Put to the test: why employers value online assessments more than university degrees

The New Economy reports that recruitment is a fundamental component of any company’s success, and failing to identify the right people can prove extremely costly. In the short term, losing an employee early into their tenure can result in the employee absorbing expensive training with little reward, while the company foots the bill. But perhaps more concerning are the long-term effects of bad recruitment: a business that fails to hire bright, forward-thinking workers will see its productivity and capacity for innovation suffer over time.

Evaluating the market
When identifying new recruits, employers have typically looked to individuals with a similar mix of skills and personal qualities as their existing members of staff. These qualities often include problem solving, teamwork and self-motivation. Unfortunately for employers, these characteristics are surprisingly difficult to test for.

In order to address this issue, firms have traditionally focused on hiring graduates, using degrees as a proxy for intelligence and hard work. However, with more people attending university than ever before, degrees are becoming increasingly irrelevant, and employers are turning their attention to bespoke online tests instead. In June, Unilever revealed it had spent the last year using AI to assess candidates while they played online neuroscience games.

Meanwhile, many large companies with reputations as graduate-only employers – such as Google, Ernst and Young (EY), Penguin Random House and Apple – have done away with the need for degrees altogether. But if choosing graduates doesn’t work, firms now face the question of how best to identify potential employees – for many, this means turning to online recruitment tests.

Online recruitment tests can come in several forms, with each designed to identify specific areas of a candidate’s personality and skill base. For example, numerical and logical reasoning assessments function as mini IQ tests, while personality tests aim to anticipate how candidates will adapt to their new working environment. More recently, employers have looked to strengths-based recruitment tests: multiple-choice questionnaires that try to gauge whether a candidate’s personal motivations align with the firm’s, and determine whether they are capable of performing the work expected in the role advertised.

Another practical reason companies are starting to favour online testing is cost: since these tests are often multiple choice, marking can be automated, presenting a more cost-efficient way of whittling down the stacks of applications graduate employers receive each year. “When you’re a volume recruiter and you’re dealing with tens of thousands of applications, it gives you a very early cut, a very early indication of a candidate’s potential,” said Dominic Franiel Ernst and Young’s Head of Student Recruitment (UK).

It’s perhaps still too early for EY to measure the success of this ‘no degree’ approach in full, but the signs so far are promising. In a broader industry sense, adopting this attitude may prove particularly useful to sectors facing a skills shortage. For example, online testing could help compensate for the dearth of qualified applicants in the tech sector, identifying individuals with the right combination of skills to succeed after receiving some on-the-job training.

Read the full article Put to the test: why employers value online assessments more than university degrees

Will university degrees eventually become obsolete? Please tell us your thoughts in comment or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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