Technical Skill Assessments: Are They Necessary?

We know that hiring managers are under increasing pressure to find skilled IT talent—we talk to hiring managers about their talent needs every day! To speed up your hiring efforts, you may have considered using technical assessment tests in your interview process. But are these tests essential?

In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of technical screening tools, so you can decide whether to use them in your hiring process.

Let’s get started!

Understanding Technical Skill Assessment Tests

Like any screening method, technical assessment tests evaluate a candidate’s technical skills and abilities. They come in many forms, including coding challenges, multiple-choice quizzes, and interactive simulations. Small start-ups, multinational corporations, and all business sizes in between use them to assess the technical skills of job candidates.

Though some companies may have their own technical assessments, many use providers to administer these tests. Some popular ones include:

  • CodeSignal
  • Codility
  • HackerEarth

The Pros of Technical Assessment Tests

There are several potential advantages to using technical assessment tests in the hiring process, but two stand out:

They Can Save Time

Technical assessment tests are typically designed to be completed quickly, allowing you to evaluate a large number of candidates in a short amount of time. This can be particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may not have the resources to conduct extensive interviews or hire dedicated technical recruiters.

They Can (Potentially) Reduce Bias

Technical assessment tests can be more objective in evaluating candidates’ skills than formal interviews, which can potentially be influenced by unconscious bias. Technical assessment tests may help reduce that bias by focusing solely on the candidate’s technical skills.

The Cons of Technical Assessment Tests

While technical assessment tests have potential advantages, they also have some drawbacks that should be considered before implementing them in your hiring process.

They’re Don’t Always Accurately Measure A Candidate’s Capabilities

For one, technical assessments don’t always accurately indicate a candidate’s technical abilities. For example, your next potential hire may struggle with a particular coding challenge or multiple-choice question, even though they have the right skills for the job.

Also, some candidates may be able to “game the system” by memorizing common technical interview questions.

Job Seekers Don’t Like Them

Another aspect to consider is that some job seekers find technical assessment tests stressful and intimidating, which can negatively impact their overall experience. They may also feel that the tests are impersonal and do not provide a complete picture of their abilities or experience.

Tips for Using Technical Skill Assessment Tools:

We’ve covered the pros and cons of technical assessments, but how do you implement them in your hiring? Here are five suggestions to help you fairly and effectively use technical screening tools in your interviews.

Identify the Necessary Skills and Abilities

Before giving your candidates any technical assessment tests, identify the key skills and abilities necessary for the job. This can be accomplished by creating a list of technical requirements and consulting with team members to ensure all relevant skills are included.

Choose the Proper Tests

Once the skills and abilities have been identified, it’s time to choose which test to conduct. If you’re unsure, consider using a variety, like coding challenges, multiple-choice quizzes, and interactive simulations. This will help provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s technical skills, but make sure you’re mindful of your candidate’s time.

Ensure Tests are Relevant and Fair

When choosing a test (or tests), it’s vital to ensure they’re relevant and fair. For example, a coding challenge should reflect the actual coding work the candidate would do on the job. Additionally, the tests shouldn’t be too lengthy. You don’t want to put unnecessary stress on candidates with time-consuming assessments.

Provide Clear Instructions

To ensure that candidates understand the technical assessment tests, provide clear instructions on how to complete them. This can include information on the test format, how to submit it, and how long they have to complete it.

Evaluate Results Objectively

When evaluating the results of technical assessment tests, consider using a rubric or grading system to assess your candidates. You can also review the results with other team members to get a more accurate consensus on each candidate’s technical abilities.

Other Ways to Screen IT Candidates for Technical Skills

While technical assessment tests can be helpful, they are not the only way to screen your IT candidates. You can ask for references, check for relevant certifications, study their portfolio (if they have one), and view their online presence (i.e., their LinkedIn profile).

Let’s review some of these alternative screening methods in more detail:

Ask for References

Asking for references from previous employers or colleagues can be a helpful way to verify a candidate’s technical skills. References can provide insight into the candidate’s work and learning style, ability to work in a team, and overall technical abilities. However, it’s necessary to remember that candidate references are likely positive, so it’s important to ask detailed questions and follow up on any concerns.

Evaluate personal projects and online presence

Many IT professionals work on personal coding projects or have an active online presence, such as a GitHub profile or a technical blog. Reviewing these personal projects and online presence can help better understand a candidate’s technical abilities and interests, and even show you how dedicated they are to their craft.

Are Technical Screening Tools Right for Me?

Technical assessment tests and screening tools can be valuable for evaluating candidates’ technical skills and abilities, but they have potential drawbacks. Despite this, you can use them to your advantage, as long as you’re balancing these tools with other screening methods.

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