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Getting smart about online assessment

“If applicants can’t take your assessment on a mobile device, they are going to look elsewhere for a job”

We all know that smartphones are now the primary communication device of choice among professionals, so this declaration from respected analyst Charles Handler in his 2014 report on assessment trends should not come as a huge surprise.

The facts bear this out. There are now over 4.7 billion global mobile phone subscribers, which accounts for 63% of the total population (this is predicted to rise to 72% by 2020). In China, over two-thirds of internet connections are accessed only via mobile devices. PageUp, the leading talent management solutions provider, reported that nearly 40% of applications are received via mobile and predicts this could reach 80-90% by 2020. According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 89% of respondents see their mobile device as the primary tool for finding their next job.

Despite the conclusive evidence, why then has the world of online assessment been left behind? One reason can be attributed to inertia in the industry. A lot of existing content for ability tests was designed specifically for larger screens, which are better suited to information-heavy questions.

When it comes to personality questionnaires and situational judgement tests (SJTs), research suggests that there is little difference in the quality of completion if you compare smartphone, tablet or laptop/PC. A far more significant difference is noticeable for ability tests: here the results on mobile are lower than desktop, if the tests haven’t been designed for the smaller screen.

Enhancing the ‘mobile’ experience

Organisations will therefore need to adopt a ‘mobile first’ approach to create items that work equally well on smaller and larger screens. This will create challenges to avoid unnecessary scrolling or navigation for more taxing questions, and a lot of cognitive ability content will need to be revamped.

Platforms should be mobile-friendly and responsive to different devices – you can’t just cram the desktop approach onto mobile. But let’s not forget that this isn’t just about candidates and their experience. HR recruiters and managers also need to be able to access information on the move via their smartphones.

The responsibility to provide a first-class mobile experience sits squarely on our shoulders. So, the question isn’t whether assessment should go mobile or not, but how to make it work as well as possible to stay relevant and keep up to speed with technological advances. They don’t come much bigger than the ubiquitous smartphone.

In my next post, I’ll be looking at conscious bias and how women and candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds are being systematically disadvantaged by the recruitment process.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Thanks for reading.

Dr. Alan Bourne is the Managing Director and founder of Sova Assessment Ltd.

Download: ‘The future of online assessment’ white paper (PDF)

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