How Using Job Simulations Can Seriously Improve Your Hiring

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It’s an oft-cited warning: the cost of a bad hire is astronomical. According to The Undercover Recruiter, companies can waste up to $240,000 in recruitment, compensation, and retention expenses by hiring the wrong person. The hidden costs of low morale and lost productivity also start to add up over time. 

Infographic showing the cost of a bad hire
According to The Undercover Recruiter, companies can waste up to $240,000 hiring the wrong person

Nevertheless, recruiters still struggle to find the right people. And, as many companies prioritize diversity hiring, recruiting teams are seeking new ways to overcome unconscious bias and give every candidate a fair shot. 

Job simulations offer an effective way to add objectivity to the hiring process, as well as verify a candidate has the right mix of skills to perform successfully in the role. Here are how job simulations work and ways to add a job simulation to your recruiting process. 

What are job simulations?

A job-related simulation is a recruiting test that mimics the real responsibilities and tasks an employee would perform in the role. Online job simulation assessments allow a hiring team to assess the degree to which a candidate is prepared to take on the role in question. 

Sometimes known as work simulation assessments, job simulations can come in many different formats. Their purpose is to provide more insight into a candidate’s capabilities than a cover letter or CV can offer. In a job market where résumés are unreliable, job simulations even the playing field for all candidates. 

Likewise, talent simulation online assessments offer an overall better candidate experience. Offering many of the same benefits as realistic job previews, allowing candidates to self-select out of the hiring process if the simulation isn’t something they enjoy. And, by most accounts, ​​candidates appreciate the opportunity to showcase what makes them great at their job

Job simulations can lead to better hires, reducing hiring costs and employee turnover costs. Here’s why companies are increasingly adding job simulations to their recruiting processes. 

Why should they be part of the hiring process?

Job simulations add a new dimension to a candidate’s job application. In addition to understanding more about a candidate’s background, hiring teams can validate whether a candidate is prepared to take on the role’s responsibilities. 

Cover letters and resumes all provide an incomplete picture of a potential new hire. At worst, all that these documents tell you is that a candidate has figured out how to beat an applicant tracking system using the right keywords. At best, a recruiter gets a list of past experiences — but no verifiable insight into the skills and expertise the candidate has developed along the way. The job simulation assessment process gives hiring teams an opportunity to see what candidates can really do. 

Visual lockup of vervoe's on-the-job simulator which uses ai
Some, on-the-job siumlators like Vervoe, use AI to screen the results of a skill test

Job simulations can also eliminate some of the unconscious bias in the hiring process that prevents well-qualified, diverse candidates from being hired. Job simulations evaluate candidates based on skill, not educational background, religion, or other characteristics irrelevant to the job description. 

And, some on-the-job simulators, like Vervoe, use AI to screen the results of a skill test — rather than having a recruiter rank candidates manually. Recruiters may see hundreds of resumes for a single open position; at that scale, there’s no way each application can be reviewed carefully. Job simulations eliminate the need for bias-based shortcuts while verifying what a candidate can really do. 

And, finally, job simulations offer candidates a small preview of what it’s really like to take on the role. A job simulation sets clear expectations of what the job entails. When expectations match reality, new employees are likely to have higher job satisfaction. And, if they decide the job isn’t right for them, great — at least the company doesn’t have to start the recruitment cycle all over again. 

Types of job simulations

Job simulations come in many different forms. In figuring out which job simulation to use, consider the unique role for which you are designing a simulation. The job simulation assessment process is also contingent on your remote hiring practices, the other stages of the hiring process, hiring budget, and hiring goals. Here are a few of the most common types of job simulation test examples. 

In-basket exercises 

An in-basket test is a type of job simulation that tests how well a candidate can complete a task in a certain amount of time. This type of job simulation gets its name from previous decades in which an employee would have an actual in-box (in-basket) on their desk where managers would leave tasks to be completed. 

“Many in-box exercises are intended to test how well a potential employee can organize and tackle assignments, from understanding the scope of an assigned task to planning and executing the individual initiatives. In the process, hiring managers can see how well the applicant manages their workflow,” the experts at The Balance Careers write.

Typically, in-basket exercises are best suited for administrative positions or managerial positions in which the candidate needs to be well organized. In-basket exercises are also a good way to test project management skills without getting too in the weeds. 

Situational judgment tests

A situational judgment test (SJT) assesses a candidate’s decision-making and thought processes by introducing theoretical work-related scenarios. These types of tests are ideal for customer service-related roles and leadership positions. For instance, an SJT may present a scenario in which an angry customer demands a refund for which they are not eligible; the candidate will have to choose from a series of options on how they would defuse the situation. 

Skill assessments

Skill assessments, sometimes known as work sample tests, are a type of work simulation assessment that mimics actual tasks a candidate would perform on the job. Skill tests are tailored based on each role and on the needs of the team hiring the new candidate. Hiring teams can combine different types of questions to get a 360-degree view of how a candidate will perform in different scenarios.

There are many ways to set up a skills test, depending on the position for which you are hiring. Pre-employment skills tests can cover a range of positions: administrative assistant, finance and accounting, and call center reps are just a few roles that companies hire for using skills assessments.

Some companies focus on questions that are task-related, e.g. “Create a Powerpoint Slide that has a video embedded in the presentation”. Questions can get hyper-specific to test a niche skill, like a coding language, or be posed more broadly to test the general requirements for success at a certain level. Skill tests vary as much as the roles for which they are deployed. 

Live simulations

Live simulations may include one or some combination of role-playing, group interview, presentation, or case study. Live simulations often take place in a virtual room or in-person at the office. The goal is to see how candidates approach problem-solving, use their soft skills as well as hard skills, and understand the role. Group interviews, for instance, can reveal who has leadership skills, who tends to work independently, or who might be good in a client-facing role. 

