What do the roles of barista, software engineer, actor, and ballet dancer have in common? They’re all jobs that use skills assessments as part of the hiring process. For those jobs, everyone recognizes the importance of seeing how a candidate will perform before they’re hired. But skills assessments shouldn’t be limited to certain roles.

For companies, hiring for skills comes with several benefits. It helps build a team of top performers who will drive business goals and increase revenue. When you hire candidates whose skills match the job, you’ll also raise employee retention and job satisfaction. Plus, testing skills can help you overcome skills shortages by increasing your list of qualified candidates to advance to the next stage.

Skills assessments can be administered through an online platform and augmented with technology to increase automation and efficiency, or you can administer them manually. Typically, a skills assessment asks a variety of questions in different formats to see how candidates perform on-the-job tasks. A good skills assessment includes questions that someone already doing the job could answer and can accurately measure key performance metrics. The earlier you administer a skills assessment, the quicker you can identify the best candidates for the job beyond their highlight reel.

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Here are five simple steps you can use to create your own skills assessment:

  1. Figure out what to test. Start by reviewing the job description or talking with your team or the hiring manager. Consider what tools the candidate will need, the tasks they will be responsible for, and the goals and values of your company. You should come up with a list of both hard skills (e.g., programming languages and Adobe software experience) and soft skills (collaboration and time management).
  2. Create the right questions. Choose the most important tasks your candidate will have to do while on the job and write one question for each task. Ask candidates to complete the task itself or something as close as possible. You will get more relevant insights if you have the candidate complete an actual task instead of a hypothetical one.
  3. Use a variety of question formats. Mix up the way you present the tasks you want the candidate to complete. Include a combination of immersive text-based, audio, and video questions. For example, an immersive text-based question could ask the candidate to write an email to a client, and an immersive audio or video question could ask the candidate to record themselves handling a difficult conversation.
  4. Create a good assessment flow. When you compile your skills assessment, ease into it with a simple multiple-choice question. Build to the meaty part of the assessment where you ask candidates to perform real-world tasks. Include questions related to communication styles, your company’s values, and culture fit toward the end.
  5. Early, but not too long. The sooner you offer the skills assessment to your candidate pool, the faster you can hire. But don’t let this step be an egregious barrier for the candidate. Generally, aim for ten total questions and a completion time of less than one hour. Adjust up or down as necessary for entry-level positions and more complex roles.

Skills assessments should be used to screen candidates in, not out. The point is to rank candidates based on how well they perform on the skills assessment, not to filter them out if they don’t reach a certain benchmark. The top candidates will easily rise to the top, and if used early enough in the hiring process, the skills assessment can select a more diverse pool of applicants to advance to the next phase.

When given the opportunity to showcase their talent through real-world tasks, job candidates will jump at the chance to rise above their resume, challenge themselves, and demonstrate their actual skills. Ultimately, skills assessments can help identify the best candidates for a role, give recruiters a new evaluation metric to consider, and lead to quicker, happier, long-term hires.

To learn how Vervoe used a skills assessment to hire a VP of sales in 48 hours, read this post.

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