How do you know if a candidate is a good fit for the job?
A well-crafted resume helps, but one study found that 37% of job candidates have admitted to fibbing about their qualifications. A stellar interview is a plus, but interviewers leave too much room for hiring bias and favor interviewing experience over work expertise.
These traditional evaluation methods primarily show that a candidate knows how to apply for a job. What you really need to know is how skilled your prospective hire is at doing the work the position requires. Discover this by running an employment skill assessment, or what we at Eduflow call a hiring challenge.
A skill assessment is a small project that tests skills and abilities by asking a candidate to complete a task that is fundamental to the role they are applying for. They are much harder to fabricate than traditional hiring process methods because the candidate has to produce original materials.
Running a skill assessment isn’t as simple as sending out a random sample project to anyone who applies, though. We’ll show you how to craft an assignment to evaluate candidates efficiently and fit it into your hiring process. We’ve also created a hiring challenge course template to help you craft a better assignment.
How to Use a Skill Assessment During Hiring
A skill assessment is an important part of your hiring tool kit when used in conjunction with other screening processes. It serves different functions, depending on where you deploy it during the hiring process.
In high-volume recruiting, employers use a skill assessment to narrow down the applicant pool before thoroughly vetting the remaining candidates. Requiring that candidates invest time and effort in completing a project weeds out anyone who isn’t serious about the position. Additionally, you eliminate candidates who are unable to do the work early on, leaving only skilled applicants behind.
When there are hundreds or even thousands of applicants for a job, testing first and then interviewing saves a lot of time. However, evaluating that many skills assessments is time-consuming, so it’s important to create a test that requires little oversight and is easily evaluated.
Another approach is to first narrow down the applicant pool through traditional methods like resume-vetting and interviewing. Once you are down to a small pool of candidates, use a skill assessment to help you make a final hiring decision.
With this method, you ask the candidate to complete a more in-depth project to more thoroughly assess their skill level. You can take more time reviewing each project to make sure that the candidate is a great fit for the position. There’s also the potential to ask for changes or revisions to see how candidates respond to feedback.
As with all hiring operations, skill assessments need to comply with your region’s equal employment laws. In the United States, that means that people with protected status must be given equal tests and that reasonable accommodations must be made for those with disabilities. Consult your local and state regulations to make sure you’re operating fairly.
Most skill assessments are for internal evaluation only, but if you ask potential hires to create something that you intend to eventually use or publish publicly, like a blog post, make sure you compensate them fairly for their time and work.
How to Write the Assignment
To get an accurate picture of a candidate’s competence, write an assignment that is challenging, relevant, and reasonable. Here are some of the most important things to think about as you construct a hiring challenge.
Assignments should require the full range of the candidate’s skills so that you see what they’re capable of. At the same time, you don’t want the assignment to be so hard that they get intimidated or quit before submitting it.
Create an assignment that candidates can complete using the skills and resources they already possess. There may be a small research component, but they shouldn’t have to learn an entirely new subject or skill to complete the task. You want to be cognizant of the amount of time you’re asking candidates to devote to the challenge. A couple of hours is OK, but an entire day of work is a lot for an unpaid assignment, particularly for someone who may already have a full-time job.
Target the Skills Required by the Position
What are the most important skills that candidates need to succeed in the role in question? There’s no benefit in asking coders to write essays or writers to respond to support tickets if that won’t be part of their everyday work.
Before you write the assignment, decide what explicit skills you intend to evaluate. Pick two or three of the most important skills required to do the job. These could be hard skills, like database knowledge, writing clarity, or the ability to write code. They could also be soft skills, like creativity or the ability to sensitively deal with disgruntled clients.
Craft a Specific Role Assessment
Once you know what skills you want to assess, it’s time to get creative and put together the challenge. The best challenge is a simulation of a situation that the new hire would frequently encounter. In the example below, we’ve asked a potential customer service rep to answer support tickets.
Based on the applicant’s answers, we can get a good picture of their communication skills, their “bedside manner,” and their knowledge of our product (or their ability to find the answers to questions they may not have knowledge of).
Here are a few more examples of reasonable skill assessments:
- Have a prospective developer solve a coding problem, or fix a piece of faulty code.
- Have a prospective copy editor review a piece of writing for grammar and clarity.
- Have a prospective social media manager write sample LinkedIn or Twitter posts or respond to a disgruntled message.
You can be as creative as you like, as long as you tie the challenge back to concrete skill sets.
A Template for the Employment Skills Assessment Process
Once you’ve written the challenge, you need to find a way to communicate, in an easy-to-understand format, what you expect from candidates.
We’ve broken down the process into individual steps, using our own hiring challenge template, which you can adapt to fit your needs.
Instead of diving directly into the assignment, create an introduction that explains the purpose of the assignment and gives any logistical information the candidate might need to complete the work.
Logistical information can include details such as how much time you expect the assignment to take, and any special equipment the candidate will need (e.g., headphones or a web camera). That way, the candidate will be prepared when they sit down to do the assignment.
Context or Background Information
If the challenge you’ve crafted requires any contextual knowledge about your product, include that information.
In our template example, we ask potential hires to write a launch post announcing a new software feature. Before the candidate gets started, we provide some examples of previous launch posts they can emulate.
Posting links is a good way to provide a path for candidates to do their own research and analysis without you holding their hand. A good candidate will click and read every link, and that initiative will show in their work.
Explanation of the Assignment
Clearly and concisely explain what you want the candidate to do.
Use numbered steps or bullet points to explain all required actions and deliverables. Below, you’ll see that we broke our task into two parts:
- Come up with a new feature for Eduflow.
- Write a launch post about it.
Explicitly list any requirements — for example, a certain word count — that you are expecting to see in the assignment.
After the candidate submits their assignment, have a manager, an editor, or another expert on the source material review the work.
If you’re interested in continuing the hiring process, consider providing feedback to the candidate. Give them a chance to respond to the feedback or make requested changes. The way a candidate responds to constructive criticism can tell you a lot about the kind of colleague they will be.
You may wish to run a second round of skill assessments to further narrow down the candidate pool.
In our example, if we were happy with their performance in the first hiring challenge, we invited candidates to participate in a second round of challenges. In round two, we asked them to create a video and respond to some fake support tickets.
After the skills assessment is complete, let the candidate know what will happen next.
Give them a time frame for when they should expect to hear from you, and let them know the next step in the process (e.g., doing another assessment, getting a final interview, contacting references, etc.). Letting candidates know what to expect keeps them confident and engaged in the hiring process.
Automate Your Employment Skills Assessments with Eduflow
One drawback to running a skills assessment on your own is that there are a lot of moving pieces to manage. When you have assignments from multiple candidates in different stages of your workflow, it’s easy to misplace important info.
Use Eduflow to make the hiring process easier and more fair by creating standardized templates that walk candidates through the entire process. That way, you can concentrate on evaluating the quality of the assignments and hiring the best person for the job.