Pre-employment assessment, skill testing or interview?

A combination of assessments are best for the hiring process. (rawpixel.com pic)

Terms like pre-employment assessment, skill testing and interviewing are often used interchangeably. While they have similar goals, they are fundamentally different methods of assessing you.

Each evaluation method will produce completely different outputs. In some cases it makes sense to combine one or more of these methods.

Skill testing

Skill testing is understanding whether you can do something or know something. It can be a simple task, a range of complex tasks or demonstrable knowledge.

You can test for almost any skill because you can simply watch people perform tasks. If you are going to have to weld metal, they want to see how well you weld metal.

Résumés and interviews are poor methods of validating skills as they focus on what you claim you can do, not what you actually can do.

It’s better to see how people perform. Literally. It’s also simpler. Skill testing is context-dependent, and therefore subjective in nature.

Take writing as an example. The style of writing you test depends entirely on the job. It could be anything from creative writing to technical writing. So the test is bespoke.

It is usually possible to determine whether you performed well. The opposite is usually true of pre-employment assessment.

What is pre-employment assessment?

Pre-employment assessment predicts how you will behave in certain scenarios, not what you can do. It explores key personality traits based on an understanding that your personality can predict your behaviour.

Most personality assessments are based on the five-factor model, which asserts that there are five personality supertraits:

• Openness to experience

• Conscientiousness

• Extraversion

• Agreeableness

• Neuroticism

Therefore, if you gain an understanding of these five supertraits, you will know how they will react in different situations. It shows how they will do the job.

Pre-employment assessment: Does personality change?

While skills can be taught, many people think personality is fixed. Studies show personality can, and does change over time.

It is possible to change behaviour and habits that are relevant to how you will perform in a job, not your personality per se.

That’s why two people with different personalities can perform well in the same role. Whether you believe personality is fixed or not, it is not something that can be measured in binary terms like pass or fail.

The outcome of a personality assessment can’t be viewed as “good” or “bad” in isolation, it only indicates suitability for a specific job.

If used incorrectly, personality assessments can be harmful to the hiring process. Pre-employment assessments that test personality need to be validated. Skill testing, on the other hand, is inherently bespoke.

What does all this mean?

This is where it gets interesting:

• A test means “a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, especially before it is taken into widespread use”.

• To assess means to “evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of”.

• An interview means a “face-to-face meeting, a discussion”.

Interviewing

Technology makes it possible to conduct one-way interviews using video, which are essentially discussions without real-time interaction. The most commonly used method for hiring is interviewing.

The notion that skills and behaviour can be evaluated without skill tests or assessments but through a discussion has become the norm.

Interviews don’t predict performance. They focus on understanding what you did in the past or discuss what you claim to be able to do, without proof.

Interviews should be used to get to know you after your skills and behaviour have been validated. Only candidates who have demonstrated they can do they job should be interviewed.

Can you combine skill testing, pre-employment assessment and interviewing?

A strong hiring process will combine insights about your ability to do the job and your expected behaviour with high-quality human interaction. This could involve a skill test, some form of pre-employment assessment and an interview.

Hiring is not a “one size fits all” endeavour. Every situation is different. Understanding what each evaluation method can achieve and, more importantly, what it will not achieve, will go a long way to help companies build robust hiring processes.

This article first appeared in vervoe.com.

At Vervoe, our mission is to fundamentally transform the hiring process from mediocracy to meritocracy.