Live simulations may be a little difficult to manage if your team is hiring remotely. Some companies have started gravitating more toward video interviewing, which can accomplish the same goals as role-playing in person — but even the playing field for those who can’t be there in person. 

Take-home assignments

Rather than use a timed skill test or live simulation, some companies prefer to give candidates every advantage with a take-home assignment. Take-home assignments do need to be completed within a certain deadline, but candidates benefit from completing the task in their own environment and on their own schedule. Some experts believe this is a less accurate job simulation. However, if you’re seeking to see how someone works independently and without hands-on management, take-home assignments can be a good strategy. 

How do job simulations work?

While job simulations can take many forms, they all have a few commonalities that make them work. First, they are immersive: a candidate must really feel what it’s like to perform the tasks and responsibilities of the role. The simulation can be two hours or a full day in the office. No matter the duration, give employees the space to try the job on for size and see if it’s a good fit.

Second, job simulations match the job description. For a job simulation to work, it must be consistent with the job description for which the candidate has applied. A job simulation should test the specific requirements. For instance, if you’re seeking someone with InDesign skills, make sure an InDesign task is included in the simulation. 

Finally, simulation tests are more objective. Interviews and resume reviews open the door for unconscious bias. Simulations tests can even the playing field for all candidates. “Simulations, especially web-based simulations, ensure that every applicant is going through the same evaluation process. Applicants all see the same test. They also ensure that every applicant is being evaluated, or scored, in the same way. The scoring engines are not biased by personal preferences,” one testing expert writes.

There are a few ways to make sure candidates are set up for success before they begin the job simulation. 

  • Send clear instructions and what to expect before a candidate begins the simulation.
  • Explain what the simulation will be used for and how it fits into the rest of the hiring process. 
  • For virtual tests or interviews, make sure the candidate has the technology and connection required to complete the test with ease.

These characteristics are only part of what makes job simulations so effective. Another facet? Where to use job simulations in the recruitment process. 

Where to use job simulations in the recruitment process

Job simulations typically come at one of two different points in the hiring process. When you use a job simulation depends on the type of job simulation format you choose. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, which we’ll break down now.

Job simulations as a screening tool 

Harvard Business Review research shows that some job simulations, such as skill tests, should come early in the hiring process. According to their study, “Many service companies, including retailers, call centers, and security firms, can reduce costs and make better hires by using short, web-based tests as the first screening step. Such tests efficiently weed out the least-suitable applicants, leaving a smaller, better-qualified pool to undergo the more costly personalized aspects of the process.”

Job simulations can be a highly effective screening tool. Situational judgment tests, skill tests, and other types of role-specific tests allow hiring teams to weed out those who do not have the talent to perform at the level required. Candidates will likewise be grateful for the chance to try out a role before spending too much time in the vetting process. 

The best part? Job simulations can be used to screen candidates in, not out. Vervoe’s algorithm ranks candidates based on how well they performed, rather than filtering out someone who hasn’t achieved a certain benchmark. The top candidates easily rise to the top, but no one misses out on being considered for the next round. When used early in the hiring process, skill tests can select a more diverse pool of applicants to continue onto the next phase.

Job simulations as a final step

Live simulations and even in-basket exercises are often best suited as the final stage of the hiring process. These job simulations connect clients with existing team members. As a result, you want to prioritize shortlisted candidates for these types of tests. 

Leaving an in-depth job simulation (or realistic job preview) for later in the hiring process means that recruiting teams don’t spend time creating simulations for candidates that aren’t serious contenders. By this stage, it’s also probable that the candidate is serious about the role. If the job description is accurate and the candidate has asked questions along the way, the tasks in a job simulation should come as no surprise. 

Some companies use a combination of jobs simulations during the recruiting process. For instance, a skill assessment can be used to create a candidate shortlist. Following the interview, a group interview can allow top candidates to interact with members of the hiring team. There are many tools and platforms that make incorporating job simulations easy. 

How to incorporate job simulations into your hiring process

Job simulations are becoming more common across industries. Companies like Boeing, Ford, and Humana are using job simulations to predict the success of new employees with high probability. 

At HSBC, job simulations are used following the resume screen and before job interviews. Depending on the position, HSBC uses online skill assessments to determine if the applicant is qualified for the role. “You can take the assessments at any time within a fixed number of days, as specified in the email. You should complete some of the practice questions supplied before you begin, and start the assessments only when you are sure you can give them your undivided attention,” recommends the bank’s recruiting page

Software developers have been performing job simulations for years in the form of coding tests. But recently, some companies have been expanding their coding tests to include non-technical questions. Triplebyte is a recruiting company that specializes in finding software developers with “all-around programming know-how.” The company’s job simulations go beyond traditional coding to evaluate general programming abilities using a clear, transparent scoring system. This helps candidates self-select out of the process as well as provides a better candidate experience. 

Vervoe’s Assessment Library offers an easy way to build custom job simulations for any role. Recruiters can create assessments tailored specifically to the role, starting with a base template from our library of over 300 validated assessments. Or, a recruiter can start with a job title, like “Copywriter”, to generate a job simulation from scratch and be prompted with the right skills and questions to use. 

Final thoughts

​​Job simulations offer an easy way to save money on recruiting costs, lower employee turnover, and create a great candidate experience. Whether you use a simulation as a screening tool, following the final interview, or both, you’re offering the candidate an opportunity to try the role on for size before signing the contract. And, with tools like Vervoe, setting up a job simulation has never been easier.

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