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Talent Assessment | 3 min Read

What are talent assessments, and why are they useful?


The need to attract top talent has fostered immense competition and innovation among companies. Thus, organizations spend inordinate sums to onboard candidates to meet their hiring goals. However, onboarding the wrong individuals for the right jobs is detrimental not only to the organization’s interest but also to the employees and their team members.

Let us assume that two competent candidates are being considered by recruiters, both with appealing CVs and impressive educational credentials. There is no doubt about their qualifications. However, choosing the best between the two is not as easy as it seems. How do recruiters uncover their abilities that they have not seen yet? Moreover, what if it is not just about a candidate or two, but hundreds or thousands? That is where a talent assessment assumes significance.

There is an unprecedented surge in demand for new skills and abilities in an ever-changing business environment. Therefore, companies are pulling out all the stops to source the best talent. As a result, HR managers’ hiring decisions are critical. They require crucial data and insights to make well-analyzed talent acquisition decisions that align with the organization’s strategic objectives. Well-thought-out talent assessments create actionable and objective insights that help HR professionals make informed decisions throughout the recruitment cycle.

This blog explores the fundamentals of talent assessments and offers detailed insights into how these assessments work, with a significant focus on their efficacies, nuances and importance in recruitment.



What are talent assessments?

Talent assessment is a structured process used by employers to identify the most suitable job candidates. A talent assessment test may comprise various kinds of questions, job simulations, etc., that employers can use to assess an applicant’s performance and competency for a particular role.

Talent assessment tests, also known as pre-employment tests, are used to identify the best candidate for a specific job requirement, either as a recruitment test or for strategic personnel development. Companies and recruiters use these assessments to quickly evaluate a candidate’s skills, knowledge, personality, behavior and work style. Moreover, it helps employers understand the applicants’ on-the-job performance and whether they will continue with the company for a long time.

Talent assessment tests are critical components for company performance and success, providing a tangible business impact, especially amid today’s turbulent economic landscape. As companies revive their businesses, they are apprehensive about what the new post-pandemic ‘normal’ would usher. As a result, talent acquisition experts plan to revamp the hiring strategy to employ the new workforce. Strategic talent assessments tools can assist companies in identifying and attracting top talent.


Why are talent assessments pivotal in identifying the right talent?

In a digitally connected world where an unprecedented amount of data is readily accessible, the datafication of talent holds the potential to redefine the way companies approach, attract, develop and engage talent. Thankfully, talent assessments can provide invaluable data-driven insights on defining, strategizing, and organizing hiring, training and development activities.

A talent assessment test’s outcome helps predict job-related performance, assuring an employer of the applicant’s ability to do the job well. This assurance emanates from the fact that talent assessments are premised on numerous recruitment and retention case studies and analyses of employee data.

Results acquired from talent assessments reveal the extent to which the candidates’ skills and abilities are aligned with the hiring needs. Hence, it simplifies recruiters’ tasks, helping them decide the suitable candidates who may be approached for the next rounds of evaluations/interviews.

The complete process, from creating, scheduling, and delivering the talent assessment, can be automated using online assessment software. A talent assessment test may comprise a series of questions, job simulations, etc., that employers include for assessing the applicant’s performance and competency for a particular role. Thus, these tests can help evaluate the candidates’ skills, knowledge, work style, and other characteristics to ascertain their suitability for the role and culture fit.

Every organization strives to deliver the best products, services, or sales, which mandates a great workforce. Therefore, identifying the suitable candidates that suit a particular role and organization is critical. Talent assessments are instrumental in helping companies make better hiring decisions by identifying the most qualified candidates.


How do talent assessments work?

Talent assessments help employers prioritize which candidates to interview and how. A talent assessment platform, generally known as an online assessment platform, provides HR managers and recruiters with a fully integrated assessment solution to help them screen misfits from a vast applicant pool early on in the process. Talent assessment tests can be administered online on a powerful cloud-based platform, which is secured with advanced proctoring technology.

