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Expert Interview Series: Eric Friedman on Pre-employment Skills Testing Sep 09 , 2015

Pre-employment skills testing


For hiring managers and job recruiters, the glut in today's job market can be overwhelming.

"With unemployment at current levels and online job postings drawing so many applications per job, it's becoming more and more difficult to pick the truly experienced individuals out from the volumes of inflated resumes," says Eric Friedman, chairman and CEO of eSkill Corporation.

That's where a company like eSkill comes in. The online skills testing service allows employers to test the skills of job candidates to better assess their abilities.

"Skills testing brings your most experienced and motivated candidates to the top of the list, cutting dramatically the time lost pursuing unqualified candidates," Eric says.

We recently checked in with Eric to learn more about eSkill and the value of pre-employment assessment, especially for IT positions. Here's what he had to say:

Tell us about eSkill. What services do you offer?

eSkill provides online skills testing, pre-employment assessment, and internal staff training. We've been serving thousands of organizations globally since 2003, including Zappos, GE, Randstad, the U.S. federal government, and many others.

The beauty of our service, and what makes it unique, is that we let our clients either select or easily customize job-based tests from over 5,000 modular subjects and subtopics. Our extensive library of modular test content spans disciplines such as IT, programming, office software, accounting, healthcare, legal, call center, retail and more.

Beyond just text-based questions, we also offer predictive browser-based simulations that re-create software programs and work environments to test peoples' abilities to execute tasks in a realistic way.

Who should be using eSkill?

eSkill is designed to be used by HR managers and other hiring managers in their daily activities. We offer different packages to meet the needs of the biggest or smallest organization, even if you only want to test for one specific position. And skills testing can be done at any time in the recruiting process. Many of our clients use short tests for the preliminary phase, and then offer increasingly more complex tests to the best-suited candidates in order to further narrow down the applicant pool.

Pre-employment skills testing is a tool that more and more companies are adopting because it can greatly increase hiring accuracy and reduce the cost of the hiring process. Another benefit is the reduction of legal liability with scientific data to support and defend staffing decisions.

Why should those hiring IT professionals consider incorporating skills assessment during the recruiting process?

For IT professionals, even more so than others, skills testing is critical to determine whether candidates have the technical expertise needed for the job. Skill assessments can also serve as an effective tool to determine whether candidates have been forthright about their credentials. For instance, if a candidate claims to have experience with using certain web-development software, recruiters can find out if this claim is true by administering an assessment test on this software. If the candidate truly has experience, he or she should be able to excel on the exam.

What types of assessments do you think too many companies overlook? What is the fallout of not evaluating recruits in these areas?

I think that skills testing is often overlooked because people have the false impression that it is time-consuming. And some recruiters feel that they can know the candidates better if they see them and talk with them in person during an interview. But if you really want to find employees who will perform as expected, you have a better chance of achieving this if you test them for what they will actually be doing on the job. And testing doesn't replace the interview; it just makes sure that you're only interviewing those candidates who actually have the skills you need.

The fallout of not adding pre-employment assessments and job simulations to your recruitment process is that you're at risk of hiring someone who's a bad fit for the position. This ultimately leads to an increased time to hire, a higher turnover rate, increased legal exposure, and most of all more money spent than needed.

What are the most common skillsets IT firms should test for today?

It depends on the technologies they are working with. eSkill has developed standard tests that feature questions related to the most-used programming languages today, including tests for C# Developers, Network Engineers, Web Developers, e-Commerce Project Managers, Java Developers and more.
Also, if a company is searching for someone to fill a position that requires multiple programming languages or other skills, we let our clients customize their tests by combining as many test subjects as needed into a single test. They can also create their own questions from scratch using the eSkill Editor for those really specific jobs.

What types of skills are easy to assess via testing? What can't really be assessed with testing?

Hard skills, such as specific, teachable abilities like knowledge of specific computer programs or typing, are easier to assess and provide more accurate and precise test results. That's why we've focused on developing mostly hard skills tests along with some soft skills subjects. And if we're talking about testing candidates for IT skills, this is definitely the way to go. Every HR manager knows how difficult it is to find top IT talent, and skills assessment tests can really push quality candidates to the top of the pipeline. This will guarantee that you'll make a good hiring decision, and also that the new employee will excel in working with the software and technologies used within the company.

How much should hiring managers be focusing on tests as opposed to other factors like experience, interpersonal relationship skills, enthusiasm, etc. when sorting out potential recruits?

Again, this depends on the open position and also on the company's culture and what expectations it has for its future employees.

For me, testing for skills is one of the most important steps in the recruiting process; because having experience is not necessary the equivalent of having skills, and being a "people person" doesn't mean you are also going to be a productive employee.

Things like personality and fit are important aspects when it comes to making a hiring decision; but first of all, the most important aspect of an employee is whether he or she can get the job done and bring value to the company. And a way to find out whether a candidate can do a good job is through assessments such as pre-employment tests or job simulations.

Once the pre-employment tests are passed, an HR manager can focus on interpersonal relationship skills (with the use of behavioral assessments), and run background checks and anything else that needs to be evaluated. Mainly, the pre-employment tests help recruiting managers sort through resumes and save time by letting them focus on evaluating only the most promising candidates.

What are some of your other favorite tools for managing the recruitment process?

I think having an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is essential for doing a good recruiting job. It helps you manage a lot of information about multiple candidates, and simplifies the process by adding a touch of automation - meaning that you have everything from job postings to results from the test you administrate to your candidates all in one place.

It can also be integrated with other useful tools, such as our pre-employment assessment service. eSkill is integrated with Oracle Taleo and iCIMS, two of the most popular ATSs. But we can also easily integrate with others; we've developed an information flow that allows us to integrate with any in-house Applicant Tracking System or Learning Management System (LMS).

What are some other recruiting trends or innovations you are following right now?

We always try to stay up-to-date with the latest innovations and trends in our field. One that I think is really important right now is having a mobile recruiting strategy.

According to the Mobile & Social Job Search Survey conducted by MedReps.com, 77 percent of job seekers are using a smartphone to search for a job; so it's clear that modern job seekers have new and evolving behavioral habits. We want to keep up with the trends and adapt to them in order to deliver the best service to our clients, and this is why we made our tests mobile-friendly. This way, recruiting managers can send tests, check results and manage candidates on the go without the need to access a PC. And job applicants can take most tests from their smartphones.

Also, given the multitude of new jobs available today, job descriptions are very distinct from one company to the other. So the skill set requirements for each job - even with the same title - can be highly variable. To address this, we let clients create tests that might combine MS Office, Digital Literacy and Multitasking simulations into a single test - which provides an efficient, engaging and quantifiable measure of a diverse set of skills. The data clients gather can be used to pinpoint the best, most qualified applicants in their talent pool.

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Posted On September 09, 2015, 01:37 PM

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