Skills Assessment Tests: What You Need to Know

Updated December 20, 2022

When searching for a new position or developing your skills in the career you have, you may find yourself having to complete a skills assessment test. In this article, we reveal what a skills assessment test is and why companies use them. We also look at the various types of tests and tips for you to best prepare.

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What is a skills assessment test?

A skills assessment test is a process of evaluating an individual's technical knowledge and soft skills, such as personality or cognitive ability, that are required for the person to be successful in a specific role. Companies use skills assessment testing for both potential job candidates and their current workforce.

Why do companies use skills assessments?

The primary role of a skills assessment test is to evaluate a potential job applicant's suitability for the job. It is most often used before selecting candidates for an interview and during the actual interview process. However, a company may also use this process to assess current team members.

Testing skills and competencies during the interview process allows a company to confirm that you're qualified for the position and have the skills you've indicated on your resume. Using a skills assessment test as a pre-screening evaluation eliminates unqualified applicants from the job posting. A recruiter or hiring manager may also use an assessment during the interview process to look for specific skills or personality traits required for the job. For example, when hiring for a sales position, the company may ask you to complete a skills assessment test to check if an extroverted and assertive role like sales suits your characteristics.

Companies use skills assessment within their current staff to determine areas of opportunity for training and development and assess potential job promotions or lateral movement of team members. Using a skills assessment test, a company can decide if an employee is better suited to a different role. It can also show if there's a gap in internal training methods, showing the company that an improvement in staff training and development needs to be addressed. Finally, a company can use assessment skill tests to provide a comparison against the industry's standards or other related fields. For example, a healthcare center may use skills assessments to ensure their medical staff is up-to-date on the latest knowledge and procedures within the healthcare industry.

Related: How to Answer Interview Assessment Questions With Confidence

What are the various types of skills assessment tests?

During the hiring process, there are several types of assessment tests that you should prepare for. These include:

Technical skills assessment test

A technical skills assessment test evaluates your hard, technical knowledge directly related to the position you've applied for. This type of test measures your ability to complete everyday tasks specific to the job, such as typing speed, computer coding, or mathematic skills. For example, suppose you're interviewing for an administrative assistant position. In that case, the hiring manager may ask you to take a skills assessment for your knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, providing them with a grade at the end. This kind of test allows a hiring manager to confirm the skills listed on your resume are accurate and prove that you have the necessary qualifications.

Cognitive ability test

Opposite to a technical skills assessment test that measures your hard skills, a cognitive ability test measures your soft skills and intellectual abilities. Most cognitive assessment tests evaluate areas such as problem-solving, attention to detail, critical thinking, analytical skills, spatial and verbal reasoning, and reading comprehension. Cognitive ability assessments can offer insight into a candidate's ability to complete the position's required duties and the likelihood of long-term success. Many companies use game-based assessments instead of traditional cognitive tests, as the format is more candidate-friendly and quicker.

Personality characteristics test

A personality characteristics test measures a candidate's specific personality traits. This is useful for evaluating a candidate's suitability for a position that requires a particular demeanour or attribute. For example, an outside sales position typically requires someone extroverted, assertive, competitive, and goal-oriented. There are several forms of personality tests that a company may use, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Enneagram test, the DISC Assessment, or the StrengthsFinder test. These various personality characteristic tests ask you questions about your preferences, likes, and natural inclinations. Based on your responses, the method then groups you into a specific personality type.

Work sample test

A work sample test evaluates a candidate's ability to perform certain functions of the job they would encounter daily. For example, suppose you are interviewing for a copywriting position. In that case, they may ask you to write an article about a specific topic, providing you with the subject, word count, and audience style. The assessment may or may not be timed. Upon completing the work sample, you submit it to the recruiter or hiring manager for their evaluation. Completing a work sample test provides you with insight into the type of work you would do and allows the company to see the quality and accuracy of your work in action.

The interview process

When conducted properly, the interview process provides excellent insight into a candidate's abilities and skills. There are two types of interview styles used: structured and unstructured.

Structured interview

A structured interview is a process of following a specified format during the meeting. The interviewer will use a list of pre-selected questions asked in the same order for every interview candidate. This allows an unbiased approach to the interview, providing an objective evaluation for each discussion. An interviewer typically uses behavioural questions to determine the candidate's suitability and predict future success, behaviour, and attitudes.

Unstructured interview

An unstructured interview focuses on building rapport between the interviewer and candidate to understand how the candidate would fit into the company culture and team environment. Instead of posing predetermined questions, the interview allows the conversation to flow. Throughout the discussion, the interview will ask specific questions and mainly focus on the interaction. An unstructured interview is often recorded so that the hiring manager or interviewer can review the candidate's responses after completing the interview.

Combination approach

Typically, a company will employ several skills assessment tests to provide a more precise and significant evaluation of the candidate. Most often, a company will use an interview in conjunction with another type of testing. For example, you may complete a technical skills assessment before being offered an interview. Or, you may finish an interview and be in the running with several other potential candidates, so the company asks you to take a cognitive abilities test to narrow their selection.

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Tips for taking a skills assessment test

Whether you are hunting for that perfect new position or are currently employed and want to develop your skills further, proper preparation for a skills assessment test is vital. Follow these tips to prepare yourself for a skills test and to complete an assessment successfully.

  • Understand the position you are applying for. A company will tailor the type of assessment to quantify the skills and characteristics needed to succeed in the specific role. Familiarize yourself with the required qualifications for the job.

  • Ask what kind of skills assessment to expect. By asking the hiring manager or your supervisor, you can mentally prepare for the test.

  • Prepare by taking practice tests. Many free online test platforms allow you to practice skills assessment tests. By completing a bit of research, you can practice your typing speed, computer coding language, and even your spreadsheet expertise.

  • Understand your work values and motivators. Especially when completing a personality test, knowing what you value in your job, what you most enjoy doing, and the people you like working with will help you be confident in your answers.

  • Know your professional strengths and weaknesses. Having a clear and objective understanding of your strengths and weaknesses within your career will provide you with confidence during an assessment test and save you time trying to determine this at the last minute.

  • Take your time when completing the assessment test. Although the hiring manager or recruiter may time you during the assessment, don't rush through the test. If needed, use all the time allowed to complete the assessment.

  • Focus on the assessment and your task at hand, without worrying about the outcome or next steps. Read the instructions and each question carefully, being sure to follow the directions.

  • Don't miss any of the questions. When completing a skills assessment, try not to leave anything unanswered. Even if you don't know, take an educated best guess and leave no answers blank.

Now that we've explained what skills assessment tests are, you will be better prepared next time you have to take one.

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