Any organization conducting online talent assessment tests can automate the entire recruitment process, extending up to interviews, using a talent assessment platform. Besides, employers can use a holistic suite of talent assessment tools (personality assessments, behavioral assessments, cognitive assessments, technical assessments, coding assessments and communication skills assessments) to conduct virtual assessments with incredible ease.

Listed below is the process that details how an assessment platform facilitates the workings of the talent evaluation process- from creation to analysis:


The creation of tests

Test administrators design an online assessment, sorting questions from their repository or accessing the platform service provider’s extensive assessment library. Tests can be tailor-made to suit the admin’s parameters for test duration, question order, section configuration, scoring logic, etc.


Test Invitation

Now, candidates can receive assessment invites from administrators. These invites can be scheduled for specific times, dates, or IP addresses. Then, test-takers can access the link and begin their assessment.


Proctoring intervention

Now comes the exam invigilation part, wherein test-takers are monitored to ensure integrity and credibility to assessment tests. Administrators can either deploy their proctors or leverage third-party online proctoring services.


Verification of candidates

Candidates’ identity verification is carried out using the webcams and government-issued identity cards in a remote (online) proctoring setup. Proctors can scan candidates’ testing environment through the webcam and run diagnostic checks on examinees’ computers before initiating the test. Additionally, online proctoring enables proctors to deploy anti-cheating features, such as disabling screen sharing and multi-window browsing options.


The beginning of the test

Once the test starts, proctors can exercise complete control over the test-takers’ computer screens and video feeds. Administrators and proctors can communicate with candidates individually or broadcast messages to several candidates simultaneously. Besides, proctors can perform several actions, such as terminating any candidate’s test session, capturing screenshots, or re-authenticating a test-taker based on the captured footage.


Instant generation of the results report

A talent assessment platform helps generate automated, in-depth reports, along with crucial data points, such as proctors’ chat logs, screen captures, live feed recordings, etc. The reports are furnished as soon as the test concludes. These reports are sent to the test administrator and are customizable to present actionable and relevant data.


Types of talent assessments

Now that we have succinctly covered what the term ”technical assessment” embodies, let us understand its different forms:


Types of talent assessments

Psychometric test

Psychometric tests are scientific methods that measure a candidate’s critical thinking abilities, skills, intelligence, personality traits, cognitive skills, motivations, interests and behavioral style. Talent acquisition experts use the psychometric tests’ information to identify the candidates’ dark aspects that are difficult to obtain during face-to-face interviews. The assessment’s primary objective is to identify applicants that are unlikely to fulfill the job requirement at an early stage.

Behavioral assessment

Behavioral assessment is a tool used by recruiters to measure applicants’ underlying behavioral traits. It assesses candidates’ generic personalities, motivations and emotional intelligence to evaluate their suitability for specific industries, functions and roles. Besides, these assessments require individuals to exhibit behavioral competencies in activities relevant to their job roles that resemble actual organizational situations. The candidates are presented with a series of work-related scenarios with possible courses of action. They need to choose either the best option or rank the possible actions based on their effectiveness.

Cognitive ability test

Cognitive intelligence is one of the best predictors of training proficiency and work performance, particularly in complex jobs. Unlike most recruitment practices that merely evaluate candidates on their current skill sets, hiring candidates based on cognitive abilities yields the best pool of candidates with higher IQs and analytical skills.

Cognitive ability tests are a branch of psychometric tests that measures an applicant’s critical thinking, verbal reasoning, numerical aptitude, problem-solving and decision-making skills. These assessments predict an applicant’s on-the-job performance and assess current and potential employees across job levels. The test results help employers select the best fit for the job role.

Technical assessments

Technical assessments are instrumental in evaluating an applicant’s functional and subject knowledge for a specific job role. The questions asked in technical tests are based on the skill requirement of a particular job role. Thus, the competencies in a technical assessment vary with the job function, job role and industry. These tests enable recruiters to filter out technical talent from a vast pool of candidates, using a combination of application-based questions, such as MCQs and simulators to measure job-relevant skills.

