Written by:Poul

Date: 9. November, 2023

Is it necessary to use testing tools in recruitment?

[This is part 10 of PeopleTools’ article series on the optimal recruitment process. You can find an overview of the other articles here: “The Ultimate Guide to Recruitment”]


There are many ways to assess candidates: CV screening, unstructured interviews and gut feelings.

Of course, while you can never be 100% certain that the candidate you choose is the right one, you can increase the likelihood of it!

This is where testing and assessment methods come in.

For some assessment methods are much more valid than others. predict job success than others.


What are tests?

When we use the term ‘test’ in recruitment, it most often refers to a variety of assessment methods and tools that aim to objectively uncover, predict and substantiate various aspects of the applicant, including behavior, preferences and cognitive abilities.

Thus, tests should be seen as supportive tools that can help create a dialog around personality, abilities, preferences and skills. In that sense, job interviews are also a test.

The different tests and assessment methods have different predictive validity. Therefore, it makes sense to use a combination of different tests. This will help you get a better understanding of the candidates and increase the predictive validity of the assessment methods.

Typically, companies use tests between 1. and 2nd conversation.


Why use tests in the recruitment process?

A recruitment process is a costly affair – both in terms of time and money. Therefore, it makes sense to use assessment methods that have the greatest predictive power.

First and foremost, it’s important to choose tools and methods with high validity. High validity tools allow you to more accurately identify the candidates most likely to succeed in the job. The use of high validity testing and assessment methods helps ensure that you make the best possible decisions, and that these decisions are based on data rather than gut feelings.

Secondly, the benefit of using different testing tools is that candidates are all assessed on a standardized and objective basis. This helps minimize the risk of bias in the process.


What tests can I use for recruitment?

As mentioned, there are several different tests that can be used in recruitment.

When choosing which tests to “expose” candidates to, it’s important to assess whether the methods are relevant. Secondly, it’s also about using methods with a high proven validity in relation to business success.

In the following, we take a closer look at three types: personality tests, cognitive tests and cases.


Personality test

You’ve probably heard the expression, “hired on professionalism, fired on personality”. It’s a great way of saying that while a candidate’s skills and experience may be top-notch, their personality, behavior and work preferences also play an important role when it comes to the match between company and candidate.

An applicant’s personality and preferences have a huge impact on how they approach the job, collaboration, communication, customers, etc.

That’s why it’s a good idea to use personality tests and personal profiles when recruiting.


What is a personality test?

A personality test is a measurement of selected personality traits and preferences based on the candidate’s answers to a questionnaire. The profile can provide insight into the candidate’s basic preferences, drivers and motivations and how these might influence their typical ways of thinking, acting and reacting.

Despite the slightly “scary” name, a personality test is not a test you can fail or pass. There are no right or wrong answers, and all personality traits have their own strengths and weaknesses.


Why use personality tests in recruitment?

The purpose of using personality tests and personal profiles in a recruitment context is that it allows you to delve deeper into the candidate’s personality and competencies, as well as uncover the candidate’s strengths, what drives and motivates the candidate, and where the candidate can be challenged.

In addition to gaining insight into the candidate’s personality, preferences and collaboration style, you’ll also gain valuable knowledge on how to onboard and manage them.


Cognitive test

A cognitive test measures a candidate’s cognitive and analytical abilities. Cognitive ability describes the level at which a person learns, understands instructions and solves problems. It’s about the way a candidate thinks, solves problems and is able to process information.

It’s important to distinguish between cognitive tests and more “traditional” intelligence tests. Because while an IQ test looks at how a person thinks, perceives things, understands complex issues and solves problems, a cognitive test also measures the speed at which this information is taken in and processed.


Why use cognitive tests in recruitment?

Long-standing psychological research clearly shows that intelligence is the best predictor of whether a candidate is likely to succeed in the job.

This is because intelligence is about the acquisition of job knowledge. The reason why candidates with higher cognitive abilities have higher job performance is because they are able to acquire job knowledge faster and to a greater extent – and it is this knowledge that drives their job performance.

That’s why it makes sense to use a cognitive test in recruitment.


