Editor's Note: This article was originally published in June 2020. It has since been reviewed and updated by the Indeed Editorial team for relevancy, with an update from the man himself.

A conversation with David Smail — the man who took all of Indeed’s Assessments during COVID quarantine in 2020 — on what he learned and how it changed his perspective on hiring. 

Key Takeaways 

  • David Smail, an advertising agency creative director, wrote about his experience completing more than 100 Indeed Assessments that were available during the pandemic quarantine in 2020.
  • He was first inspired to attempt one of Indeed’s skills-based assessments to learn more about himself and found reassurance in the results about the things he is — and isn’t — proficient in.
  • Smail also said the experience has reinforced his perspective on the value of looking at candidates’ transferable skills when hiring.

Like so many of us, David Smail needed a project during his work-from-home COVID-19 confinement in 2020. And, in his words, he wasn’t about to start baking sourdough. 

Instead, the self-described “creative leader, copywriter, mentor and former video store clerk” — then freelancing and also casually job seeking — got inspired to attempt one of Indeed’s job-related assessment tests. Before he knew it, completing the more than 100 available Indeed Assessments became a passion project.

“It was one of those things that gave purpose and motivation at the time,” Smail said upon reflection when we caught up with him in April 2024. Now an agency creative director who regularly interviews and hires, he says the tests also reinforced his perspective on skills-first hiring and the value of looking at candidates’ transferable skills. 

“I’ve always believed that if you’ve only studied or done advertising, you’ll be doing the same stuff, the same way. So I rather enjoy when someone comes from an outside industry and brings a different philosophy and approach, as well as skills from other places,” Smail said. 

Indeed Assessments are free skill evaluations designed to identify candidate knowledge and aptitudes so both employers and job seekers can find the right fit. Employers can use assessments as an application qualification to help identify applicants with desired skills and can use tools such as Indeed Smart Sourcing to see a candidate’s highlighted skills for a faster, more streamlined experience to connect with quality candidates.

We read Smail’s article about his experience, and naturally, we had questions. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity:

A conversation with David Smail on Indeed Assessments, feedback and career paths

Q: It took you a week and a half to complete more than 100* assessments. What was your approach? Did you make a plan beforehand?

A: Once I got started, it was nearly impossible to stop … and once I got started, the drive to get through all of them kept me going. I blame one of the most primitive drivers of all things human: dopamine. ‘Must do well. Must complete all.’ The biggest decision-maker on which test to take [when] was the estimated time [it took to complete]. As I’m sure every toddler’s parent right now can attest, with the little guy around, you never know when there’s going to be a scream, a bang, an “uh-oh!” or, worst of all, silence.

Q: At the time, Indeed Assessments were scored with ratings — from high to low — of “Expert,” “Highly Proficient,” “Proficient,” “Familiar” and “Completed.” Which “Completed” scores surprised you most? Were there any “Expert” scores that made you laugh?

A: I really thought I would do better at “Restaurant Manager.” I feel somewhat embarrassed to say that I’ve never really worked in the hospitality industry. (Though, my wife used to manage bars/restaurants, so I thought I might have an inside track.) Goes to show, if you haven’t actually done it — you may not know diddly.

On the flip side, in areas like “Early Childhood Development” where I thought I’d be absolutely useless, I scored pretty high. Maybe because we have the little ‘un. But I am aware enough to know I don’t have the patience or demeanor to spend eight to 10 hours a day with a bunch of 2- to 5-year-olds. And the people who do are bona fide saints.

Q: I was totally fascinated by your test results and thought that sharing them was very brave of you. 

A: [T]hey’re listed [on my resume] in the order I took them, which actually worked well because they did start to become a blur. At first, I kept the ones I didn’t get “Expert” or “Highly Proficient”  hidden. But that kind of felt like cheating. I try to live life with absolute transparency. [So] once I got about 50 completed, I just put them out there for the world to see.

Q: You stepped out of your wheelhouse — copywriting — with quite a few of these assessments: Surgical Technologist, Bartending, Medical Billing and Hairstylist, to name a few. Do you think your results gave you insights that may influence future job searches and work considerations? 

A: In a way, yes. It’s always interesting to get some feedback that you might be good at something you’ve never thought you might be.... 

I find it truly fascinating the paths that people either drive themselves toward or end up at eventually. In my career, I think I’ve benefited from quite a few serendipitous encounters and advancements. And I have had some pretty big titles that were a byproduct of hard work, taking risks and a good amount of luck. After a major career shift a few years ago and becoming a university instructor, now I’m inclined to get more back into the thing I really love and am fairly good at: advertising.

Looking at it in another way, especially in this human-centric business, you really are the product of all of your life experiences. 

Q: In your article, you quote a friend who asked, “How are you going to be able to communicate to the average Jane if you haven’t worked a mile in her worn, white canvas sneaks?” Has taking the assessments helped you answer his question? 

A: I continue to look at what people do in amazement. I touched on it a bit in the article, but I completely flailed while taking the nursing assessments. Whatever I got right was either luck, the remnants of a small seed in my brain that I got from growing up in a medical household or [from] watching hospital dramas. What medical people do, especially now by balancing the emotional caregiver portion of the job with the practical, ‘I’ve got to do something that is definitely going to cause you pain,’ is still beyond my comprehension.

For employers, I think [the assessments] can be good conversation starters. Smart employers can use them to see where someone’s outlying interests and skills may be and as a kickoff to other interview and personality-type questions. 

Q: What about their value for job seekers? 

A: Perhaps the opposite. [J]ob seekers could use [Indeed Assessments] to figure out and eliminate areas where they may not have an interest. [In that way, they save] both sides a good bit of time.

Q: Your Indeed Assessments review is going to inspire a lot of people to look at assessments, and maybe even take a few (or a lot). If you were going to guide people to a representative sampling, which assessments would you call out?

A: The ones I’d highlight might be different [depending] on whether they were looking for a specific role or to find out more about themselves. In the beginning, I did tend to gravitate toward the tests in my general arena (marketing, design, etc.). And it was at the very least comforting to know that I somewhat knew what I hoped I did. The fun — and frustration — did happen when I ventured into other fields. 

And I imagine that’s what kept me going — the thought of, “HVAC Repair — hey, let’s give it a try.” 

And as you’ll see, I won’t be getting calls to fix anyone’s furnace anytime soon, either. 

Interested in learning more about assessments? Check out this employer walkthrough on how to use Indeed Assessments to Administer Candidate Skills Tests.

*There were 110 available assessments at the time this article was originally published in June 2020. There are currently 185 Indeed Assessments available at the time of this article update in May 2024.