Like many of us, David Smail needed a project during his work-at-home COVID-19 confinement. The self-described “creative leader, copywriter, university instructor and former video store clerk” is also dad to an active 22-month-old and — when he’s not parenting or “quaran-cleaning” — stays busy with freelance work and ventures aimed at small businesses affected by the pandemic.
But in the midst of all this, Smail still found time (and was inspired by an ad) to attempt one of Indeed’s job-related assessment tests. These free skill evaluations are designed to identify candidate abilities and aptitudes so that both employers and job seekers can find the right fit. Employers often use assessments as an application requirement to help with applicant funneling, while job seekers can point to assessment results to highlight their skills on Indeed Resume.
But as far as we know, nobody has ever done them all — until now. One assessment led to another — 109 others, in fact — and before he knew it, Smail made completing all 110 Indeed assessments a passion project.
We read Smail’s article about his experience and, naturally, there were questions.
A conversation* with David Smail on assessments, feedback and career paths
Q: It took you a week and a half to complete all 110 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: Indeed’s assessments are 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, 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 ten hours a day with a bunch of two- to five-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 towards or end up at eventually. In my career, I think I’ve benefited from quite a few serendipitous encounters and advancements. And, have had some pretty big titles — [w]hich 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 [these 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. At 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 after this Indeed Assessments review? Read “Indeed Assessments: Why Employers Should Leverage Skills Tests” and then try your hand at a few (or all 110) in the Indeed Assessments module library.
*Questions and responses have been edited and condensed from the original interview.