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Companies Turn to Skills Tests to Vet Grad Candidates

Clare Hopping

Companies Turn to Skills Tests to Vet Grad Candidates

 Jens Sholt Knudsen/flickr For employers, the struggle to find skilled graduates to fill their open positions drags on, despite an actual increase in the overall number of vacancies. With growing numbers of graduates failing to meet expectations, skills tests are set to become a vital part of the recruitment process.

Although this year’s graduates are entering into the healthiest graduate job market since 2007, according to a report by Highflyers, many employers insist that a lack of basic skills and workplace experience are preventing graduates from succeeding in their roles.

A survey by Work Ready Graduates, an organisation set up by Prospects to support graduates entering into the workplace, further revealed that 47% of graduates feel unprepared for work, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

This explains why in both 2013 and 2014, according to more research by the AGR, 44.8% of employers said they could not fill graduate roles because candidates did not possess the right skills.

The Growing Skills Gap

The challenge for companies offering graduate roles is the mix of abilities amongst these graduates. And employers are noticing an increasing skills gap in the graduate workforce that makes it even more difficult to find the right candidate for the job.

AGR estimates that the number of graduates will rise by 11.4% this year, and now that university admissions have been uncapped, the pool of potential graduates stands to grow even further. If the task of sifting through the swathes of applications is overwhelming now, in three years time, it will be positively unmanageable.

While internships offer ample opportunity to vet potential employees, not all candidates can commit to taking on unpaid work. This limits the potential for diversity in the workforce, forcing many employers to conclude that unpaid internships aren’t a truly viable route for acquiring the bulk of their graduate workers.

These challenges have lead many recruiters to use skills tests as a means of streamlining the recruitment process and rule out applicants that lack the necessary skills to perform in their prospective roles.

Revolutionising the Recruitment Process


Melanie Holtsman/flickr Melanie Holtsman/flickr

Skills tests allow employers to filter through the growing pool of graduates and single out the candidates with the right capabilities and personalities for their respective jobs. The test results provide an insight into the candidate’s suitability for a role that trumps anything that a mere CV could hope to reveal.

Psychometric tests purport to gauge a person’s character, enabling employers to assess how the candidate would fit into a team or cope with the challenges that come with each role. Meanwhile, aptitude tests measure skills such as computer literacy or sales expertise to determine the candidate’s ability to perform in a range of situations.

When combined, the results identify key strengths and weaknesses, presenting the results in quantifiable data that allows employers to make informed hiring choices.

The Drawbacks

The reliability of skills tests has been and continues to be hotly debated by industry professionals. In their book, Employment Personality Tests Decoded, Anne Hart and Dan Sheldon assert that the only way to ensure that the results are accurate is to retest candidates on a regular basis, a protocol that isn’t viable for use in the recruitment process, where the results of one set of tests are typically considered final.

The worry is that talented candidates will slip through the cracks because they haven’t performed in test conditions, generating a false reflection of their character and ability.

In any case, skills tests, though useful for siphoning through mountainous piles of applications, cannot replace the insight gained from a face-to-face interview. The results of the tests should be viewed with an open mind and used as a guide to preventing candidates taking up positions that they won’t fit into properly.

Despite these reservations, as the challenges facing employers recruiting graduates increase, skills tests stand to become a valuable tool for recruiters hoping to seek out the most talented and suitable graduate employees.

(Main image credit: Jens Sholt Knudsen/flickr)

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.