Mobile assessment: What you need to know

By David Barrett Chief Operating Officer of international assessment specialist cut-e.

In today’s organisations, there’s a clamour to make everything accessible via mobile devices. Recruitment is no exception. According to a survey by Glassdoor, 9 out of 10 job seekers now use a mobile device to search for jobs. And more employers and jobsites are making it easier for candidates to apply for roles directly from their tablet or phone. Offering your assessments via these devices is therefore the next logical step.

Realistic job previews, situational judgement questionnaires, personality questionnaires, values questionnaires and logical and numerical reasoning tests can all be optimised for mobile environments. But information-heavy tests, such as complex verbal reasoning may be unsuitable for smartphones because there may be too much detail to display. These tests could, however, be delivered on tablets.

The advantage of mobile assessment is that it not only speeds up the selection process, it puts the candidate in control of when and where they participate. In other words, they can interact with you at a time and place that suits them.

Four key challenges
If your selection process already includes online assessments, which candidates complete via desktops and laptops, then it won’t be a major leap to introduce mobile assessment too. It just requires some intelligent thinking around four key challenges:

1. Compatibility – Regardless of whether someone is using an old iPhone or the latest android, your tests have to be fair for all participants. The quality and responsiveness of their device should have no impact on the final test result. To achieve this, test providers must convert their online assessments to HTML5 (the web-page language standard) from Adobe Flash, which is not compatible with Apple iPads and iPhones.

2. Standardisation – The goal with testing is always to gain accurate predictive analytics on a candidate’s behaviour or cognitive ability so you can match them to a job objectively. In 90% of applications, mobile assessments will work equally well on smartphones and tablets but you have to be aware of any potential adverse impact. Recruiters (and test providers) have a duty of care to ensure that a candidate’s chances of progressing through the selection process are not hampered because they took a test on the wrong device.

If you plan to use timed aptitude tests or timed simulations via mobile devices, ask your test provider: is the layout of the test configured to work properly on any device? And will the test warn candidates if their screen size is inappropriate? A good provider should be able to reassure you that their tests are optimised for all uses – and that the quality or responsiveness of the device used by the candidate will have no bearing on their final test result.

3. Test duration – People don’t like completing long tasks on a phone or tablet. Mobile assessments therefore tend to be shorter, to allow candidates to undertake the process quickly. It can be a challenge for test providers to design a quick, aesthetic and engaging user experience for a mobile device, that doesn’t compromise basic testing principles. Shorter tests have the advantage of ‘reduced drop-out’ – candidates are more likely to complete them – but the test still has to be psychometrically valid. Also, the content has to feel relevant and appropriate to the user. Test providers call this ‘face validity’, which simply means that the test should ‘look like’ it measures what it’s supposed to measure.

4. Consistency – Every employer needs to ensure that every candidate has an equal likelihood of success, regardless of whether they take an assessment on a phone, tablet, desktop or laptop. There has to be a level playing field. That way, your candidates are in control of the process and they can take your assessments whichever way they prefer.

Test providers are striving to deliver this capability. This not only involves redesigning existing tests for a mobile environment and developing entirely new assessments specifically for mobile devices, it also means trialling tests across many different devices to check candidate performance and completion times. So even though a test may display slightly differently on a mobile device, than it does on a desktop or laptop, the outcome for the candidate will be exactly the same. The objective is to ensure that the results are entirely equitable.

Clearly, several factors need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether or not you should offer assessments on mobile devices. Essentially, you should only do so if the tests have been specifically designed, optimised and developed for mobile use – and if you can control which devices are used for which test. Get it right and mobile assessment can help you engage with wider talent pools and recruit your talent faster.