Though it’s important to detail both hard and soft skills on your CV, some employers may ask that you also take a skills assessment test to prove your abilities. In fact, some organizations even ask their current employees to take these assessments as well. In this blog, we’ll define what a skills assessment test is, explain why companies use them, list some of the types of tests and detail how organizations choose which type to use.

What is a skills assessment test?

Skills assessment tests are often used by employers to gauge the abilities and skills of both current employees and job applicants. These tests are designed to assess whether individuals have the skills necessary to perform various and essential aspects of a job. Though, as we mentioned, candidates, as well as current employees, can be asked to take them, skills assessment tests are primarily utilized during the hiring process. Companies find them useful for eliminating applicants before inviting them in to conduct a job interview.

Why do companies use skills assessment tests?

Skills assessment tests provide a lot of value to employers. Namely, they can offer valuable insight into the hiring process by eliminating job candidates that may be under-qualified for a position, even if their CV says otherwise. However, aside from verifying the claims of applicants, it can also identify employees that may be better suited for another role or a promotion.

Here are a few other ways that skills assessment tests are used by companies:

  • To better understand and develop employees in a way that benefits their long-term values and goals.
  • To identify areas in which the company is successful or struggling, therefore providing information on areas or departments that may require more training.
  • To provide a comparison between the organization’s talent and abilities against the geographical or industry standards.

Regardless of their intent, skills assessment tests provide employers with the data necessary to make informed decisions about the recruitment, promotion and training of their personnel.

Types of skills assessment tests

As we mentioned before, though skills assessment tests are utilized for several reasons, they are primarily administered before employment. Here are some of the categories for assessment tests used during the hiring process:

  • Hard skills assessment
  • Work sample test
  • Cognitive ability test
  • Personality test
  • The interview
  • Combination approach

Hard skills assessment

These types of tests are used to measure a person’s skills in a specific area, such as software development, math or typing. The results of hard skills testing provide valuable information about the proficiency of candidates when completing frequently performed work activities.

Work sample test

Sometimes referred to as “realistic job previews,” work sample tests are designed to resemble certain tasks that employees are expected to perform in their position, such as situational judgment tests, case study presentations and technical coding tests. The results of these assessments are usually indicative of a candidate’s actual job performance because of how closely they mimic the actual duties related to the position.

Cognitive ability test

Unlike work sample tests that measure how applicants would perform in expected, everyday situations, cognitive ability tests assess how candidates would perform in more unexpected scenarios. They do this by evaluating a person’s ability to think abstractly when using numerical and verbal reasoning skills. Nowadays, game-based assessments are commonly used to measure cognitive ability. The format is more approachable for the candidate and the process is typically much faster than the more traditional cognitive skills tests.

Personality test

Personality tests measure specific aspects of a candidate’s personality, which can be extremely beneficial when hiring someone for a role that requires a particular demeanor. For example, a highly extroverted person would be a great fit for a role that has a lot of customer interaction, such as sales.

The interview

When properly executed, interviews can be a great way to assess the hard and soft skills that a candidate possesses. Interviews are flexible and often used independently or as a supplement for other assessment types. There are two primary categories for an interview:


Structured interviews pose the exact same, predetermined questions in a precise order to ensure a uniform interview process for all applicants. This maintains objectivity, reduces biases and produces consistent data that can be useful when an organization is striving to hire based on merit above all else. This type of interview often incorporates behavioral interviewing techniques. This is an approach that examines the past behavior of a person to predict future performance, attitudes and behaviors.


Sometimes referred to as a non-directive interview, an unstructured interview is really the complete opposite of a structured interview. Instead of posing predetermined and prearranged questions, this type of interview concentrates on building a relationship and rapport between the candidate and their interviewer. In fact, this type of interview is often recorded so that the answers can be evaluated at a later time, allowing the interviewer to completely focus on the interaction. Though the name can be misleading, an unstructured interview is still organized and meticulous.

Combination approach

Many organizations choose to combine several assessment tests rather than utilize just one. This provides more comprehensive results that will eliminate the weaknesses of using only one assessment. However, this approach does take more of the candidate’s time.

How employers choose skills assessment tests

Before choosing a skills assessment test, employers must first consider several factors. Here is a list of steps that they must take before making their decision:

1. Determine their goals

Before choosing the best test for the organization, employers must first determine what they need to accomplish. Are they wanting to test candidates or current employees? Do they want to hire people with a specific skill set? These questions will guide their decision-making process.

2. Decide which skills they want to measure

Next, the employer must decide which skills they’re hoping to evaluate. Are they soft or technical skills? Though some tests measure both, some assessments specialize in evaluating specific skills.

3. Consider the characteristics of their ideal assessment

The employer must then decide what they want from the testing company. For example, would they like to be able to customize the questions? Would they prefer the test to be scientifically validated? Their preferred characteristics of the testing’s logistics will guide their choice.

4. Research the market

After determining their goals, which skills they want to measure and the characteristics they’re hoping the test will have, the employer can then begin researching the market for their ideal skills assessment test.

Learn more about what hard skills and soft skills to put on a CV so it stands out from the others.

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