Coding assessment

Coding assessments are useful in measuring the applicants’ know-how, evaluating them on programming languages and technologies, such as Java, Python, C++, Oracle, SQL, etc. Recruiters can shortlist candidates with good scores in coding assessments.

Communication skills assessment

Communication skills assessment measures a candidate’s pronunciation, fluency, grammar and listening comprehension skills. The pre-employment test has become the essential criterion in the hiring process. It is the best filtration tool to assess prospects for customer-facing roles and industries, such as sales, BPO, hospitality, media house, branding, etc.

Aside from these recruitment assessment tools, companies also use other candidate assessment tools to screen applicants, known as job simulators.


Job simulators


A job simulator is a talent assessment method where candidates perform the tasks in real-time. A recruiter assesses candidates on organizational situations that are performed on the job. For example, a sales representative can deal with customers and resolve their issues over a chat. A hypothetical scenario can test his/her analytical and logical thinking skills. This type of talent mapping assessment is similar to a work sample. However, the former involves more ‘on-the-spot’ work.

Recruiters conduct job simulations during the interview or via online hiring assessment tools. A job simulation exercise measures the candidate’s thinking and handling of a complex situation with limited resources.

Some of the popular job simulators are listed below:

Coding simulators

Coding simulators are software tools that enable applicants to write and test their code in a simulated environment. Tech recruiters can use the tool to analyze the candidate’s hands-on experience and the ability to solve a problem in their desired programming language. The applicant is evaluated on parameters, such as problem-solving skills, performance on the desired task, coding proficiency in general programming languages. Once the candidate completes the coding, they are auto-graded in real-time based on code quality, efficiency, correctness and scalability.

Behavioral tools

Behavioral tools are psychological instruments to understand and interpret human behavior. Such tools have found favor with corporate and educational sectors, considering their numerous applications and exploratory and insightful nature. Behavioral tools can assist talent acquisition experts in evaluating various behavioral aspects, from generic personality characteristics and customer-focused skills to inquisitiveness and leadership potential. These tools can be categorized into two classes:

  • Online behavioral tools
  • Offline behavioral tools


Online behavioral tools

Online behavioral tools consist of the following:

Situational judgment tests: These tests are used to analyze, rank, rate, or select the most effective response in a hypothetical, role-specific scenario at work.

Mailbox exercises: This exercise is employed to choose the best possible responses to the issues presented in the emails.

Caselets sets: These are offered to the candidates to solve the problems highlighted in a business scenario.

Case study simulators: These simulators are used to find relevant information, diagnose issues and recommend the best course of action.


Offline behavioral tools

Offline behavioral tools consist of the following:

Group discussions: These are given to understand the candidate’s ability to influence, communicate and work in a team.

Behavioral interviews: These are offered to gain an in-depth insight into a candidate’s understanding of a given business situation.

Role-plays: Role-plays help assess the candidate’s ability to enact a specific role within a business constraint.

Case presentations: These are used to evaluate a candidate’s ability to communicate with a group of people.


Uncovering talent and the science behind It

“Talent” is an individual’s natural ability or skill that can manifest from the five core elements. Let’s understand it with an example:

A hiring expert seeks the best talent for a leadership role in marketing. He/she will identify five core elements in an applicant. They are:


Personality traits

It refers to the individual’s pattern of thoughts and feelings and provides recruiters with informed insight into his/her personality.

An applicant for a leadership position should have five core traits, such as Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, to be a good leader. These are detailed below:

a) Openness: A leader who is open to employee suggestions and comfortable discussing concerns with team members.

b) Conscientiousness: An individual with a futuristic approach than being spontaneous.

c) Extraversion: An individual who is friendly, energetic and talkative.

d) Agreeableness: An applicant who is sympathetic, helping and benevolent.

e) Neuroticism: Implies emotional instability and negative emotions, such as depression and anxiety.


Behavioral traits

It refers to an applicant’s pattern of responses in a hypothetical situation in an organizational setting. The recruiter observes the candidate’s behavior and evaluates the job role-based fitment.


Cognitive ability

It refers to an individual’s requisite problem-solving, critical thinking and verbal reasoning skills to handle a complex project.