Does high IQ equate to the best employee?

Shouldn’t we always hire the candidate with the highest IQ score?

No, not necessarily!

Because the candidate with the highest cognitive abilities is not necessarily the most suitable candidate for the position. This is because there are other factors that influence job performance, including personality, attitude and motivation.

Even if a candidate is able to understand and handle the complexity a job requires, it doesn’t mean much if they’re not motivated to do the tasks.

If you hire someone with very high cognitive abilities for a position that doesn’t require much, they will typically get bored, lose motivation and start looking for a new job. Similarly, a candidate whose intelligence is lower than that of the job content may be too challenged, find the tasks too difficult to solve and look around for a new job.

This means that the candidate’s cognitive score should be seen in relation to the job they will be doing. Because where personality is the steering wheel, the cognitive score is the engine.


Case in recruitment

What is a case?

A case is a concrete and realistic task/challenge/scenario that the candidate must relate to. The assignment should be based on the company’s everyday life and the position the candidate is applying for.

By letting the candidate relate to a task that is as concrete and realistic as possible, you gain insight into how the candidate will actually solve such tasks and their professional skills.


What types of cases can you use for recruitment?

There are several different types of cases. Which type you should choose depends on your industry, focus and position.

For example

  • Prepared case: case that is sent to the candidate once they have been invited for an interview. This typically consists of a case description with one or more questions/tasks attached. The candidate prepares this from home and can present it orally or in writing.
  • Moderately prepared case: case assignment that the candidate prepares just before the start of the interview. It is typically a smaller assignment where the candidate has 10-30 minutes. preparation and to be presented orally or in writing.
  • Case without preparation: here the candidate is asked some situational questions or scenarios, which they have to analyze by asking probing questions and relevant hypotheses.


What’s the return on investment?

Cases are an easy and practical way to see that the candidate has the relevant skills to solve real-life tasks and issues, and is able to think about the task in a sensible and “right” way. Depending on the mode of presentation, it also provides insight into the candidate’s communication skills and presentation techniques, as well as the ability to present solutions in an understandable way.

At the same time, the use of cases is another way to minimize bias. When you give candidates the same case assignment, you have a good basis for comparing the respective candidates with each other.

In many cases, it’s not so much about the product that the case leads to, but the candidate’s process. It’s a great way to gain insight into the candidate’s thoughts along the way. For example, you can ask the candidate about:

  • Why did you choose that solution?
  • Why does your solution fit our company/customer/industry?
  • What methods did you use and why?
  • How did you approach the task?
  • What did you emphasize in your assignment – and why?


How do you create a recruitment case study?

First and foremost, it’s important that the case is designed based on the job analysis and the tasks that are typical and important for the position.

Next, there are some considerations you need to make:

  • Who should prepare the case? (who has enough insight into the position and knowledge of the tasks?)
  • When should the candidate solve the case?
  • How do you assess the candidate’s solution to the case?
  • What do you want to uncover and shed light on with the case?
  • What should the focus be on?
  • Is it both personal and professional skills that need to come into play

You can read more about how to create a case in the article “Cases in recruitment processes”.


Should I only use these testing tools in recruitment?

As mentioned, there are a number of assessment tools and methods other than the three we’ve highlighted in this article. And the vast majority use a combination of these in the recruitment process.

Which, of course, you should!

Because you get the most nuanced picture when you combine several of the assessment methods and tools. Because while an intelligence test can tell you something about a candidate’s cognitive ability, it can’t tell you anything about their approach to collaboration or conflict, for example.

Therefore, never let a test result or assignment stand alone or speak for itself. Think of it as pieces of the overall puzzle.



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  • Kahlke, Edith and Schmidt, Victor. Better hiring. Børsens Forlag, 2007.
  • Kahlke, Edith and Schmidt, Victor. Job and person assessment – increasing accuracy in personnel selection. Børsens Forlag, 2000.
  • Persson, Janne. The reflexive recruitment specialist. The art of assessing competence and people. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2020.
  • Theisen, Charlotte Bryldt. The job interview. How do you select the best candidate? Transparent Publishing House, 2014.

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