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Candidate Experience: How to use Employment Tests and Maintain a Positive Employer Brand
September 2, 2014 8:00:00 PM EDT   By Shoa Appelman
Interviewers with a job candidate

The other day I was out with my friend Justin, a systems-developer who is courted by many-a-recruiter. "They had me take a test," he began, as he told me about the interview process. "I was kind of annoyed by it," he continued.

"You were annoyed that they asked you to take a test?" I asked.

"Yes, I didn't understand the point of it. And the questions seemed random. I almost didn't want to work there."

Employer Brand and Candidate Experience

Employer brand and candidate experience go hand-in-hand: whether it's the look and feel of the job board, the message the recruiter shares, the employment test, the phone screen, or the interview, the candidate is forming an impression of the company at every step in the process. And 30% of candidates who have a negative candidate experience share that experience with others, so negative experiences affect a company's employment brand and sales.

Fortunately, there are many things HR managers and recruiters can do to maintain and improve their job candidate experience. The first, easiest, and most important thing to do is communicate well: be polite and responsive to job candidates. 70% of applicants don't even receive a form reply after applying online. Treating applicants like real people and keeping them updated on the process is the best thing any employer can do to help establish a positive candidate experience.

Employers can also take a close look at the different steps in the candidate experience. One step, the focus of this article, is the employment test.

Employment Tests

Employment tests work. The average cost of a bad hire is estimated to be 1.5 times the worker's salary and benefits. So, a poor hiring decision for an employee earning $30,000 a year would cost a company roughly $45,000 in recruiting, training and low employee productivity and morale from turnover. If a $30 test can help a company avoid even one poor hiring decision, it makes business sense. Also, employment tests have demonstrated time and again that they correlate with decreased turnover and improved sales, so companies will continue to use employment tests. As CEB's Global Assessment Trends Report reveals, 76% of employers use assessments for hiring, and 88% of employers are either currently using or plan to use assessments for hiring. Employment tests are here to stay.

Some job candidates do not love employments tests. Tests are associated with feelings of anxiety, trigger different levels of motivation, can prompt skepticism and occasionally raise questions around fairness. And when test content does not seem to be related to the job: ie. "What does the number of piano tuners in New York have to do with how many sales calls I can make in a month?" job candidates do not like the candidate experience as much.

So, employment tests work, but job candidates do not love them. How can an HR manager use tests and still maintain a positive employer brand? Here are some guidelines that can help:

1) Communicate with the candidate.

Be transparent and let the candidate know what they should expect with the test, including:
  • Approximately how long the test will take
  • What kind of resources they will need to take the test
  • Where the test fits into the overall hiring process
  • What the organization does with the test results
Tests are often only one component of the hiring process and the information above can help put nervous candidates at ease about the test. And after they have completed the test, thank them for taking it, to reassure them that you have received their scores and you appreciate their time.

2) Choose an engaging test.

Engagement can be achieved through any number of methods. The most popular approach to making the tests engaging is through simulations. By simulating a work scenario, the candidate immediately recognizes that the test applies to the job they are applying for. For example, HR Avatar animated assessments use a job-specific work scenario to measure a job candidate's cognitive ability.

In a post-test survey of 350 test-takers, we found that 84% of test takers claimed they were more engaged or much more engaged by the test than they were other assessments. 13% of those surveyed said the engagement level was on par with other assessments. One survey respondent wrote: "The test was very easy on the eyes and a welcome change from other tests and surveys." Another wrote, "I'm super impressed with this software... It held my attention much more than I thought it would." One survey respondent even articulated a popular benefit of employment simulations: "I think that this is a very fantastic way to introduce your company to the applicant and give the applicant a feel of what will be expected when and if they are hired."

3) Make sure the tests are easy-to-use.

Ensure that the test fits in a modern workflow. For online assessments, candidates should be able to activate the test with something as simple as a link sent via email or text message. Try to avoid additional requirements that can make the test-taking process frustrating for test candidate, such as a plug-in or a specific configuration that the candidate needs in order to access the test. And ensure the tests are mobile-ready. Active and passive job candidates are exploring career options using their mobile devices.

72% of candidates have visited a company to learn more about careers on their mobile devices. 45% have even applied and submitted resumes using their mobile device, and that number will only increase. Some test assessment companies, like CEB, will debate the merits of making tests mobile ready, claiming they are "keeping the brakes on it a little bit" because the research on how well candidates perform on mobile tests has not fully materialized yet.

Candidates will want to take tests on their mobile devices, so one solution is to inform candidates that they may not perform as well if they are taking the test on their mobile device. That way, the candidates can influence their success rather than question whether their prospective employer is sending them an antiquated test.

Employment tests work, so they're here to stay. And when leveraged correctly, they can be a positive part of the candidate experience. What strategies does your company use to maintain a positive employer brand?

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