In the coming weeks I will be posting a number of segments from Vervoe, a publication that covers various issues such as flexible working, branding, automation, how-tos and tips on interview scripts, tests and more. Verve helps organizations such as Uber to assess a candidate’s accomplishments and style in order to get to the right hiring choice. 

We often hear terms like pre-employment assessment, skill testing and even interviewing used interchangeably. While they may have similar high level goals, such as identifying a suitable candidate, they are fundamentally different methods of achieving those goals. It’s important to know the difference because each evaluation method will produce completely different outputs. Moreover, in some cases it might make sense to combine one or more of these methods.

One of the best discussions I’ve heard on this topic was on a podcast called Hire Up hosted by John P. Beck, Jr. The episode was titled Assessments Made Simple, Human, Smart and featured Dr. Scott Hamilton, the CEO of Hamilton & Associates Consulting.

Dr. Hamilton distinguished between each candidate evaluation method with ease and clarity. It’s worth listening to the entire episode, but, otherwise, I have summarized some of the key points in this article and added my own thoughts as well.

Skill testing

Skill testing is all about understanding whether someone can do something or knows something. It can be a simple task, a range of complex tasks or demonstrable knowledge. It’s possible to test for almost any skill because you can simply watch people perform tasks.

Dr. Hamilton gives the simplest of examples: “if someone is going to have to weld metal, you want see them weld metal”.

This is why résumés and interviews are inherently poor methods of validating skills. They are focused on what candidates claim they can do, not what they can actually do. Instead, it’s far more compelling to see how people perform. Literally. Moreover, it’s far simpler.

Skill testing is context-dependent, and therefore subjective in nature. But it’s also capable of being objectively assessed, which means it can be pass/fail. Confusing, right?

Let’s take a writing test as an example. The style of writing, your test depends entirely on the job. It could be anything from creative writing to technical writing. So the test is bespoke. At the same time, it is usually possible to objectively determine whether a candidate performed well. To use Dr. Hamilton’s welding example, either someone knows how to weld metal or they don’t. The opposite is usually true of pre-employment assessment.

Next week: Pre-employment assessment: what is it? Pre-employment assessment: does personality change?