Technical Assessment Testing and Its Effect on the Hiring Process

Requiring testing may be impacting your access to talent. Here's why and what to do instead.

Organisations across Canada are still struggling to hire technology talent. Even as we see some tech companies begin to announce hiring freezes or layoffs, the labour market remains tight. 

Software development positions are especially strained. Reports have shown that not only is there a current gap between need and availability, but the future looks tight as well. The market for developers is projected to grow 21%; Canada will need an additional 30,000 - 60,000 developers alone by 2028. This is a scarcity problem. 

Yet here we are, in a tight talent market, watching a hiring trend that’s impacting the ability to secure strong talent quickly: an increase in reliance on technology skills assessments. 

Use of these tools, designed to gauge technical qualification for particular positions, are on the rise. Some of our offices are reporting an increase of 15% to 20% of their tech openings that require technical evaluations. 

Are these tests the most effective measure of a candidate’s ability to do a job? How do candidates feel about them? Does testing lead to faster or better hires? Are there better ways to evaluate a candidate?

Let’s dig in for some answers.

What is a technical assessment test? 

A technical assessment is a series of questions or exercises that measure an individual’s technical abilities, such as programming language skills. Human Resources departments use these tests to determine whether a candidate is qualified for a particular role. They’ve become popular as a means to easily assess skillsets, and also to determine whether the candidate has the capability to learn other skills as needed.

Why are technical assessments important in the hiring process? 

Historically, we’ve seen use of tech tests in direct hire positions, almost to the exclusion of contract or contract-to-hire positions. Now, however, we’re seeing more requisitions for contractors requiring technical tests, too.

We find this interesting because contractors tend to have a higher level of expertise. Additionally, contractors generally come from a staffing company, and any staffing company worth its salt will be talking with references, verifying credentials and interviewing to ensure capability, which is far more reliable than a test.

We’re also seeing a fair use of technology assessment in startups. Those in the thriving Canadian startup scene, which secured $13.7 billion of VC investment last year, may want to consider the talent they may be losing out on when they rely on testing instead of relying on a staffing firm that will have already vetted candidate skills.


Technical talent still has control

Canadian tech talent continues to grow in prominence, with continued recruitment of talent from south of the border. Axios recently noted that Canada is aiming to make America’s loss of tech talent Canada’s gain.

Some cities are seeing the tech talent pool deepen -- Calgary, for example, saw an increase of 2.2% more tech and engineering workers. But jobs remain open, for a longer period of time. The ball is still in the court of the candidate.

Workers know their value has increased. And they often shudder at the idea of having to be tested for a position. In fact, when we tell them a position requires a test, we often lose them on the first call. Why?

  • Perceived disrespect: “I’m in demand and have proven myself: why are you testing me?”
  • It’s an investment: “I make $100/hr; you’re asking me to give away $300 to undertake 3 hours of testing?”
  • Competition: “I have four other interviews lined up. I don’t want to wait through your process.”
  • Giving away ideas: “Some tests require me to develop a new approach, which could end up being intellectual property for you, over which you’d have ownership.”
  • Value: “Essentially, it’s not worth it to me to go through this process when there are other equal opportunities that don’t require it.”

The candidates we work with are aware that our highly trained staff has already conducted reference checks that confirm their level of competency. The back-end work has already been done to determine cultural fit. Why then, they ask, must the employer require these tests? 

Tech testing may impact your talent pool

Here’s the bottom line: 

Most top talent won’t take the time out of their schedules to go through an interview process that requires testing. Some even see it as demeaning.

The result is that it slows down hiring - and opens doors for candidates to accept other positions. Consider the time that testing and analysing results can add to a search. It’s not good for your firm; it’s not good for the potential employee.

Candidates don’t want to give up their valuable time to take a test. They don’t want to miss other opportunities waiting for test results’ impact on hiring decisions. And they certainly are not interested in working for a company that doesn’t seem to respect their proven experience. Yet what might truly be problematic is what the testing doesn’t tell you: Is the candidate a good team player? Will she/he/they fit within your culture and do they learn quickly? Is the fit good for your specific technical production environment? 

Evaluate effectively without testing

To get the top talent and do so quickly, don’t require testing for contract or contract-to-hire positions. While it may make sense to use testing for certain direct hire roles, contractors and contract-to-hire candidates are accustomed to coming in and succeeding at their assignment. That’s how they stay in the game.

So how can you be sure the candidate will be able to deliver what’s needed? Identify a partner that has decades of experience refining the interview process and one that knows how best to conduct 3rd party reference interviews to determine capability AND fit. This process offers more insight and reliance than technical testing.

To take it one step further: S.i. Systems underwrites our placement quality with our own money. Yes. A money-back guarantee on the placements we make for your company. 

That beats testing, hands down.

We’d be happy to talk to you about our IT staffing approach. Contact us!

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