Tuesday 4 December 2012

Commonly Used Talent Acquisition Tools: Standardized Tests – Part 1

Part 9 of 11 of the CompetencyCoreTM Guide to Recruitment & Selection

Standardized tests and assessment tools are commonly used to screen and select candidates for jobs.  Like all other talent acquisition tools in the selection process, these must be focused on assessing the competencies needed for success in the job.  This blog and the next cover a variety of types of standardized selection tests and assessment tools that can be incorporated in the selection process. 

Knowledge / Skill / Ability Tests

These are standardized tests using question formats (e.g., multiple choice, short answer, etc.) that allow the organization to determine whether the candidate has the job-related knowledge, skill or ability to perform effectively in the job.  They often can be used in group testing situations, or online in computer lab environments; and as such, can be used to screen down the candidate pool to those who meet certain job-related requirements prior to having them go through a more labor intensive interview process.

They are often acquired by the organization from test vendors.  In this case, in order to be able to defend the use of the test, the organization should conduct a thorough job analysis, such as would be the case in defining the job competency requirements, and then chose a test that addresses these requirements.  In addition, the vendor most provide evidence that the test has been well-developed and meets generally accepted professional standards for employment test development.  A professional with a background in psychometrics should be involved in identifying and selecting such tests.

Sometimes, organizations develop their own tests to assess specific skills / ability requirements that may be unique to their organization (e.g., entry-level tests for government related jobs; etc.).  In this case, once again, a thorough job analysis must be undertaken and the tests and items must be developed by psychometric experts in accordance with well-accepted professional standards in the field.


These are a category of tests designed to simulate the challenges or conditions that are typical of the job or types of jobs the candidate will be entering.  They are designed to assess the competency requirements of the jobs and use a rigorous set of rating standards for assessing candidate performance.

They can take a variety of forms:
  • In-basket / In-tray exercises – these simulate a set of professional or managerial job challenges typical of what the candidate could encounter on the job.  They are most often timed and could involve a change or additional demands being placed on the candidate part way through the exercise.  They must be scored by assessors who are well-trained in applying the assessment / rating criteria and who know and understand the job competency demands.  They can be acquired from test vendors or developed in-house.  If they are acquired from vendors, the buyer must ensure that the competencies that the test measures map well to the competencies needed in the job at the right proficiency level.  If they are developed in-house, they must be based on a thorough job analysis, and developed by experts in test development and psychometrics according to well-accepted professional standards in the field.
  • Role Plays – often simulate an interpersonal challenge the candidate is likely to experience on the job (e.g., candidates applying for a supervisory position are given a role play in which they must conduct a mock feedback session / interview with an under-performing employee) and actors are sometimes used following a set script and set of standard responses depending on the approach the candidate takes in the role play.  In this way, the role play provides a standardized scenario for each candidate so that the process is fair and consistent for all.
  • Group exercises - in this case, groups of candidates work on a common challenge, sometimes taking on certain roles (e.g., CEO, CFO, etc.).  The focus is on resolving a problem or completing an assignment based on written instructions and / or case scenarios.  Observers who are trained to use standardized rating criteria (based on the competency requirements) and who know and understand the jobs assess the candidates and outcomes as they perform.  Most often the group exercise covers leadership and management challenges.
  • Simulators – range in complexity from online computer-based simulations to a complete environment designed to test individual skills / abilities for high-stakes jobs (e.g., aircraft pilot simulators).  Through the simulations there is an attempt to closely approximate the challenges likely to be faced on the job, challenges on which the candidate cannot be directly assessed prior to job entry.  Recent advances in serious gaming (online computer scenarios and assessments) build learning as well as assessments into the process, with algorithms that adapt based on how the candidate responds.

The next blog in this series examines more commonly tools used in recruitment and selection. Sign up to our blog’s mailing list through the form on the right-hand side to receive the rest of the series in your inbox.

HRSG is a leader in competency-based recruitment and selection solutions and training. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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1 comment:

  1. I think it is a best idea to use any online talent acquisition platform for employee hiring in any organization. I am working in field of employee recruitment and HR since last 7 years and I know it about how much time consuming it is to hire a perfect employee in any organization.
    Using any technology advanced recruitment software or talent acquisition portal could be the best way to reduce hiring time and efforts. Thanks for sharing this list of some of the best talent acquisition tools.