Online Candidate Testing & Assessment. Balancing benefits against risks

Busy schedules and expectations from clients, candidates and society in general that interactions and processes are conducted online have had a much debated effect on how psychometric and other assessments are conducted.

In just the past two years, we have seen and led that change to the point where we have conducted traditional in-person supervised testing sessions about twice a month in 2015. In 2013, the frequency was about twice a week and in 2006 we reached the 50/50 spilt between online and face-to-face testing.

Whilst the convenience factor to all parties is obvious, the benefits do come with substantial risks, the most obvious being whether the person who completes the remote online assessment is the same person you are looking to hire, and whether the tests are completed in appropriate environments that allow your candidate to demonstrate their suitability for the job.

In our tenth year of conducting online testing and assessment, here are eight tips that have allowed our clients and their candidates to enjoy the benefits and manage the risks:

Validating Identity and Managing the Risk of Cheating

By far the biggest concern to clients using online testing is whether an unscrupulous candidate might seek assistance to complete ability or skills testing, or even persuade someone they consider more highly skilled than themselves to do the test for them.

We recommend managing this risk by adopting a number of approaches to suit different circumstances:

Virtual Supervision: where the candidate is emailed the link to their test session, but cannot access the session until it is authorised and unlocked by the test administrator, who first contacts the candidate by skype, confirms their identification, suitability of the testing environment and whether they have assistance in the room before starting the session

Verification Steps: where candidates do not have access to skype or similar visual webcam tools, calling them before their test session to confirm their identity, perhaps asking them a couple of questions about their CV content in the same way your bank confirms your identity with security questions

Follow-Up Testing: even when not followed through, telling candidates at the application stage of the selection process that they may be re-tested later in the selection process tends to reduce the temptation to use a third party, especially if detection of deception may lead to the withdraw of a job offer or termination of employment

Using Other Branches or Independent Locations: Some clients who want to be absolutely certain of consistency and verification ask us to send the online testing link to the closest branch to the candidate’s location, or even independent offices such as the nearest Chamber of Commerce to the candidate.

The Consistent Test Environment

A quick reminder on psychometric test score validity: If you are going to measure your candidate’s ability or skills test performance against a norm-group of similar test-takers, then the tests should be conducted in identical conditions.

This wholly accurate point drove much of the resistance against putting ability tests into the online environment, and some test publishers still insist that their more complex ability tests are conducted supervised despite the pressure from clients to put ‘everything online’.

So, to get the most from your candidate, you need to ensure that they are not completing their numerical critical reasoning test standing up on a packed commuter train with intermittent internet access.

Communicate the need for Quiet & Consistency: Ensure your candidates know they need to find a quiet room, free from interruption for the duration of the test and with reliable internet connection

Equipment: If the test allows the use of a calculator, make sure they know this and that they check its working before they start.

Phone Off!: Nothing is going to shatter concentration like a call or text, so ensure candidates know to turn their phone off – not ‘on-silent’ – but off before they start

We have found these to be the most effective methods for managing risks and ensuring an acceptable level of consistency in online testing and build these measures into all of our candidate sessions. If you want to know more about managing similar risks in your organisation, do give us a call on 0508 PEOPLE