Smartphones will dominate recruitment testing (Guest Post)

By Robert McHenry

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At Comms Multilingual, we are very interested in the latest developments within the assessment and certification industries. To that end, we are asking industry thought leaders to provide guest contributions to our blog, which we hope will be of interest to our community.Robert McHenry

This post comes from Dr Robert McHenry, founder of Oxford-based OPP Ltd, who writes about a common trend, both in psychometric testing and elsewhere: mobile devices and their prevalence in the workplace and our everyday lives.

The start of a new year is a good time to look to the future and to how the psychometric assessment industry is evolving. The biggest trend is the replacement of the desktop, laptop and even the tablet by the Smartphone as the platform for test delivery. There are three reasons for this happening. Firstly, 1.5 billion people in the world own a Smartphone. That is almost 20% of the world’s population. In the US and Europe, 60% of the population own one and it has become part of our daily

Secondly, there is the superior reach of Smartphone in emerging countries. In many partsof Africa and the Far East, the Smartphone is greatly preferred to older devices like the laptop or desktop for accessing the web. The third and perhaps the most important reason, is that psychometric assessment via the Smartphone can reduce significantly the costs associated with psychometric testing. The recruitment industry, so closely allied to the assessment industry, is already adapting its techniques to the popularity of the Smartphone because it saves them money. In the US, over 40% of candidates carry out their job searches on a Smartphone, and in response,  big employers and some recruiters are making their recruitment sites mobile friendly.

This makes sense for employers. Job candidates are making judgments on what they think a company is like to work for. Organisations whose processes and modes of recruitment fit the candidates’ lifestyle are more likely to get the best applicants, and the company’s branding gets a boost from being modern and easy to deal with.

So, are any big organisations already taking the plunge and offering cognitive and personality tests for Smartphone applicants? Indeed they are. Trends data suggests that Smartphone usage for completing selection assessments has steadily risen over the past five years. One example is a multinational restaurant chain that uses an adaptive personality test for the first stage of recruitment for entry level and first line management jobs. It offers job applicants three choices of test administration, 1) go to a nearby branch of the restaurant to take the test on-screen, 2) complete it at home or at work on a desktop or laptop, 3) access it on a mobile device. Three years ago, 91% of applicants preferred to take the assessment on a desktop but that has fallen to 66% while at the same time the popularity of the Smartphone for taking the test has risen from 9% to 31%.

There are reasons to be cautious before rushing into the adaptation of current psychometric tests to a Smartphone platform. Researchers first of all need to show that tests maintain their internal psychometric properties between Smartphone and non-Smartphone devices. This seems to have been demonstrated already for personality tests. However, some data suggests that using a Smartphone for timed testing and especially verbal cognitive testing penalises candidates. The reasons for this are gradually being understood and dealt with. For example, it can currently take up to 30% longer to complete a test on a Smartphone because of connectivity issues, distractions in the vicinity of the candidate, and the small screen size.

It remains to be seen how quickly the psychometric test industry will adapt to changes in the way prospective candidates want to engage at the recruitment stage. Even if the will is there, it is not just a matter of shrinking current assessments to fit a small screen. There are many graphic design and human interface issues to be considered. However, these changes may be forced on the test industry by their clients, because only by staying ahead and in tune with candidates’ lifestyles can those clients expect to attract the best talent.

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