Skills tests vs. resumes. Education vs. experience. The debate about this, especially skills tests vs. resumes, has been circulating the interweb and professional circles for years now, and was further fueled by the 2020 executive order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates, which led to the 2021 Chance to Compete Act being introduced. The executive order and the Chance to Compete Act call to prioritize candidate evaluations based on their knowledge and skills while limiting the use of education as a qualifier when determining who is best to fill the role.1 What does this mean for the rest of us, and why should any organization consider changing their hiring process to include skills tests and assessments?
82% of companies are already using some form of pre-employment assessments and tests to help determine job skills and culture fits.2 Previously used exclusively for Executive and higher-level leadership positions, more organizations are using these tests for hourly and entry-level positions to gain initial insight on the whole person, as well as gauge soft skills vs. hard skills. For example, a customer service representative may have all the technical background to do the job, but if they don’t score high on patience and empathy, they may not be the right fit for the position. Determining these skills before going through the process of on-boarding an employee reduces the high cost of turnover and ensures skill and personality matching for the position.
While resumes have been the standard since the start of the century, 85% of candidates have been caught by their employers lying on their resumes.3 Resumes also only reflect the data each candidate has chosen to reveal, may contain potentially misleading statements, and qualified candidates who don’t know or don’t understand how keywords work may get filtered out by AI processes. Most importantly bias can, and does, affect resumes in ways that skills tests and assessments don’t; time gaps in employment largely affect women and parents, lack of a formal college degree can affect under-resourced populations who otherwise have more than enough experience for the job, and a person's name on a resume often affects POC.4
Skills tests, on the other hand, offer the following:
- The ability to objectively assess and identify each candidates skill levels
- Reduces time-to-hire (narrowing down the selection of resumes post-skills assessment vs. wading through all the resumes upfront)
- Reduces the impact of hiring bias5 and potential legal risks
- More accurately compare and show a complete picture of each candidate
- Reduces turnover to ensure personalities and values match that of the company from the start
- Helps the candidate see if they’re a good fit before being hired
- Identifies a candidate that may be better suited for a different role
- Doesn’t deter the best candidates, as skills tests weed out people unwilling or not serious about the role
The biggest winners for properly implemented skills tests and assessments are high performers who have been overlooked because of bias, lack of education, or lack of obvious experience. For companies committed to, or wanting to increase their DEI involvement, putting an emphasis on bias reduction, leaning into soft skills in addition to hard skills, and doing organizational due diligence upfront versus relying on a resume and a few references is the ideal way to navigate culture change in the workplace.
Note: there are many assessment tools out there, and it’s best to do your research and vet as many tools and companies as possible to see what fits best for your organization, culture, budget, and hiring process.
1 SHRM: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bipartisan-bill-aims-to-improve-federal-hiring.aspx
2 SHRM: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/predictive-assessments-insight-candidates-potential.aspx
3 HRDive.com: https://www.hrdive.com/news/hireright-85-of-employers-have-spotted-lies-on-resumes/440743/
4 American Economic Association: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0002828042002561
5 American Economic Association: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0002828042002561