Skill Testing for Employment – What the Scores Really Mean

Will that promising candidate be a productive employee?

What training does a promising candidate or current employee need to become a truly valuable asset – one who makes your company stronger?

In answering these questions, your hiring toolbox should contain the personal interview, reference checks, criminal background checks, and drug tests.  However, equally valuable are standardized competency assessment tools that answer these questions – quickly and reliably.

There is no question – the more you know about an applicant, the better you hire and train.

Objective Evaluation

Skill testing provides an objective measure of a candidate’s abilities.  The two characteristics of a properly validated test are that it accurately measures the skills or knowledge it is intended to measure and it is job-related.  This objectivity is one tool for insuring fairness in your hiring system.

Prevent Resume Embellishment

You have numerous resumes to review and candidates are calling, emailing, and faxing you at all hours of the day.  You know their resumes are embellished – skill testing allows you to test their true skills quickly, easily, and affordably.

Pinpoint Training Needs

If you know the test scores of your candidate or current employees, then you know exactly where they need training.  Skill testing allows the employer to provide only the specific training needed for each employee.  You can be assured that the people you hire will arrive ready to work.

Reduce Turnover

Determining exactly what skills are required for a specific position will enable you to hire at the appropriate skill level.  Too many companies either under-hire (and are dissatisfied with the employee’s performance) or over-hire (and end up with a bored employee who leaves).

Reduce Risk

Skill testing provides an accurate, unbiased indicator of each person’s ability to do the job.  They ensure that candidates are qualified for the position.  Also, testing can help predict performance traits such as speed and accuracy.

Peace of Mind

Skill testing gives you confidence in the employees you hire.  Standardized testing in conjunction with interviewing and background checks provides peace of mind that your prospective employee can perform the work you require.

Interpreting the Results

All skills tests are not equal.  Each testing program uses its own scoring system and some are easier to understand than others.  Most commonly, testing programs will evaluate candidates at three levels: basic, intermediate, and advanced.  However, each program may put the breakpoints between those levels at different points.

Basic skills are usually defined as the minimum requirements to operate the software package.  Intermediate skills will be most common.  Advanced skills are for those users who can truly “push the edge of the envelope” of the software’s capabilities.

For each competency level, the software will generally offer a percentage of the correct answers to the questions.  However, knowing that a candidate scored a 92 means nothing without other scores for comparison.

In fact, the score itself means little without a clear understanding of the needs in the position.  For example, if you are hiring a receptionist to answer the phone and type the occasional letter, then good basic scores should be sufficient.  However, if you are expecting a power user able to produce extensive reports and publications, then you would expect higher scores in the advanced sections.


The more you know about the skills test being used, the more effective tool it will be for you in hiring.  For best results, consider benchmarking one or more of your best performers.  This allows you to set a standard against which you can compare others.  The benchmark establishes a level of proficiency for the position which can then be used to gauge future candidates.


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