Joel Philo is principal behavioral scientist at Infor, and Paul Boatman is director of talent science and analytics at Infor. Opinions are the authors' own.
The war for talent begins with candidate engagement. To ensure as many candidates as possible are engaged throughout the hiring process, some assessment providers have introduced assessments marketed as simulations or games. Given the rise in use of mobile technology among job candidates, we believe these approaches are misguided.
If candidate experience is paramount, why don't companies simply take them to the movies? It's fast, fun, inexpensive, and would likely entice more candidates to enter the process. Of course, this seems absurd because candidate experience is only part of the equation. The selection process is an employer's opportunity to get to know candidates and try to predict how successful they would be on the job before making the decision to hire or not hire. Making the best use of candidate, recruiter, and hiring manager time through accurate measurement and prediction of candidate job success is critical.
An important part of accurate measurement and prediction using an assessment tool is ensuring candidates receive equivalent assessment experiences. This means if two candidates respond to the same assessment prompt in the same way, their responses should be able to be considered identical.
Mobile technology presents challenges to ensuring assessment equivalence. Most mobile devices feature touchscreens, whereas many desktop and laptop computers utilize mice and touchpads. Smartphone screens are smaller than monitors. An equivalent assessment experience ensures candidates are able to view the same information at the same time regardless of screen size and respond with the same level of accuracy and precision regardless of interface. This is not possible for assessments with images, graphs, videos or complex response interfaces.
These challenges become more relevant as mobile internet use continues to increase. According to an internet pageview tracking website, mobile devices overtook desktop computers in internet usage during October 2016 and continue to rise in popularity. The mobile vs. traditional device difference is even more pronounced for entry-level jobs. In a recent Pew Research survey, 17% of respondents aged 18-29 — that is, those most likely to be new entrants to the labor market — relied exclusively on smartphones for internet access. Companies utilizing assessments that do not demonstrate equivalence across device types are forced to exclude these smartphone dependent candidates from the assessment process.
The smartphone dependence gap is even more pronounced among racial subgroups. In the same Pew Research survey, Black respondents were 67% more likely to be smartphone dependent than Whites, and Hispanic respondents were 156% more likely. For companies interested in ensuring racial fairness and driving diversity, turning away smartphone users is an even larger barrier.
Keeping candidates as engaged as possible is an important consideration when choosing an assessment tool. However, candidate engagement does not need to involve complicated experiences requiring a desktop computer to function correctly. In fact, the best way to engage the greatest number and diversity of candidates in the assessment process is to ensure they can use the device of their choosing fairly and accurately.