Navigating Digital Assessments: How to Test Tech Skills in Remote Interviews

Proficiency with digital technology is a requisite part of many jobs. Even if the role itself doesn’t directly require robust tech skills, there will almost certainly be digital aspects of the work that require prior knowledge.

It’s the easiest thing in the world for a candidate to say, yes. I know how to BLANK, and BLANK, and BLANK.

It’s a little harder to test that knowledge in an interview— particularly when said interview is fully remote. If you are trying to fill a position that involves significant tech skills, this can be a difficult barrier to surpass.

In this article, we talk about how you can effectively perform digital assessments in a remote work environment.

Determining the Need for a Complex Skills Assessment

It’s worth stating on the front end that not every tech-related skill requires a complex assessment. If, for example, you are hiring for a position that requires familiarity with a sales-specific tech stack, it may be enough to chat a little bit about their previous CRM experience. You may even decide that it will be easy enough to train an otherwise skilled candidate on how to use your existing system.

It gets more complicated for complex jobs. Programmers, Engineers, and ethical hackers. For these professionals, it is important to get a clear understanding of what they can do. The evaluations that we describe below can help you respectfully and effectively learn more about your applicant’s skills and work history.

Pose a Work-Specific Scenario

This is a pretty standard job interview assessment that applies well to tech skill evaluations. Have your candidate solve a situation they might legitimately encounter on the job. For example, if you are hiring a web developer, you might ask them to debug a snippet of code.

They can do this work in real time. You can easily supervise the process through screen-sharing technology.

Ask Them to Explain Concepts

Getting candidates to explain technical concepts will give you a better sense of how well they understand them. Better yet, this assessment also gives you a chance to view their communication skills, while also giving you a sense of their personality.

While interview interactions should always be taken with a grain of salt— candidates are simultaneously at their best, and their most uncomfortable— taking a tiered approach will provide a more complete picture of the person you are talking to.

Test Collaboration

If the role being filled is collaborative, your assessment should be as well. Consider setting up shortlisted candidates for assessment projects that involve collaborating with your existing team members. Not only will this show you how well the candidate works in a group setting, but it will also make the onboarding transition easier should they eventually be hired.

Bringing in team members also provides valuable third-party feedback, giving you the opportunity to bounce thoughts about candidates off your coworkers.

Naturally, this approach will not be appropriate for every interview— your staff most certainly does not have time to run practice scenarios with fifteen applicants. Reserve this assessment for final interviews.

Ground Rules

Interview assessments are tricky not just because you need to strategically pose them in a way that helps you better understand the candidate, but also because you yourself want to make a good impression. Keep in mind that the person on the other side of the screen may eventually be a coworker.

You don’t want to alienate them or make them feel uncomfortable. To successfully get the information you need while still keeping things friendly:

Keep the assessment short: This isn’t a work session. Give them a task that can be completed in an hour or less. If you choose a sensible assessment, that should be enough time to get a good sense of their skills without taking too much of their time. If you are hiring someone for a complex position, a skills test of up to three hours may be appropriate. Any longer than that is usually looked upon unfavorably by candidates.

Make the task challenging, but work-specific: The task does not need to be easy in order to be interview-appropriate. However, it should closely simulate an actual workplace scenario. It can be tempting to use the interview as a way of piloting convoluted concepts that showcase the candidate's ability to think on their feet. However, it’s generally better to keep things straightforward but open enough for the applicant to showcase their personality.

Follow the assessment up with dialogue: You also want to give the applicant the opportunity to debrief following their assessment. Ask them questions that allow them to apply their expertise to the “situation.” Not only will this further allow you to assess their ability, but it will also establish that you take employee perspectives seriously.

Interviews do not have to be inherently awkward. As the person issuing the assessment, it is largely your job to set the tone. Keep it friendly, and give your candidate the space they need to strut their stuff comfortably.

Andrew Deen