The recruiters guide to hard and soft skills testing

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Guest author Amanda Davies, MD of ISV Group, who partner with Thomas to provide the Skills assessments offers advice and tips for hard and soft skills testing in recruitment, including a free infographic.

Recruitment is a good place to be right now. The numbers tell us that the job market is experiencing steady growth, the industry is flourishing and rapidly changing. But with a growing number of businesses starting up and the ongoing struggle for finding skilled candidates, staying ahead of the competition is crucial.

In a time of uncertainty, anything that provides peace of mind and helps you truly source the best candidates, has got to be a good thing.

The cost of hiring someone bad is so much greater than missing out on someone good.

Joe Kraus

Candidate testing is not new but much has changed over the years. It's no longer the 'nice to have' it once was. It's a way of ensuring your candidate is the best fit for the team and organisational culture. It's so reassuring to know you have these kind of tools at your disposal.

But where do you start when considering testing? This guide will get you off the ground with useful information and thought provoking tips when implementing hard skills and psychometric assessments into your recruitment strategy.

Let’s be serious

Building candidate testing into your recruitment process helps remove risk and protects your fees.

You are removing the risk of relying on a CV alone. Plus, no matter how good your interview and registration skills, or how long you’ve been recruiting, candidates can still pull the wool over your eyes.

Recent research states that anywhere between 50% and 70% of candidates lie on their CV.

You can use assessments to understand the candidate’s true capability and whether they are likely to go the distance in any given role. Even if you’re just hiring temps, skills testing comes into its own as an audit trail. You are protected and can prove the candidate has the capability to understand instructions and deliver on what they need to.

You can also set aside their experience to see what transferable skills they have. Testing helps you take the blinkers off, you can see whether someone has strong knowledge of PowerPoint and good levels of creativity or leadership, for example.

The recruitment industry is flourishing at the moment but we’re still battling with skills shortages amongst candidates, testing means you can whittle down those that aren’t quite as capable or as good a fit.

The ability to test is a powerful sales tool. The use of a robust skills testing system demonstrates to clients that you are serious in finding the right candidates for their jobs and that you are thinking carefully about their needs.

Psychometric to skills and beyond

The most straightforward way to consider candidate testing is to start with a split between psychometric assessments, and hard skills testing.

92% of recruiters said psychometric tests were ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’ in determining recruitment decisions (CIPD). This was due to academic qualifications not being a reliable measure of workplace behaviour, hard and soft skill sets, performance or cultural fit.


Psychometrics can take many forms and cover areas such as cognitive ability, leadership style, behavioural preferences and levels of emotional intelligence. With psychometric assessments there is no right or wrong answer in the assessment, it is down to the individual’s preference. This type of assessing is unbiased and objective, however it is highly regulated. Whoever is administering this type of assessment needs to be trained in their purpose and how to deliver feedback. Giving feedback is easy with the Thomas candidate reports so that you can ensure the recruitment process leaves a pleasant impression of the company in the mind of the candidate and that you are working to best practices.

The people assessments from Thomas can help you to accurately predict whether a candidate is a good ‘fit’ for your business. Their tools allow you to screen candidates on a range of data to get a full understanding of how they are likely to behave at work. This acts as a useful supplement to standard CV and application data with additional factors such as:

  • Behavioural preferences
  • Personality
  • Soft and hard skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • What motivates them?
  • What kind of manager will bring out the best in them?

Skills testing is a straightforward measurement of a candidate’s capability. The subject areas and knowledge covered are vast. Here are some of the most common types of skills tests:

  • Basic Skills – literacy, numeracy, spelling, grammar, typing speed, error checking, attention to detail
  • Contact Centre - keyboard skills, call handling, language, literacy, comprehension etc.
  • Admin, Secretarial and Support Roles – audio typing, data entry, spelling, shorthand. Sector specialisms e.g. legal and medical. Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc.
  • IT - The ability to show knowledge and programming skills in different programming languages.
  • Accountancy and Finance - knowledge of accounting systems and software, bookkeeping, cashbook, MS Excel etc.
  • Driving – commercial driving knowledge for example, digital tachograph, fork lift truck, cat B, cat C and driver’s mate

Skills based tests use a variety of questions styles including the basic Q & A, multiple choice, drag and drop, yes/no, true/false. More complex test formats may include accurate measurements of typing speeds and accuracy, scenario based questions with weighted answers and interactive simulations etc.

Download our latest infographic looking at why skills testing and training is important.

When considering whether to include psychometrics and skills tests within a recruitment strategy, a common belief is that it comes with high costs or can be time-consuming, but if designed and used appropriately, these misconceptions are not valid. Using these tools saves time with the candidate sifting process, and means that only the best candidates for the role reach interview. Also, a good recruitment strategy will also help improve employee retention – if the successful candidate can not only perform well in the role, but is also a good cultural fit, then that employee is less likely to want to change jobs in the near future.

Find out more about the Skills assessments here that Thomas provide through the ISV Group and discover how skills testing can support your recruitment strategy.

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