How to assess skills and competencies

October 24, 2022
Mikaella McInerney
How to assess skills and competencies

Reading through hundreds of CVs is a thing of the past. It’s time-consuming, it’s hard to track… and it results in way too many papercuts!

82% of companies are already using pre-employment assessments in their hiring process, according to a study by SHRM. The best pre-employment assessments don’t just screen past experience or education. They measure a candidate’s aptitude and potential by assessing skills and competencies with reliable data and scientific proof, providing a more accurate and bias-free hiring process.

In this article, we’ll explain what skills assessments are, how to use them in the hiring process and why they are so crucial to hiring the best talent.

What is a skills assessment?

A skills assessment is a test that you perform as part of the recruiting process. Using a test specifically designed to test skills relevant to the open position, you can objectively evaluate a candidate on a variety of soft and technical skills.

Typically, a skills assessment test falls into one of two categories.

Acquired knowledge, skills and expertise

This category of assessment tests your candidate on their hard skills which correlate directly to on-the-job tasks. Skills and competencies like these tend to be role-specific and can only be learned through direct training or experience. For example, if you’re hiring someone for a marketing role you might test their skill with data analytics and copywriting. If you’re hiring a software engineer, you might test their programming skills or debugging abilities.

This is also the category where you can test language skills, software skills and more. This skills assessment test is useful not just for eliminating candidates but seeing where you might want to train the right candidate. For example, if a candidate is perfect in every other way but is not familiar with Google Analytics, you can train them—and the skills assessment test will give you more notice to prepare the onboarding!

Cognitive abilities and attributes

This category tests soft skills that center around how a person thinks and acts. Assessment tests in this category might measure a candidate’s problem solving, attention to detail, strategic thinking and more. As such, they’re less likely to be role-specific and more likely to cover broad categories like critical thinking, numerical reasoning, situational judgment, personality and even culture fit.

You should always conduct several tests within this broader category in order to have a greater sense of how the candidate’s soft skills work in conjunction with one another.

How do I assess the skills of employees during the hiring process?

Use the categories above and the specific requirements of the role at hand to create a tailored skills assessment test for each open position. If you need help, you could check out our comprehensive guide to talent assessment tests. Alternatively, many organizations are choosing to automate their skills assessments, creating data-driven insights in an efficient time period without using any of your own resources. HiPeople’s 360-degree assessment evaluates hard skills, soft-skills, and personality traits across culture fit, and cognitive abilities, so you could book a demo to see how this would work within your own recruitment process.

You might also be wondering when to assess skills and competencies during the hiring process. There are lots of pros and cons to assessing at various times. Assessing before an interview gives you a better sense of the candidate and saves time by helping you avoid talking to people who won’t ultimately be the right fit. Assessing after an interview makes it easy for you to follow up on specific elements of the candidate’s profile that you want to know more about. You can work with your own organization and recruiting team to decide what works for you… and don’t be surprised if it changes from role to role!

Why should recruiters conduct skills assessments?

By now, it is probably clear just why assessing skills and competencies is so important! But just in case you need a few more reasons, consider the following.

Get to know your candidates without meeting them

Save yourself the struggle of diving through hundreds of CV and interviewing dozens of candidates. Skills assessments can provide you with a tailored shortlist of the most promising candidates, as well as with a whole profile of their strengths and weaknesses, so you can go into an interview already having a sense of who they are as a person and an employee. If you see that a candidate struggles with time management, for example, you could ask them a tailored question about this. If you see that a candidate doesn’t have any experience with Google Analytics, you could ask them what tools they prefer. Skills assessments both reduce the pile of CVs and expand what’s in them!

Screen out the wrong candidates

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people exaggerate on their CVs. It’s easy to write “fluent in German” on a CV; it’s much harder to actually be fluent in German! Skills assessment tests are a great way to back up each candidate’s claims and prove whether they actually have the skills and competencies required to be successful in the role. And it gives you a sense of anyone who might be lying—an automatic red flag in the recruitment process.

Compare the right candidates

More likely than dozens of wrong candidates is that you might have a handful of people who would all be great fits for the role. This puts a lot of pressure on the hiring team to pick the right candidate. Skills assessments give you an objective way to compare the candidates against one another, spotting weaknesses and strengths to help you hire the best person for the job.

Reduce bias

Bias in recruitment is a major problem, and we all need to work on hiring fairly. Skills assessments reduce bias by putting the onus on what the candidate can do, and not how we feel about the candidate. It makes it much less likely that you’ll make a decision based on a “good vibe” or other unfair criteria, and it also means that you’ll be assessing concepts like culture fit with an accurate and inclusive method.

Improve retention

Assessing skills and competencies before extending an employment offer makes it much more likely that you’ll have a successful hire. And successful hires are much less likely to leave! Using pre-employment assessments and tests reduces employee churn and ensures that you’re hiring bright and motivated people who want to stay with you for a long time.

Ready to make skills and competency assessments part of your recruitment process?

You can get started today with HiPeople. Accurate, reliable and data-driven insights into every candidate—automated, to save you time and money! Book a demo now.