The basics of talent tests in the workplace
Talent tests are a popular method for screening job candidates. These tests can highlight skills or personality traits that an applicant may have left off of their resume. They can also substantiate the claims made on a resume, reassuring employers that a new hire is as skilled as they have documented in their application materials.
Read more: Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates
Why you should use talent tests
Most companies use a pre-employment assessment of some kind to evaluate candidates. The popularity of these tests is due in large part to their effectiveness.
Depending on the scope of the test, these assessments can help you determine:
- Culture add: Personality assessments can help determine whether someone’s personality is a good addition to a company’s culture.
- Skill level: Skills tests reveal whether a job candidate has the knowledge or ability to perform certain reasoning or problem-solving tasks associated with the position.
- Motivation level: A personality test can reveal how motivated an individual is to perform the job, attain promotions and excel in their chosen department.
- Job aptitude: A talent assessment for entry-level employees can reveal which area they’re best suited for, helping managers guide employee development. Empathy and resilience are key traits for those in customer service, for example, while they’re less important for a tech-related role.
- Versatility: An aptitude test may reveal an opportunity to allow an employee to cross-train between roles, increasing their value within the company.
How talent assessments work
Talent assessments are based on extensive research. This is particularly true of personality tests. Reliable tests use data from multiple experiments to determine the correlation between certain actions or responses and the individual’s personality. Skills-based tests are less complex, but still require thorough studies into the best methodology for determining one’s skill level. It’s important that the scope of the test relates closely to the scope of the job.
Talent assessments are often presented as multiple-choice tests. However, they can also use sentence completion, true-false questions and short answer questions. Most assessments can be given to large groups in one sitting. These tests are standardized to provide consistent, reliable results based on the person’s responses.
Two approaches to using employee assessment tests
There are two primary types of talent assessments. It’s usually best to incorporate at least one of each type of test for a well-rounded evaluation that will help you find high quality employees.
1. Cognitive ability tests
Cognitive ability tests evaluate skills associated with thinking and problem-solving. These assess areas such as:
- Reading comprehension
- Ability to learn
- Mathematical skills
- Spatial relations
A cognitive ability test will help you evaluate both an individual’s skill level and their ability to learn new skills. These tests can evaluate an employee or applicant’s general intelligence or assess specialized tasks such as clerical or mechanical jobs. Your company can invest in developing a test that’s specific to the tasks performed onsite or you can use one of several pre-made tests that are designed to help hiring managers screen potential employees.
Cognitive ability tests are a strong predictor of job performance, particularly for complex jobs. The more difficult the job, the better these tests are at highlighting ideal candidates. These tests can be administered individually or in a group. They are available as pen-and-paper tests or electronic assessments, so you can select the setup that best meets your needs.
2. Personality tests
Personality tests evaluate an individual’s traits rather than their skills. For example, while a cognitive test determines the person’s capacity to understand and complete a task, a personality test evaluates whether that person will actually complete the task and to what degree of success. Your motivation level, professionalism and dedication are evaluated through a personality test.
The questions on a personality test address:
- Behavioral style
Together, an evaluation of these factors will help hiring managers to evaluate how you will fit into the overall office environment and where your personal strengths lie. Personality test questions can come in many forms. Some popular styles include:
- Statement-based questions: A statement-based question provides you with a list of statements and asks to what extent you agree or disagree with them.
- Open-ended questions: These accept any written response.
- Forced-choice questions: This type of question gives you several statements and asks you to rate them in order of relevance to your personality.
Related: How to Find Good Employees
Talent test FAQs
Here are a few frequently asked questions about workplace talent tests:
What does talent testing assess?
Talent tests can be applied to nearly any area of skill or expertise. While standardized tests typically evaluate reasoning, mathematical skills and reading abilities, many companies choose to develop their own talent tests that look for the specialized skills necessary in that particular industry.
Personality-based talent testing evaluates how one’s innate personality impacts their response to certain events. This helps identify strengths and weaknesses that may translate well to aptitudes for certain types of work.
How do you choose your talent tests?
There are many talent tests available for employers. Begin by reviewing some of the popular tests mentioned above to see which method best suits your needs.
Brendan Sullivan is an Indeed recruiter based in Austin, TX with 4+ years of experience. You can usually find him enjoying one of the several amazing coffee shops in Austin or organizing his record collection.