3 min read

Your Favorite Candidate Bombed the Skills Test. Now What?

It’s not uncommon for HR professionals to find themselves in sticky situations when conducting hiring processes. Candidates who share excellent résumés and impress during interviews often seem like the right choice — until they fail the skill and ability test or, worse yet, fail to perform on the job. When organizations see this happening, what is the appropriate response?

This question highlights why skills testing needs to be a bigger component in hiring processes. Skills-based assessments provide hiring managers with a different view of an applicant that goes beyond what a résumé or interview might show because they ask the applicants to complete tasks similar to those found on the job.

Why is that important? There is no doubt that both interviews and résumés are crucial when evaluating an applicant, but neither can paint the whole picture of a person’s capabilities. Résumés allow hiring managers to get acquainted with a candidate’s background and experience, but they’re often embellished.

Similarly, interviews are excellent barometers to evaluate an applicant’s communication skills and “presence,” but research indicates they’re terrible predictors of job performance. It’s challenging to get a full picture of candidates’ abilities during an interview because they genuinely desire to convey that they’re qualified when talking with hiring managers. And some hiring managers aren’t natural interviewers, which results in conversations being based more on overall impressions than how equipped a candidate might be for a role.

Skills tests provide a real-time display of a candidate’s aptitude. They enable hiring managers to see beyond the highlight reel of a résumé and engaging conversation during an interview to determine whether a candidate can perform critical duties on the job — and perform them well. In fact, the intel gained from these skills tests is the perfect complement to interview insights.

How Ability and Skills Tests Fit Into the Recruitment Process

Hiring managers have to take into account the results of failed pre-employment assessment tests, especially if they feel these candidates are a great fit and should still be considered. While it’s possible to lower cutoff scores, one must apply this new standard to all applicants.

Fairness must prevail, and standards must be equally applied. When applicants fail these skills-based tests, they’re deemed incapable of performing well based on their execution. Using tests to establish “minimum competence” can quickly cause awkwardness if a hiring manager wants to hire someone who is not ready and able to perform the job.

As with any pre-employment test, a skills-based assessment has to be chosen and administered with care. Not only do these assessments have to be legal, valid, equitable, and reliable, but they also need to be developed by experts.

Typically, skills tests are co-developed by industrial-organizational psychologists who are well-versed in industry research and best practices and by tenured subject matter experts (SMEs) who have an intimate understanding of the at-issue position. Together, they’re responsible for developing the content of the test as well as setting pass/fail cutoff scores for each assessment. TestGenius, for instance, has a function that aggregates SME opinions regarding job-relatedness and minimally qualified scores (cutoff scores), which allows tests to maintain a high degree of utility and establishes validity.

Skills tests can be critical components of efficient and effective recruitment. On average, a corporate job offer will attract roughly 250 résumés. A “test battery,” including a résumé screen followed by a skills-based assessment, is an effective — or high-volume — way to reduce the overall number of applicants while concurrently highlighting individuals who have the highest likelihood of success on the job.

What Employers Are Looking for in Assessment Tests

With all of this information in mind, what is the right way to apply the results of skills tests? Typically, those who fail pre-employment assessment tests never make it to the interview stage.

Skills-based tests are typically used in a strict pass/fail manner. Predetermined cutoff scores for tests can help identify candidates who don’t meet the minimum qualifications for a position and prevent them from advancing to the interview or getting the job. This isn’t the end of the story, though. Every person applying for a job should be given equal opportunity. It’s possible to lower the score cutoff for a candidate when the conditions call for it, but they need to be reduced universally.

For instance, in times of high demand, there may not be sufficient numbers of adequately skilled applicants. Testing helps to identify potential skills gaps so that employers can more readily determine the potential effectiveness of training or other remediation.

The results of assessment tests should be used in conjunction with other parts of the hiring process — like interviews or résumé screenings — all of which are tests in and of themselves. Each component should provide insight into different aspects of a candidate’s profile.

For instance, a candidate might excel in specific skill areas but ultimately not be a cultural fit for the organization. Conversely, candidates might test as slightly weak in a particular skill but still be minimally qualified. However, hiring managers can consider whether that weakness might be developed over time if the candidate is otherwise exceptional.

Ultimately, managers value more than just function: Traits like adaptability, self-awareness, and ability to inspire often factor into hiring decisions. Hiring assessment tests enable managers to use real-world scenarios to see whether potential hires can perform and to what degree they possess these overarching qualities that make employees — and workplaces — great.

To learn more about the skills tests we offer at TestGenius and how we can shape and strengthen your hiring process, click here.