Should I set a test during interviews to ascertain skills? – StartupSmart

This article first appeared on September 27th, 2010.


I’m looking to hire someone with specific computer and editing skills.


Should I set a test during the interviews to ascertain these skills? If so, how should I go about it?


Yes, you should set a test during the interviews to ascertain the candidate’s skills. Resumes and CVs always claim excellence and proficiency but this is not always at the level you require.


When accessing computer skills through an interview process it is essential to qualify the candidate’s skills with some form of practical testing.


It is not good enough to ask the typical job interview question: “What computer skills do you have and what programs have you used?”


The answer you receive may not prove the level of competence.


If a key attribute of the role requires applicants to have specific computer skills, it is critical to test the skills during the interview, to avoid a candidate embellishing the truth in relation to their computer expertise.


A simple method would be to list the computer skills that the role requires and then test the applicant on the skills required in the role.


You could set up an interview room with a PC to have the applicant perform tasks utilising a word-processing program, or design a test that will test the “specific” skills.


An idea could be to provide the applicant with step-by-step instructions on what tasks they are required to perform.


To test for basic computer skills some ideas could include:

  • demonstrate formatting skills such as to centre, italicize, bold words and underline text.
  • ask the candidate to type up a brief paragraph. If you are testing for words per minute you could use a stopwatch as they type.
  •  save the document to a specific folder.
  • ask the applicant to form a graph using a spreadsheet.
  • have the applicant put together a simple presentation using Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • ask the applicant to run a simple internet search by searching different websites.

For specific computer knowledge in regards to a payroll system or recruitment system you could set up similar tasks for applicants to follow.


By observing the applicants work produced or by accessing their behaviour while performing the tasks you will be able to evaluate the applicant’s competency level in their computer skills.


If you are overwhelmed by this idea, then you can jump online and for little cost have each candidate undertake a ‘computacy test’.


This is a computer literacy test. These tests can target a defined suite of programs.


Ordinarily these will test the following:

  • Keyboard usage
  • Windows
  • Computer Settings
  • Emailing
  • Computer Software
  • Computer Hardware and Networking
  • Internet

It is recommended to test for skills that are essential.


In this way you are certain that your preferred candidate has the base level of skills required to undertake the role from the outset.

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