Talent tech teardown: Pre-employment assessments

If you have ever applied for a graduate role or run a graduate campaign, you will be familiar with online pre-employment assessments. University graduates have long been the guinea pigs for organisations looking to  quickly screen a high volume of applications using online assessments, with an increasing number of new and innovative methods available on the market. However, with greater AI enablement and mixed mediums of video and game-based interactions, online assessments can be useful for much more than just volume hiring processes. 

Here we break down the range of assessments available, and how you can utilise each in your existing recruitment workflow.  

What are online pre-employment assessments?

An online assessment is a standardised tool designed to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a role or to measure their performance objectively and accurately against a set criterion, other applicants, and / or a norm comparison group.   

An employer can use an online pre-employment assessment to determine if a candidate has the required job-based skills, critical thinking, problem-solving ability, or behvaiours to perform well in a specific role or team.   

Assessments help employers move beyond the information captured in a resume and can also give the candidate an insight into the requirements of the role they have applied for. 

Why consider an assessment?

Assessments give employers a mechanism to objectively compare candidates across a set number of data points.  A recruiter can use an assessment alongside a CV screen or, if the business has an automated recruitment workflow, they can replace a CV screen entirely.  

The image below is one we use to help convey the need for assessment tools in the recruitment process.  It illustrates how these tools can reveal more about a candidate, allowing greater insight for both the candidate and hiring team. 

Types of assessment:

There are several types of assessment and each has pros and cons.  It is important, therefore, to have clearly scoped the role that you are recruiting and have a clear understanding of the skills, competencies and behaviours that are likely to make someone successful in the role.  Once you have this success profile, you can decide which test, or combination of tests, is likely to give you the best outcome.   

  • Skill tests help understand a candidate's current ability to perform a job, based on their job-related, technical know-how. They can be a great way for candidates to showcase their real-world skills and translate their experience and theory through tangible exercises. 

However, skills tests do not measure or highlight a candidate’s "soft skills".  I am sure you know the case of the gifted jerk who has all the skills required to perform his role but negatively affects the team around him.  To counter this, consider including an exercise that gives you an opportunity to test soft skills, or include this as part of your face-to-face interviews. 

Skills tests can be daunting for candidates.  To help alleviate anxiety, look for a platform that gives the candidate plenty of information and an opportunity to complete a short trial-run.   

Reviewing skills tests can be time consuming.  To keep your process running smoothly and to ensure prompt feedback for candidates, consider platforms that automate the review process, such as ranking candidates or suggesting high performers.   

  • Psychometric assessments are a more holistic way to understand a candidate's readiness, potential and overall fit for a role or team. They can give an employer insight into someone’s personality and behaviours, emotional intelligence and work preferences, and predict how these traits will influence a person's success in the workplace or in a particular role.  

Psychometric assessments are useful to support the later stages of the interview process, helping hiring managers focus questions on areas of concern or to probe the key strengths the individual will bring to the team.   

There is a risk that candidates may try to answer the questions posed in these assessments to give the answers they think you want, however, most platforms are designed to highlight this activity.   

Psychometric tests are based on complex models, so they can be expensive and are therefore best used later in the process to inform and guide face-to-face interviews.  They also require training for recruiters and managers to properly interpret the data.     

  • Algorithmic tests predict outcomes based on a candidate’s responses to a specific scenario or question set and are usually custom modeled for an organsiation or employee cohort.  Different companies and role types have different indicators of success, for example tolerance for shift work, geographic isolation, frequent travel or manual work.  

Some algorithmic tests require a large employee sample size to establish norm comparison groups, making them less suitable for niche roles. Likewise, as these tests are generally custom-modelled, you can expect a custom-modelled price to go with it.  

There are a large number of providers in the online pre-employment testing category.  Some provide all types of assessment in one platform; others focus on specialist assessments or combine the strongest elements of each.  For example, Vervoe integrates skill-based testing with an AI-powered rating system, giving candidates a fair chance to demonstrate their skills while also saving time for recruiters and hiring managers. Being skill based, Vervoe helps employers avoid the need to build custom models or norm comparison groups.  

Assessment Timing

Typically, there are three stages of the recruitment process where employers can use a pre-employment assessment, and different types of assessment support each stage: 

  •  Screening  

Assessments at this stage can quickly identify those candidates with the highest alignment to job before or straight after they apply.  These assessments are usually algorithmic or cognitive and should not be onerous for a candidate to complete. 

  •  Shortlisting  

Following a CV screen or telephone interview, assessments at this stage are designed to test a candidate’s experience, skills and job-based competencies, and help identify top performers for interview.  

  •  Selection 

Prior to a final interview, assessments at this stage are used to gain insight into a candidate’s personality and behaviours, work-preferences and strengths and development areas in relation to a specific role or team.  They help generate deeper discussion in the final interview stages. 

Timing is everything in the use of assessments, and the type of assessment used must align to the outcomes you need to achieve.  For example, you may use an algorithmic assessment such as Weirdly before a candidate applies to direct them toward the type of role their skills would be best suited to.  Alternatively, Sova's Whole Person Assessment can be used before a 2nd interview to highlight areas of development for the interviewer to probe.   

Price is also a factor to consider in the timing of assessments.  If you are budget constrained and your assessment vendor charges per candidate, it may be wise to use assessments later in the recruitment process.  Bear in mind, however, that if you wait until too late in the process, the time and effort invested in a candidate may affect a hiring manager’s level of attention or reduce the influence that an assessment has.  

Vervoe makes avoiding the cost conundrum part of their mission, charging based on the number of assessments you maintain rather than how many candidates you assess. This incentivises their customers to use Vervoe early in the process to assess all candidates and thus gives every candidate equal opportunity to showcase their talent.  


When deciding which assessment provider best meets your needs, it is important to consider at what part of the process you intend to use an online pre-employment assessment.  If you are planning to use an assessment in the early stages of the recruitment process, you will be managing a larger number of candidates and assessments, so an integration with your applicant tracking system or CRM will be key to reducing administrative burden on your team and ensuring a fast, efficient process.  An integration will provide a seamless connection of the candidate profile in your recruitment system with the results in the assessment platform.  

If you are considering behavioral assessments in the later stages of a recruitment process, this is more easily managed without an integration, just ensure that your team have a clear process around  assessment result storage so that results don’t go missing and you protect your candidates' data and privacy. 

Final Thoughts

As with all recruitment technologies, it is important to focus on your desired outcome. If you are struggling with a large volume of applications, look at an assessment that can be integrated into your recruitment process in the early stages to quickly screen out those candidates that do not have the relevant experience or skills. If employee retention is an issue, consider implementing psychometric assessments to get a deeper understanding of candidate motivations and whether your organisation delivers what your new hires are looking for.   Finally, if you are trying to differentiate and provide candidates with a delightful experience, look at an assessment that gives more insight into the company culture and brand, without being too intensive to complete. 

Online pre-employment assessments are rich and varied in what they can offer, and are a great opportunity to use innovative technology to improve the candidate experience, reduce your time to hire and improve your quality of hire, but they must be thoughtfully implemented to support your recruitment and people strategies to ensure the best outcomes.  


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