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Concerned About Online Testing? Get a Friend!

Posted 3/2/2016

Recently I was at a meeting of graduate employers and asked the question, how many employers ever validate their screening testing and assessment results as a predictor of success within the organisation. Do the testing benchmarks they use to screen graduates correlate to success within the organization 3 or 5 years out? The unsurprising answer was no. The overwhelming majority never go back to do any analysis.

Only one financial services firm told me they did do the analysis and found there was no correlation to success in their organization. So they stopped doing the tests altogether.

Which indicates to me that most graduate employers use online testing and assessments as a convenient screening tool. Or to use the terminology of one of the global testing providers, to “sift high volumes of applications".

So what are the three common uses of online assessments (as reported by testing providers)?

  1. Sifting high volumes of applications
  2. Sifting high volumes of applications and supporting selection decisions
  3. Sifting high volumes of applications and supporting selection decisions and guiding post-hire development

And what does this mean?

Under option 1 “Sifting high volumes of applications”, employers set arbitrary benchmarks or "pass rates" for applicants. In this instance the employer has not analysed whether the benchmark is an indicator of graduate success in their organization. 

In its absence employers say they want candidates who score (for example) in the 60th percentile or better. They figure this is as good as any other tool to screen out candidates. The only science in it is that they are bringing forward applicants who could perform well in reasoning tests. But there is no evidence that those applicants will be more successful in their organisation than those rejected, so it is purely arbitrary screening.

Option 2 “Sifting high volumes of applications and supporting selection decisions”. This is where employers have some evidence to confirm that testing results are linked to the applicant’s likelihood of success in the organization. In this situation, testing does support selection decisions.

Option 3 “Sifting high volumes of applications and supporting selection decisions and guiding post-hire development”. This goes a step further to identify development areas for each graduate as the basis for an individual development program. It’s a noble cause but in my experience very few organisations actually do that at the graduate level.

So it seems that most graduate employers use online testing and assessments for internal efficiency i.e. to “sift high volumes of applications”.  

That led to another question at the graduate employer meeting. Most applicants complete testing online and unsupervised. How many employers confirm the initial online test results with subsequent supervised testing? Again, the unsurprising answer was only a few.

So graduate employers use testing primarily to make their life simpler as an easy screening tool. And most never worry to confirm if the test was actually completed by the applicant. Their focus is how can I reduce thousands of applications to a manageable number.

What does this mean for graduates? It says that a large proportion of graduate employers are not serious about online testing and assessment. It's like saying we only want applicants with a certain GPA. It's simply convenient. 

If graduates are concerned about "passing online testing" they may as well get a friend to help to make it through to the real  assessment stages. Many already do and go on to be hired and successful!    

Oh, and for those who support testing and assessments as an indicator of a graduate's ability to perform on-the-job, think about all the administrative staff and non-graduate employees who are doing similar work activities in the organization. Did they get tested? No. Can they do the work a graduate is asked to do? Of course.  

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