up exactly as you had imagined.
For example, should scoring low on one category disqualify a candidate? Probably not. While a low overall score isn’t a good sign, a gap in one area may not be the end of the world—especially if it’s easily trainable on the job.
So, if a candidate does score low in one or two categories, you can use that to discuss their skills and experience further during the interview.
Step 5: Re-assess and adjust your assessments over time
Do you forget about skills assessments once you make a great hire? No, your skills assessment can still have value after you’ve extended a job offer.
You can use the new employee’s assessment results to guide their training or to create their learning and development plan—especially for any areas where they may have gaps.
As your organization and the role evolve, go back and update your assessment for that role. You may discover another skill that you wished you had tested for, or you may decide your organization has enough skill in a certain category that’s no longer needed for the role.
Your organization isn’t static, so your skills assessments don’t have to be either!
Start using skills assessments today
Skills assessments can radically transform your hiring process, significantly decreasing your time to hire and drastically increasing the quality of your hires. Used as the first step of your recruiting funnel, skills assessments can save you time in sorting and interviewing candidates, give you all the data you need to make objective and unbiased hiring decisions, and help you retain better employees long-term.