Communication skills

It refers to the applicant’s language ability to interact with people fluently and clearly. A leader with good interpersonal skills can convey the organizational goals to the team members and other stakeholders, resulting in the desired coordination between the manager and the employees.


Technical skills

It refers to the candidate’s subject knowledge for a specific job role – a candidate with excellent domain knowledge of marketing and experience in heading a marketing project.

Hence, a talent acquisition expert defines the top talent in five core elements. The applicant matching all the five features of “talent” would be eligible for the marketing head profile.


What is a talent assessment framework?

The talent assessment framework is a holistic framework that enables recruiters and hiring managers to find quality talent that would fit in with the company culture and attune themselves to its vision to deliver unmatched performance. Let us understand the process in detail:

The talent assessment framework highlights the five core elements of talent: personality traits, behavioral traits, cognitive, spoken English skills and technical skills. These vital elements can help employers onboard the best talent with the perfect balance of required competencies. The framework lists the core competencies for each core element.

Some of the competencies for each core element are mentioned below:

  • Personality traits competencies are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
  • Behavioral traits competencies are personality attributes, analytical attributes, interpersonal skills and leadership skills.
  • Core cognitive competencies to measure cognitive intelligence are fluid intelligence, crystallized intelligence, core brain functions (attention, speed, memory, visualization).
  • Core technical competencies for each job role are different. For example, the technical competency for the Java role could be having experience in object-oriented programming, Java-build tools, error and exception handling, etc. Similarly, technical competency for a financial analyst would be different.
  • Core spoken English competencies for a job role are pronunciation, fluency, grammar and listening comprehension.

Hiring managers can map the required competencies for a job position with the appropriate assessment tools, such as psychometric assessments, cognitive assessments, behavioral assessments, technical assessments, etc., to identify the right candidate for a particular job position.

The following are some essential factors talent acquisition experts may also consider when selecting an applicant:

  • Experience: The quantum of experience in doing a particular task plays a pivotal role in undertaking a new job role.
  • Education/knowledge: Education refers to an individual’s formal degree or certification. Knowledge can be reading a book or a command over a particular subject.
  • Accomplishments: Accomplishments refer to an individual’s achievements in personal and professional life. For example, star performers are highly sought-after in the industry.


Best practices in talent assessments

We have listed some best practices that serve as a roadmap for organizations in utilizing talent assessment tests. These guidelines represent the most viable course of action to help recruiters and hiring managers conduct talent assessments.


Best practices in talent assessments


Using suitable recruitment software

Hiring the best talent is the ultimate goal for any company, and they spend substantial sums to achieve the desired results. Talent acquisition experts must optimally utilize technology to recruit suitable candidates. They can perform an initial analysis of top recruitment assessment platforms that are cost-effective, objective, faster and require minimal human intervention.

Efficient and scalable talent assessment software programs will help them make data-driven decisions based on the candidates’ skills and abilities, reducing the risk of unconscious bias. Mercer | Mettl has some of the best online recruitment tools to assess candidates based on the required skills, abilities and knowledge.


A descriptive talent acquisition process

The recruitment testing process should be informative and precise. Else the recruit’s job expectations may not be met. Talent acquisition experts can map the best talent using the competency mapping process. It is a process where recruiters match the required job competencies for a specific job role with the various available assessment tools to shortlist the best candidate.

For example, a candidate attempts a behavioral assessment for a managerial role in the form of realistic work-related scenarios. The hiring expert will map the candidate’s behavioral competencies required for a manager profile to shortlist the suitable candidate with the behavioral assessment tools. In addition, some online behavioral tools, such as caselets, will examine an applicant’s business acumen and prompt decision-making skills.

In contrast, a case study simulator will evaluate the candidate’s analytical and innovative mindset. The candidate will be onboarded if the recruiter feels he/she is the right match for the job role.

A candidate is screened through various assessments, including behavioral, psychometric, cognitive, coding and technical, etc. Here is the link that offers crucial insights into behavioral assessment tools and how they add value to the hiring process.

