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I’m better than you, and I’ll prove it: the rise of skills testing sites

skills testing sitesLet’s face it: there is a reason that there are skills testing sites. If you hire people, at some point you will have to hire for a position about which you know absolutely nothing.  Perhaps you’re hiring a chief technology officer, but your background is marketing and sales. Or you’re hiring a new accountant, and you only understand coding.

What do you do? Perhaps you turn to friends and colleagues who are more knowledgeable than you about a particular skill set. Or you figure out which certifications a ‘perfect’ candidate should have. Maybe you rely on a recruiter who specializes in that particular field.

Well, over the past decade, sites have sprung up (and disappeared) to solve your problem. I call them skills testing sites, because that’s essentially what they do: they present the candidate with a series of questions, problems, and tests in order to evaluate their skills. Most have been targeted to technical folks.

The granddaddy of these sites is Brainbench. It’s been around since the late 90s and concentrates primarily on technical subjects (although it has tests for English comprehension, marketing, etc.). You earn a Brainbench certification, which you can promote publicly. As with many certifications, the value is often in the eye of the employer – some will care, some won’t.

Several new sites have launched over the past couple of years, including Gild, which (not surprisingly) focuses on technical skills testing. It’s set up with a social component, so that you and your friends can take tests, share results, and insult/brag at the end. Then there’s CodeEval. It has a more explicit link between your test results and the possibility of getting hired. It’s free for participants to get tested, but recruiters are charged to search the database. As with Brainbench, you can have a public profile – but you also have the option to set up competitions. Oh yes – it targets IT folks as well.

WorkForPie has a bit of a twist: it lets you build your own profile, show off your coding skills (yep, the site targets tech people – but just open source people), AND get scored on your proficiency. No money changing hands that I could see – just a bunch of open source developers showing what they can do.

Finally, there’s InterviewStreet. They say they’re the ‘best way to screen programmers’. Recruiters buy a certain number of tests; they send invitations to take the test to their job candidates; and then they get the results, along with comparative data. The site also includes job listings that candidates can apply to – using the tests, of course.

I believe there is value in these skills testing sites – I could have certainly used them in my hiring days! But they still beg the question: if I don’t know anything about coding, how do I know if the tests are any good? I’m guessing that for that answer, I would have to turn to my friendly sysadmin or IT director.

Whoa – deja vu!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. a hot area to be sure, but i don’t put much emphasis on them in my recruiting. i’ve had great devs with no training or skills certification and horrible ones with tons of it.

    hire for chemistry, fire for skill

  2. There is no doubt that more and more employers are taking their time when recruiting and are able to incorporate skills testing in to their process as the talent war is no longer as pressing as it was a few years ago. There have been times in the past that clients waiting for test results have missed their opportunities as candidates are already in front of a number of other clients.

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