Technical Skills Assessment: Assess Skills Accurately With Five Expert Tips

Bearded man using his computer taking a technical skills assesement

When assessing candidates for a more hands-on position, such as IT support positions, employers may prefer to use practical assessments. These assessments can take the form of written tests, oral interviews, or even on-the-job simulations. A technical skills assessment is an important part of the hiring process that can help recruiters select the best fit candidate for their company. Below you’ll find five expert tips to streamline the hiring process for your hiring teams.

Step 1: Create a Quality Technical Skills Assessment

To accurately assess a candidate's qualifications and experience, a technical skills assessment must be created. It should be designed to identify a candidate’s shortcomings and weaknesses because acknowledging a candidate's strengths is just as important as the alternative. Understanding where a candidate has weaknesses and strengths can help recruiters get a better visual of how they will fit into the current team's structure.

The assessment should have multiple parts evaluating all different aspects of technical application. While you can split the technical skills assessment into multiple sections, the two non-negotiable components are a take-home test and a live-coding interview

Take-Home Test

It’s important to provide the take-home test portion on a testing platform that supports all aspects of functionality for question-based assessments. The testing platform used for a technical skills assessment needs to support multiple-choice questions, multiple-answer questions, recorded answer questions for both short and long responses, a miniature IDE with the ability to run code for snippet-based questions, and more. All these different questions will cover the candidate’s ability to:

  • Recognize an answer from the process of elimination
  • Apply coding-based knowledge
  • Communicate processes and procedures
  • Recognize there are multiple ways to delegate situations
  • Comprehend difficult tasks with a solution-oriented thought process

Live-Coding Interview

After your recruiting team has selected the most qualified candidates to move forward, the live-coding interview will test the candidate's true application skills. The best way to apply this part of the technical skills assessment is to hold it virtually. Virtual interviews take less time to schedule and eliminate the risk of a candidate being unable to travel for the interview. To hold this live-coding interview virtually, utilize a conference-based platform specially built for engineers to code with screen-sharing capabilities. This will allow multiple members of the technical team to sit in on the call and assess the candidate themselves along with the recruiting team.

During the live-coding interview, providing an integrated development environment (IDE) and virtual whiteboard environment to all candidates will encourage fairness and thoroughness. Certain open-source IDEs available have functionalities that out-compete with other IDEs. These functions can skew the results of a live-coding interview by allowing one candidate to outperform another candidate on just the basis of having a better IDE. To truthfully assess a candidate's raw skills, it's extremely important to guarantee that each candidate has the same IDE during the assessment. The virtual whiteboard environment will give candidates better planning and the ability to showcase their thought processes visually to the team assessing them. 

The scenarios given during the technical skills assessment live-coding interview should be realistic ones that your technical team may encounter during the workday. These scenarios will allow your recruitment team to apply the assessment to real-life situations and give better insight into whether the candidate is a realistic fit for the team. If you are assessing candidates for a web-development role, consider providing a snippet of HTML and asking the candidate to utilize CSS and JavaScript to create an interactive webpage with bright colors. If you are assessing for a system administrator position, consider providing a scenario where the candidate has to write up a small bash script that, when run, creates a user profile in the active directory with a specific domain in mind. 

Step 2: Evaluate Soft Skills

 Female hand pointing to “soft skills” on a virtual screen next to all the technical skills

It’s a common misconception that all technical positions require a high level of hard technical skills, but not as many soft skills. Soft skills are the foundation of a technical position. It’s extremely important in all technical positions to have:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Time management skills
  • Teamwork capabilities
  • Leadership skills
  • Detail oriented thought processes
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Creativity

These soft skills are all essential to creating a well-balanced technical team. One of the easiest ways to determine a candidate’s soft skills is through artificial intelligence (AI) resume screening before the interview starts. AI resume screening can take the candidates' resumes as they submit them and present a candidate profile of all their skills to the recruiting manager. This will help recruiters determine what types of questions to ask during the personality portion of the technical skills assessment. 

If the AI resume screening shows that a candidate has exceptional communication skills, ask the candidate a question based on a theoretical scenario of miscommunication and determine how they would handle the situation. If the candidate shows a lack of time management skills, ask the candidate what they believe they can do better. 

Step 3: Utilize Data-Driven Recruiting Technology

While it’s important to be thorough, there is only so much time available for recruiters to hire someone and fill the positions. Data-driven recruiting technology has been a fundamental change in technical skills assessments. Technology such as identity verification and analytics can help fasten the pace of the hiring process. 

Identity Verification

Identity verification processes and technology can help ensure correct assessments. This type of technology limits the amount of fraudulent information and scores. This step is also important during the take-home test for proctoring reasons. 

Analytics and Insights

Analytics and insights, such as candidate profiles, can be done with data-driven recruiting technology. Candidate profiles allow recruiters to analyze results later, so when selecting a candidate for hire, the teams can go over the insights provided. During live-coding interviews, assessing and saving information for later is often impossible. There are many things to consider during the interview that takes precedence over creating candidate profiles. That is why it’s important to have platforms that can automatically save the candidate's codes, scores, and other information to the profiles.  

Step 4: Encourage Diversity in The Hiring Process

Diverse group of tech employees looking at a large graph

Having unbiased recruiters during an interview is essential for a successful assessment. Diversity is important in the workplace because it promotes unique ideas, skill sets, and approaches to solution-oriented problem-solving. Creating a technical skills assessment that encourages diversity and unique concepts can decrease turnover rates and promote project success rates.

Diversity encourages communication and collaboration within teams. Some of the best ways to encourage diversity in your hiring process:

  • Encourage candidates to showcase their unique talents
  • Focus on potential, not pedigree
  • Select candidates that fill skill gaps in the currently employed team
  • Prioritize unique skills necessary for the ‘ideal’ candidate

Step 5: Be Optimistic (But Also Realistic)

Being optimistic about selecting the best candidate is important, but it can often stray the recruiter away from the reality that every candidate will have their weaknesses. It’s necessary to stay realistic with the technical skills assessment and only implement questions and scenarios that your current team would be able to navigate. If your ideal candidate is too “perfect,” you will never find someone that fits those standards, and it could end up driving potential candidates away

The best way to stay optimistic and realistic is to look for a candidate's potential during the technical skills assessment. What makes a candidate exceptional is their ability to obtain knowledge. Of course, having baseline knowledge is essential to be qualified, but candidates won’t know all your company’s procedures and processes during the interview. You can teach those during training, so search for fast and thorough “learner” candidates during the assessment. 

Prioritization of your questions can help with this as well. If a candidate doesn’t know the exact definition of a term, they can learn that. What is more difficult to teach is the application of terminology. This is not to say vocabulary isn’t important. It is. It’s just a lot more difficult to teach a candidate how to create a function that returns a boolean value than it is to define what a function with a return type of boolean is. Therefore, while creating the technical skills assessment, keep this in mind and ask the application based questions over the vocabulary questions. 

Filtered: Hiring The Best Candidates

The hiring process is the backbone of every company and deserves the best technology and procedures to keep you ahead of the competition. When applying these tips and tricks to your hiring process, it may take some time to create a habit out of them. Filtered can help you implement these tips seamlessly into your hiring process without all the delay! 

Filtered is a leader in skills-based hiring. Our end-to-end technical hiring platform enables you to spend time reviewing only the most qualified candidates, putting skills and aptitude at the forefront of your decisions. We’ll help you automate hiring while applying objective, data-driven techniques to consistently and confidently select the right candidates. To get started, contact our team today or register for a FREE demo.