Jen DuBois By: Jen DuBois

Skills Assessment Tests – An Overview of Uses and Benefits

What is a Skills Assessment Test?

Employers use skills assessment tests to evaluate whether individuals have the skills necessary to perform essential aspects of a job. With the digitization and increasing analytics sophistication of the Human Resource function – and in light of the recent necessity to hire remotely – online skills assessments tests have become a norm in hiring.

The value of skills assessment tests is that they provide a standardized, unbiased and measurable means of evaluating a candidate or an employee’s ability to perform certain tasks in a job role.  Skills assessment tests also allow for tracking, monitoring and comparison of skills across employees and candidates over time.

This ability to compare skills accurately via testing contrasts sharply with subjective, unstructured hiring and performance review interviews which introduce bias and make it difficult to accurately assess and compare candidates and employees.

Skills assessment tests are primarily used by employers to weed out candidates early in the recruitment process.  Increasingly they are being used by hiring managers to showcase technical skills among a few strong candidates in order to assist with a final hiring decision. Skills assessment tests are also increasingly being used to test current employees’ skills for learning and development purposes.

As such skills assessment tests really can provide value to employers by facilitating talent management in three ways:

  • Faster, more efficient hiring
  • As part of learning programs
  • As part of employee career development

Finally, job candidates also use skills assessment tests to help the to determine a future career direction or to practice potential requisite job skills.


The Role of Skills Assessment Tests in Recruitment and Hiring

In our guide “How Skills Assessments Can Support Your HR Strategy” we highlighted that Human Resources departments face many challenges in recruitment and hiring today including:

  • Playing the role of corporate strategic partner
  • Digitization and automation
  • Outdated hiring processes
  • Increased recruitment of technical roles
  • Shortage of talent
  • Lack of resources

Skills assessment tests provide a solution to these common challenges. Here’s how.

  • HR as corporate strategic partner  – Skills assessments allow HR to use data from assessments to help make strategic hiring and talent management decisions.
  • Digitization and automation – Online skills assessment platforms integrate with other digital HR tools such as applicant tracking systems and employee onboarding systems.
  • skills assessment tests
    One study showed that cultural similarities affected interviewers through these 3 processes up to 95% of the time. (source: Lauren A. Rivera, 2012)

    Outdated hiring processes – With the current talent shortage, qualified candidates will leave the recruitment pipeline if they are kept lingering too long. In addition, mounting evidence shows that subjective interviews with various members of the organization do not provide very accurate assessments of a candidates skills. Online skills assessment tests allow hiring managers to be more quick and efficient in screening candidates and add objectivity and structure to the interview process.

  • Increased recruitment of  technical roles – Certain skills assessment tests enable non-technical HR staff to easily assess  “hard” skills in the screening process. When it comes to recruiting data scientists, software engineers and other technical talent, HR can more easily play a strategic role in vetting these skills without having to be very technical.
  • Shortage of talent – By allowing candidates to take screening skills assessments test online and submit them with their resume, more candidates from afar can apply for a role.  Online assessments also make it easier for internal candidates to apply to different openings while on the job. This remote accessibility helps to increase the diversity and number of applicants for a job.
  • Lack of resources – HR has been asked to do more with less over the last decade. Online skills assessment tests greatly speed up the narrowing down of the applicant pool and eliminate a lot of manual communication and work.


The Role of Skills Assessments Tests in Employee Skill Testing

Skills Assessment TestsSkills assessment tests have a clear but often overlooked place in determining if current employees have the technical, problem solving and critical thinking skills to: 1) upskill within their existing job role 2) reskill for a completely new role, or, 3) be promoted into a new job role.

Upskilling and reskilling is a critical piece of talent management right now.  Millions of employees and managers are being faced with the prospect of being displaced by automation and technology. Employers looking to retain their potentially displaced talent are turning their sights to reskilling and upskilling programs.

The first step in any upskilling/reskilling program is determining which skills development direction to take for which type of job for every employee.  As a start, employers can give specific skills assessment tests, such as QuantHub’s data essentials test, to help determine if individual employees have the requisite skills to move into specific roles.

The results of this initial assessment can help HR to identify relative areas of skill strengths and weaknesses and allow employees to embark on a learning and development plan to reach their upskilling/reskilling goals.

In addition to helping employers to formulate upskilling/reskilling programs, employee skills assessment tests can be used by companies in the following ways:

  • To help employees find out which types of roles in the organization might be right for them.
  • To better understand and develop employees in a way that benefits their long-term values and goals
  • To identify areas of overall company strengths and weaknesses in different skill areas in order to inform learning and development and training programs
  • To benchmark the organization’s talent and competencies against industry standards


How Skills Assessments Help with Employee Skills Retention

A little known secret value of skills assessment tests if that if properly used as a spaced, repetitive, “low stakes testing” tool, they can help employees retain new skills learned on the job over time.

The Testing Effect

Studies show that people generally forget about 75% of skills and information learned (i.e. in corporate training) within 6 days of learning it, if this newly acquired knowledge isn’t used frequently.. This effecdt is known as the “Forgetting Curve”.

Hermann Ebbinghaus first identified “the forgetting curve”.

In the case of employee training programs, employees are perhaps tested once after training is over.  Thereafter, they may not use or have to recall much of the information and skills they have learned immediately. The result is they lose their new skills quickly. In fact one survey found that only 12% of employees say they apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs.

Assessments can help employees retain their skills by serving as a skills health check as employees go through learning and development programs and as they apply new skills on the job (such as through upskilling programs).

Numerous academic studies show that situations which require learners to practice retrieving and reconstructing knowledge in the form of “low stakes tests” increases long term retention of information learned by up to 25%.

Encouraging employees to practice retrieving and applying new skills learned periodically with skills assessment quizzes can make learning stick.  By incorporating low stakes skills assessment tests periodically into employee workflows, the “testing effect” amplifies the benefits of skills training and improves knowledge retention on the job.


The Bottom Line on Skills Assessment Tests

Skills assessments can support HR and managers in their talent management efforts in a variety of ways.  Skills tests provide employers with the data and information they need to make informed decisions about the recruitment, hiring, upskilling/reskilling and  promotion of talent.

Prior to the arrival of standardized online  skills assessments, hiring managers were historically ill-equipped to screen and assess for technical and other requisite skills in a consistent, efficient, confident and unbiased manner.  Assessments can now be used by Human Resource managers to make well-informed, data-backed decisions regarding recruitment, training, retention, and promotion of  job candidates and employees.




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