The talent acquisition process should have a flexible and agile approach. The hiring experts should be proactive and quick in adapting to the dynamic industry developments, competitors’ openings, seasonality, applicants’ interests and expectations.


The right tools for a holistic assessment

It is imperative for organizations to continually evolve their businesses with the changing market demands and customer needs and preferences. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted market sentiments globally. Therefore, it is an opportune time for talent acquisition experts to realign their strategies to best leverage the benefits.

Organizations are battling competitors to hire the best candidate. However, proper recruitment tools can benefit companies in hiring the best workforce. Mercer | Mettl has all the assessment tools under one roof for candidate assessment. Some of them are psychometric tests, behavioral tests, cognitive tests, technical tests, spoken English tests. In addition, you can choose from several assessment tools offerings to evaluate candidates, depending on the job role and job function.


Virtual solutions for efficiency and future-proofing

With most companies practicing ‘work from home,’ recruiters must substantially alter their hiring strategies. Online talent assessments are the best way to recruit top talent – saving financial and other resources. Mercer | Mettl offers all-in-one assessments that cater to your diverse recruitment needs. Such talent assessment tests are scalable and affordable and enable companies and professionals to make well-informed decisions – whether in recruitment, training or promotion of employees.

An extensive test library can help employers measure applicants’ abilities and existing employees’ skill sets. They can make smart hiring decisions by exploring a wide range of psychometric, role-centric, cognitive and technical assessments, among others.


How Mercer | Mettl can help

The online assessment platform offers research-backed assessments, an efficient cloud platform and in-depth analytics. Mercer | Mettl, a leading talent assessment service provider, enables clients to create customized talent assessment tests across the employee life cycle, including pre-hiring screening, candidate skills assessment, training and development program for employee/students and certification exams, etc.

Using its extensive library of tests and simulators, you can easily evaluate the candidate’s knowledge, underlying abilities, behavioral attributes and skills with utmost accuracy. In addition, a wide range of psychometric, cognitive, role-centric, and technical assessments is available for making well-informed recruiting decisions. A thorough, well-researched and analytics-led approach is pivotal in making informed decisions, and Mercer | Mettl’s empirical assessment platform enables the same.

Mercer | Mettl Talent Assessments



Some of the popular online assessments offered by Mercer | Mettl are listed below:

  • Psychometric test
  • Cognitive test
  • Behavioral test
  • Technical test
  • Coding test
  • Communication skills test

Psychometric test

This test is used to measure six critical aspects of human personality and assess whether a candidate is a good match for a specific job requirement. The six crucial aspects of human personality are positive personality traits, dark personality traits, motivation, values, preferences and cognitive ability.

Cognitive test

This test is used to assess the applicant’s critical thinking ability, verbal reasoning, numerical ability, problem-solving skills, etc., to execute a specific task, depending on the job function and type.

Behavioral test

This test measures the candidate's human behavior and course of action in a given organizational situation. Besides, the recruiter measures an individual’s behavioral competencies, such as skills, knowledge and personal traits.

Technical test

This test helps analyze the applicant’s subjective knowledge of specific domains, such as IT, accounts, sales, HR, marketing and operations, etc.

Coding test

A coding assessment is used to evaluate the candidate’s ability to write error-free codes. Mercer | Mettl offers customized coding assessments and ready-made tests for test-creators to choose from a comprehensive test library. In addition, the coder can attempt the assessment in a risk-free, secure and proctored coding environment.

Communication skills test

Communication skills assessment is a test to assess a candidate's communication skills. The four facets of communication tests are listening skills assessments, verbal ability assessments, reading skills assessments and writing skills assessments. Such assessments are an effective method to assess a candidate’s language proficiency in listening, communicating, comprehending text and understanding the nuances of the language.

Originally published December 4 2019, Updated May 1 2023

Written by

Abhilash works with the Content Marketing team of Mercer|Mettl. He has been contributing his bit to the world of online business for some years now. Abhilash is experienced in content marketing, along with SEO. He’s fond of writing useful posts, helping people, traveling, and savoring delicacies.

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