How to use skills testing to assess a technology candidate

By Robert Half on 1st June 2022

Hiring for technology roles is extremely competitive. Because demand is so high, employers will need to know exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate and be able to move decisively when they find it. Although tech roles of the future will rely heavily on skills like communication, customer service and business analysis, there’s still no substitute for technical ability. To read more about tech industry insights and trends you can read our latest Demand for Tech Talent report.

Recruitment experts from Robert Half Technology explain why skills testing is an important part of the IT interview process and the various ways you can incorporate it into your interviewing technique.

Why is skills testing important in technology recruitment?

In a recent survey conducted by Robert Half, almost three quarters (74%) of UK business leaders admitted that they’d mistakenly hired an employee who wasn’t a good fit for the team. One of the main reasons for the discord was that the employee’s skills were not a match for the role.

The most sought-after technology skills for 2022 will include public cloud expertise, artificial intelligence, blockchain and cybersecurity, and knowledge of programming languages like Python, Java and PHP. According to our most recent tech talent report, 72% of organisations have a tech skills shortage. These are all skills which are hard to explore through standard interview questions or by using a standard interview template.

The majority of candidates will list one or more of these skills on their CV, so getting to the root of their competency is important in identifying the candidate with the strongest skills.

Skill testing methods for technology professionals

When testing the technical skills of an IT professional, there are several approaches you can take:

1) Ask a series of targeted technical questions which directly relate to the role

Adapting your IT job interview questions is a good way to conduct a basic skills test. As well as asking standard interview questions, you can throw in some technical, situational questions, designed to test knowledge and work style.

For example, if you were hiring a Java developer, you could ask: If you could change one thing about Java, what would it be? This probes their technical knowledge, but also gives them the opportunity to put it into context.

You can also ask your team to provide suggestions for technical questions, based on some of the challenges they’ve faced working on projects within the existing team.

2) Create a technical question-based test paper

When it comes to testing, tried and tested methods are always popular. Create your own test which the candidate can complete online or on paper during the interview process.

The best tests will include a mix of subjective and multiple-choice questions which are specific to the tasks and the role you’re hiring for. Remember not to overload the test with questions—aim for hyper-targeted questions rather than a huge quantity. You can use the test paper as a launchpad for your next round of interview questions.

3) Set a practical challenge

Would you rather see your candidate’s skills in action? Try setting your candidate a practical task which they can complete within their own time, to a deadline that you set.

Frame up a challenge they’d come up against while working within the role, such as a coding assignment like building a mini website or a simple mobile app, so you can feel confident that they have the skills you’re looking for.

You can explore this testing method further by asking your candidate to talk you through the practical choices they made within the test, so you can understand how they approach and solve tasks.

4) Work with a technology recruitment specialist

Creating comprehensive tests can be time consuming—they need to address specific technical skills, qualifications and job role requirements. To make sure you’re testing effectively, you may find it easier to work with a technology recruitment specialist. They have a wealth of knowledge with regard to writing and administering technical tests, as well as reviewing results and making a fast, effective candidate selection. 

At Robert Half we offer a candidate skills assessment tool with a wide variety tests which have been developed by industry leaders in this field. This includes basics like Excel, pivot tables, purchase ledger, payroll, general accounting, along with data entry. They also include testing for programs such as Java 8 programming, Microsoft Azure, Python 3 programming, Citrix Xen Virtualisation, Tableau and more so that the hiring managers we partner with can be assured of the skill level of their next technology team hire.

Are you currently looking for top tech talent to join your team? Get in touch with the Robert Half Technology team and rely on them to test candidates on your behalf.

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