What was needed
Our client’s 1-day Assessment Centre (AC) was so full that it was having a negative impact on candidates – some of whom declined to take up their subsequent job offer. The options considered were to:
- extend the process into a 2-day event (which was unattractive due to cost implications);
- drop some of the activities (which they were reluctant to do because all the information was useful);
- move some of the activities to another part of the process.
The main issues with online testing
They consulted experienced people in the field and decided that the least disruptive change to their existing process was to switch from administering versions of the psychometric tests on paper during the AC to using an online version prior to the centre. Their initial concerns were that the tests would be unsupervised and hence they doubted that they could trust the results! The main concerns with online tests were that the candidate:
- has a quiet environment and will not be interrupted (environment issue);
- understands what is required and is fully motivated (motivation issue);
- has not experienced the same test before (security issue);
- completes the tests entirely by themselves without assistance from a third party (authentication issue).
What was done
We worked with the client and agreed that the issues were not insurmountable as long as:
- adequate information was provided to the applicants and the environment and motivation issues could be left to the individual. They agreed that applicants may need to show a degree of application and resourcefulness in order to do themselves justice but that this was a legitimate part of the selection process;
- they addressed the security issue. The two options were to use either a randomised ‘item-banking’ approach which presents each candidate with a newly selected set of items/questions each time the test is presented or use alternative versions to re-test candidates at a later stage of the process – they chose the latter. This was because the first option meant they had to make judgements based on the theoretical statistical equivalence claimed for the different tests. This, in itself, was not the deciding factor but the re-test option also addressed the authentication issue (see below);
- the danger of cheating was minimised. Whilst no process for online, unsupervised testing can guarantee that the individual completes the tests unaided, the option to re-test not only provides a deterrent but also provides a mechanism to detect cheating or to increase the reliability and hence the confidence in the measures obtained.
What the benefits were
Introducing online tests prior to the AC has had multiple benefits the main ones being:
- a significant number of candidates self-selected out of the process and there was a decline in the numbers of applicants that assessors classified as “the ones we should probably not have invited”;
- all the information from the AC was retained but the negative impact on candidates was reduced;
- there was no increase in costs – and the reduced time for scoring tests had a positive impact on the AC assessors.