If you’re applying for a job in tech, chances are that you’ll be asked to take a technical assessment sooner or later. If you’ve never taken one before, it can feel intimidating— maybe even a little bit like you’re back in school, taking the SATs again. But don’t worry! Technical assessments are a great way for hiring managers to find qualified candidates, and studies have shown that people who are hired after taking them are less likely to leave their jobs and more likely to exceed their work goals.
So what is a technical assessment, anyway?
A technical assessment is a test that a potential employer gives you to get a concrete understanding of your abilities, skills, and knowledge. In tech, they’re usually used to see if your knowledge of a certain coding language or computer program fits the job position you’re applying for. Employers are very invested in finding employees whose skills match what they’re looking for, and who have the ability to learn any other skills that are needed for the job.
A potential employer might ask you to complete a technical assessment anytime during the hiring process, though they’re more likely to be administered in the final stages of searching for a candidate. Sometimes the employer will offer the technical assessment in-house. Other times, a technical assessment might be offered by a third party or via a computer assessment. The results may be shared with you immediately, transmitted to the potential employer, or never discussed. It varies widely by employer and assessment.
The contents of a technical assessment will also vary depending on the position you’re applying for. It might be relatively informal, such as an oral interview where someone quizzes you to assess your knowledge of a certain subject. It could also involve a coding challenge or a series of problems that you’re asked to solve.
You can rest assured that if you are taking a technical assessment, the other candidates for the position are as well. In order to ensure ethical hiring, companies have to subject all candidates to the same hiring process. You aren’t being asked to take a technical assessment because a potential employer doubts your skills!
Let’s talk about some benefits of technical assessments being used in the recruitment process:
1 - More accurate hiring
When employers hire new candidates, it’s in their best interest and in the best interest of the candidates that they find people whose skills accurately match the needs of the position. For employers, the wrong candidate can be costly in both time and money. Someone who is unskilled will need extra training time, education, or may not be a good fit for the company at all. For job seekers, technical assessments can help you find a job position that is a perfect fit for you: just challenging enough to keep things interesting, but not so far above your skill level that you feel stressed and incapable.
2 - Reduce bias and discrimination
Unfortunately, bias and discrimination in hiring remain common. Affinity bias, or the unconscious preference for people who look, talk, act, and think like us, is a psychological trap we are predisposed to fall into. And racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism also cause discrimination and hiring bias.
While technical assessments may feel impersonal and unnecessary, they can actually help reduce bias in the hiring process by providing objective data on individuals’ knowledge.
3 - Identify practical knowledge
Though education history does give employers a good idea of a person’s skill set, it isn’t a guarantee of aptitude. There’s a difference between understanding a coding language well enough to pass a class or earn a certification, and understanding a coding language well enough to use it to build an app or website. Generally, employers prefer practical skills over theoretical understanding. Technical assessments can help identify gaps between learning and practical ability.
4 - Quantify soft skills
You’d think that a technical assessment would skip right over soft skills in favor of hard skills. But technical assessments are actually a great way to show your soft skills. With only hard skills but no soft skills such as problem solving, creativity, ingenuity, patience, and persistence, you would never be able to excel on a technical assessment. This means that these tests allow potential employers to see evidence of these important soft skills, which is incredibly valuable because those can be difficult to identify and judge from interviews and resumes.
5 - Faster hiring process
If you’re actively job hunting, it’s likely that you want to get settled in a new job as soon as possible. But much of the time, for various reasons, the hiring process can be slow and inefficient, leaving you in limbo with your current employer, or lingering in unemployment. Technical assessments take much of the guesswork out of the hiring process, which can shorten the time between first contact and first day of work. It’s a win-win situation!
Though they may seem intimidating initially, technical assessments are actually great tools for potential employers to find qualified candidates, and these tests are in your best interest as a future employee. Accepting a job, based in part on the results of a technical assessment can give you the comfort of knowing that you are fully capable and prepared to excel in your new role. Keep these benefits in mind throughout your job search.
Best of luck!