Test assessment of candidates


It is important when vetting candidates to measure them all equally. It’s also very important to ensure any tests they undertake are fair and relevant. Tests should never be used to “catch” candidates out. If you start with the intention of assessing what they do know rather than what they don’t know you’ll be heading in the right direction.

The best way to do this is to identify the most important attributes you need from your new employee and then create an assessment exercise or test to measure each candidate’s capabilities. Currently there is a reliance on psychometric testing which tends to focus on more general characteristics to analyse behaviour. It’s more advantageous to assess each candidate’s ability to do certain IT tasks relevant to the role being recruited for.

When recruiting for support roles for example, clear communication skills are usually of paramount importance. This applies to both verbal and written skills: clear, concise and engaging verbal skills have to be backed by clear, concise and relevant responses to emails. It’s quite a simple exercise to vet candidates initially over the phone before making an appointment to interview in person. Having a checklist of desired attributes in front of you, to tick off as you go through the exercise, can help significantly.

I also recommend creating your own assessment test with real and typical questions that have been received within your helpdesk.  Use the best responses your existing staff have provided as a reference and mark the candidate, out of ten (or a hundred), against the following:

  • Engagement and interaction with you
  • Clarity of speech and comprehension of the problem
  • Relevance and accuracy of support advice offered
  • Commitment to resolution and follow up
  • How easy or comfortable was the whole experience

It is equally important to follow a spoken exchange with an email example. Send the candidate a typical fault via email and assess the response as follows;

  • Quality of tone of the email
  • Accuracy of candidate’s spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Relevance of the solution provided by the candidate
  • Ease of use of the instructions provided to you
  • Commitment to resolution and follow up

When it comes to assessing candidates for various other roles we would suggest the following:

Software development: create an open test that is relevant to the code the applicant will be required to create. It’s actually more important to assess how developers think through a problem.

Systems engineering and network roles: create a test relevant to the applications and Infrastructure the interviewee would be expected to maintain, install or troubleshoot.

Business Analysts: are best placed to show off their engagement, requirement gathering and documentation skills by completing a live assessment exercise and sending you back the completed document in their style.

Testers: can be given data to write a test script around.

Trainers: can provide a short presentation/ training session on either an application relevant to the role or a subject of their choice.

In these ways you are able to not only assess results but also gain an insight into how a candidate thinks and works. It can often uncover some interesting talents or issues.

Please note MTR do have tests for the most IT roles and our consultants will ask, when taking the job order, what the most important skills or attributes are and how you want candidates to be tested.