Introduction

Using a well-designed and validated online assessment remains the most objective way to predict how a candidate will perform in a role. Online tests are also a cost-effective way to filter large volumes of applications, producing a shortlist of candidates for more comprehensive evaluation.

However, creating an online assessment can seem like a daunting task. To create a valid assessment requires more than a series of questions. There is a world of difference between an interview and a properly validated, objective test. 

Tazio gives you the platform to create, publish and manage your own online tests and assessments. We also have a network of expert occupational and business psychologists who can design tests and assessments for you. 

For those of you who would prefer to create your own online assessments, we have produced the following list of seven practical tips to support you. 

1.  Test for the skills that matter most

You should focus your assessment on testing the skills, competencies and behaviours that will have the greatest impact on a candidate’s potential to perform well in the role. 

Completing a comprehensive job analysis can be time consuming and expensive. A more cost effective approach is to get existing employees to complete an online assessment to identify the essential skills.

By analysing the results of these tests, you can establish what skills and characteristics your top performing employees share. Armed with this knowledge, you can now screen candidates based on these criteria. 

2. Don’t ask too many questions

The more questions you ask candidates, in theory, the greater the accuracy of your assessment.However, the longer your assessment, the more likely candidates will fail to complete it fully, or accurately. 

Also, with longer assessments candidates can suffer from test fatigue. Fatigue and boredom may result in later questions either being skipped or inaccurately answered.

With selected-response questions (multiple choice, Likert scale, etc.) it is commonly accepted that five to six questions per factor (competency, skill or behaviour) is sufficient to ensure an acceptable level of validity. 

Video and essay questions require the candidate to provide a more considered and detailed response to a question, so with well-written questions, you can assess a candidate with far fewer. Overall, we recommend no more than two or three questions per factor. 

3. Randomise questions

With the proliferation of social media and websites, such as Glassdoor, it is increasingly common for candidates to share details of employer’s assessments, tests and interview questions. 

By randomising questions, you can reduce the chance of candidates finding out the content of your assessment in advance. Also, if you allow candidates to sit an assessment more than once, you will maintain the validity of your assessment.

4. Vary question types

Creating your assessments with a variety of question types improves the effectiveness of the test, as well as candidate experience. Tests consisting of a single question type, all multiple choice, for example, can increase test fatigue leading to less accurate results. 

Using a variety of question types suited to the skill or competency you want to test, can increase the validity of your assessment.  In addition to using different question types, for selected-response questions, you should also vary between positive and negative choices. 

By mixing up the question types and whether answers should be positive or negative, you help to maintain the candidate’s focus throughout the assessment. However, you shouldn’t use trick questions, for example, ask five positive questions and then one negative, just to see if the candidate is concentrating. 

Selected-response questions provide clear and objective answers. A candidate’s answer is either right or wrong or at least partially good or bad. The results from video and essay questions are to a greater or lesser extent subjective; it’s a reviewer’s interpretation of the candidate’s answer.

The ideal job assessment will consist of a combination of question types tailored to test a particular skill or competency. Include a mix of selected-response questions, video and essay questions. This provides an objective assessment of a candidate’s skills and competencies. It will also allow you to assess their soft skills, attitude and motivation.

5. Test practical skills

A primary objective of an online job assessment is to test what a candidate can do, not just what they know. Some skills can be tested directly, for example, maths, coding or fault identification.

There are other useful ways you can assess many of these practical skills online. Using multiple choice, true or false questions to test maths ability for example. Display an image and ask the candidate to pinpoint where a fault is located, or to identify particular elements.

Presenting a typical work-based scenario and then asking a candidate to select their most and least preferred action or response, is an excellent way to see how a candidate would respond to a real-life situation. 

6. Include media

To help bring your assessment to life, include a video introduction, audio clips or images. 

Video introductions are an excellent way to increase candidate engagement and the completion rate of the assessment. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a professional film crew either. A short video clip recorded on your mobile phone or tablet can prove just as effective and engaging when done well.

Asking candidates questions with recorded video or audio clips also helps to make the assessment process more personal and less routine.  Having current employees ask the questions builds rapport with candidates and can offer an insight into your culture and the type of organisation you are.

7. Testing and validating

The most important factor in the effective use of your assessment is its validity for the intended purpose. In the case of screening candidates, this means it should measure the relevant characteristic or set of characteristics, you have determined are required to perform well in the role.

If you used an assessment to identify the primary characteristics of the employees who are successful in the role, get these employees to complete your candidate assessment. Comparing the results of the two assessments will provide an indication of its effectiveness.

The second stage is to have a sample of candidates complete the assessment at an early stage of the recruitment process, ideally before any other screening.

At this juncture, the results of the assessment are not used to exclude any candidates. Instead, you are looking for a clear correlation between those candidates that performed well at interview or assessment centre and their test scores. 

Eventually, you should be able to establish a link between test scores and a candidate’s in work performance.

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