Why it’s Essential to Assess Software Skills During the Hiring Process

By Guest blogger - Jan. 16, 2017
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Editors Note: This is a guest post by Angela Nino – Training Manager at Versitas. Her opinions are her own.
Imagine it’s your first day at a new job. You arrive at the office and are given a workstation. After logging in and getting oriented, you receive your first task. You are horrified to find out that your employer has given you something to do that was on your resume but that you do not really know how to do. You embellished a little in the interview and said you were proficient, but in reality, you had only been exposed slightly in a prior job. Now you need to scramble to figure out the software that you should have already known. You feel like you are fumbling your way through your first project. 
This scenario should be horrifying to any Human Resources practitioner. How did the new hire not have the basic technology and software knowledge expected? They indicated the program in the interview or on their resume? How did that slip through? According to Criteria Pre-Employment Testing, up to 78% of resumes are misleading and up to 46% contain actual lies.

What is important when it comes to skills assessment?

Companies invest time, money, and effort to find just the right applicant. However, these same companies can easily drop the ball if they have a poorly structured recruiting and hiring process. Even when everything goes perfectly with recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, basic technology knowledge can still be missing. With millennials averaging four or more job changes in the first 10 years after leaving college, starting with a new company every year or two is becoming more and more the new normal.
So, how do organizations that employ these job-hoppers determine what knowledge is important during the recruitment process? 

Do software skills matter?

Are software skills and hardware knowledge transferable from one role or one company to the next? Absolutely! Even in jobs that are considered outside of the technology industry, software skills are necessary from restaurant ordering systems to small business inventory management.
Cristina Campanella discusses the importance of onboarding and job knowledge on LinkedIn, stating, “New employees learn what’s expected, how to deliver, and how and when they will be evaluated. Upfront education prevents damaging mistakes down the road.” In regards to software and technology education, what should a company look for during the recruitment process? What should a pre-hire skills assessment include? What education should you expect to provide and what should already be known by applicants?

Pre-hire assessments

Ensuring that your new hires have the basic technology knowledge and skills to do their job is no easy task. Before developing your pre-hire assessment, invest time in your pre-employment evaluation.

  • Make sure that your potential test is legal. The biggest considerations here include the test having validity, meaning test questions must cover skills that are actually used on the job. The test must demonstrate reliability, indicated by having a similar outcome or score if the same person took the test multiple times. Lastly, the test procedures must meet EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) and, for example, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.
  • Decide whether you need a subject based test or a job-based test. Some jobs may have special duties where you want to add items to a general subject-based assessment. Examples could include knowledge of point of sale software or scheduling programs. Customize these assessments as needed.
  • Research what everyone in your organization needs in regards to general technology familiarity. This could be basic Microsoft Office software like Word, Excel, and Outlook. Or, it could include operating system usage for Mac or Windows.
  • Look at your job descriptions for your new hires over the past year. Are there consistent skills that should be included in your testing? Be sure to include items that you mention multiple times.
  • See what industry standards are for the positions for which you are hiring. Survey or interview your current employees to see what they knew from prior positions/companies. Are there any certifications or degrees that you can look for when examining resumes and applications?
  • Think about what someone would need to know from day one on the job to reduce chances of being too overwhelmed. What would the basic applicant’s technology toolbox look like to help them right out of the starting gate? This may be very basic information but you don’t want to overlook something. 

When and how to assess

So, you have talked to your current employees, researched job positions, and think you have a good list of technology skills that are important for new hires to have before they join your organization. When, and how, do you administer or facilitate the assessments?

  • Before the interview – There may be some software certifications that you can confirm before the interview or by reviewing transcripts. You can give good potential candidates a computerized assessment or on paper before they are invited in for a formal interview.
  • During the interview – By having potential hires talk about their experience with a certain software or technology, you can often ascertain their knowledge level. If the assessment is not given before the interview, then the assessment can be used as part of the interview or follow directly after it.
  • After the interview – Some employees can be evaluated as part of the reference checking process. Previous employers can be carefully questioned about their former employees’ software and technology knowledge, as long as it relates to their duties at that prior position.
  • Assessment – Before designing a new assessment from scratch, look up already existing evaluations. Many placement agencies and community colleges have a testing option that might be exactly what is needed, especially for software assessment. There are also numerous corporations that can specialize in the creation and customization of an assessment.

Benefits of skills assessments

Numerous benefits exist for assessing applicants, either as part of a pre-hire phase, or even earlier in a pre- or post-interview segment. The following are just a few of the ways an organization can benefit from conducting skills assessments.

  • Ensure that all potential employees have basic software and technology skills;
  • Add objectivity to the hiring/interviewing process;
  • Reduce the hiring process time and more thoroughly vet each applicant;
  • Cut the time for software training during onboarding, since the basic skills are already in place; and
  • Decrease turnover of new hires that are not the right fit for your organization.

Deciding to implement a pre-assessment is not a quick or simple task. Investing the time to do the research and making the effort to create (or find) an evaluation tool will take some work. But, the assessment for applicants can provide objective metrics to base your hiring decisions on and can pay off with long-term rewards both in employee morale and with your budget’s bottom line.
Angela Nino is a training manager at Versitas – instructor-led, onsite or online business skills classes delivered exclusively to your team or company, including free web based reporting of student performance and ROI stats delivered to your desktop. Angela also manages the Versitas blog.




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