We Need To Talk About Online Recruitment Tests
A plea to recruiters and humanity
Dear Recruiters, can we have an honest conversation?
I recently applied for a job in Europe as a communications manager for a global consulting company.
As a first screening exercise, I was sent a 20-minute fully-automated, bot-style “English language test consisting of 3 parts: fluency, vocabulary, and spelling”.
Fair enough, I get it. Large numbers, gotta start somewhere.
The test consisted of abducting the candidate from AD 2022 and placing the said candidate in a sterile out of this world situation where s/he had no access to Google, or Grammarly for that matter.
Surreal and decadent
In the first exercise, I had to quickly decide whether it is liaison or liason, (this is one of the few words I check regularly on Google, and I do speak French, self-doubt, arghhh), and how many Ms the work coMMitMent has, I ain’t kiddin’.
I don’t know about you, but I have always found spelling competitions cruel. Children put on a pedestal trained to machine-gun long sequences of letters, words drained of meaning and emotions, a sad carnage, if you asked me. But I digress.
The second exercise consisted of choosing the correct word between 4 options of mostly Latin-derived, overly-manicured, pompous words that you would only want to use in case of emergency to self-inflate your ego.
The third was about conditionals, I wish I (fill(ed) in the gap). The irony.
The test was timed but did not have a progress bar, so I did not know which side of my brain to switch on, the perfectionist or the pragmatic one? Mystery.
A fully-automated recruitment test that asks YOU not to use a virtual spell-checker. The paradox.
What’s the point?
My question for recruiters is: What is the added value of machine-gunning rows of unrelated sentences to check if I can spot a spelling mistake?
What is the point of testing candidates on tasks which have already been replaced by software and machine-learning? Honestly, if the criteria is to test yours truly on all the stuff that have been surpassed by technology, you are in for a ride. Next time, I will dust off my Olivetti Valentine (for the uninitiated, the Ferrari Testa Rossa of portable typewriters) and apply for CEO on paper.
I understand the need to automate and optimize. Grammarly exists for the same reason, but why make it so freaking meaningless? WHY? If candidates decide to invest their time in a recruitment exercise, the least the recruiter can do is to allow them to show they can do a job NO software can do yet. And it is not charity. Recruiters are doing their industry a disservice too. Capish?
Instead of a spelling competition, wouldn’t you rather want to know whether I can produce an almost logical sentence in English? Hey, eaaasy, I said almost.
Standardized tests, back to square one
My impression is that instead of tailoring the test to the job profile, the recruiter just went for the fastest way to get comparable quantitative data, which are the best ingredients for edulcorated pie charts. Forget the WHY, the position for which the test is for, its purpose, the communities it is supposed to serve. The relationships it is meant to build, forget about values and leadership; here, you can have your cake and eat it too. And while we are at it, I mean, why set for another frozen pie when you can have freshly caramelized crème brûlée?
The HEART of the matter is “do you measure what you treasure, or do you treasure what you measure”? Please re-read slowly.
How much can you pack in 20 minutes?
If you decide to swipe right and speed-date with someone, please put a bit more effort, and quite bluntly, for your English tests, please call on intelligentsia from global linguists and communications experts. Don’t you want to get the most out of our 20 minutes together? I certainly do and trust me, there is sooooo incredibly much that you can learn about a person in 20 minutes. This post is a 3-minute read. You can test so many valuable skills and knowledge, including fluency in English, and still automate the entire process, but please get over spelling competitions. It devoids words of life, and it is a crime against humanity.
While — as you might have found out by now— I have no problem in admitting that Grammarly, Merriam-Webster, and a dozen other apps, save me from public ridicule on a daily basis, your global-think-outside-the-box reputation for future-proof solutions — also called brand— was partially desecrated (I googled a synonym for “went down the drain, just a tad”).
I will leave it in your expert's hands to decide whether I qualify or not for the next round of automated tests. Yet, I owed it to myself to show that — while spelling is not my forte — I can machine-gun rows of unrelated sentences, freehanded and almost unassisted.