Should you offer your assessments on mobile devices?

Man with laptop and phone
Achim Preuss
Managing Director
cut-e
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If you use psychometric assessments to recruit or develop your staff, you’ll no doubt be wondering whether you should offer your tests on mobile devices.

The answer will depend on two questions: will your candidates want to complete assessments via their mobile devices? And will your assessments work effectively in a mobile environment?

Today, nearly everyone has a smartphone that is capable of running assessments. Gone are the days when we all wanted a smaller phone; manufacturers are now producing models with ever-larger screen sizes. Tablets, too, are growing. Apple’s iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch display and some two-in-one detachable tablets, such as Microsoft’s Surface Book, have a 13.5-inch display.

The advantage of these devices is that they’re light and portable. Plus they’re always on, like a smartphone, so you don’t have wait while the operating system boots up. Some tasks, such as reading e-books, are more conducive on a tablet than a traditional PC. 

So the hardware is in place. Your candidates are not only likely to have a smartphone and a tablet, they’re also likely to feel comfortable using these devices to conduct a range of different tasks, including searching for a new job. Offering your assessments via these devices is therefore the next logical step.

The mobile challenge

The attraction of mobile assessment is that candidates can complete your tests whenever they want. You’ll also get the results faster, which helps you to identify and recruit the right people before your competitors. 

However, creating assessments that will work effectively on mobile devices is a big challenge. You have to follow certain principles to ensure the test will assess what it’s supposed to assess; you have to work within the limitations created by different screen sizes and you have to consider how people use their devices. For example, on a smartphone, people often work in portrait orientation, whereas on a tablet, they usually prefer landscape. So any test has to be responsive. It has to adapt to the screen layout preferred by the user. That means you not only need different base designs for desktops, tablets and smartphones, you also need landscape and portrait orientations for tablets and smartphones. And not every test provider offers that.

It’s important to be clear what we mean when we’re talking about mobile assessment. Does ‘mobile’ mean that the device being used is portable or that the person completing the assessment is ‘on the move’. Yes, the latter requires the former. But taking assessments on the move can lead to distractions, which can compromise the quality of the results. For example, it’s possible to take an ability test via your smartphone on a crowded train. But you might get a lower score in that test than if you took it in a quieter, distraction-free environment.

Our lab tests have proved that candidates will achieve the same test results - regardless of whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet or desktop - if the tests are designed and adapted appropriately. It makes no difference whether you’re using a mouse or a touch screen. But this point needs to be emphasised: the tests have to be designed specifically to suit the device.

The candidate should suffer no disadvantage if they take your tests via a mobile device.

Every organisation needs to ensure that its tests are fair to all participants, regardless of their education, culture, age, disabilities or gender. The candidate should suffer no disadvantage if they take your tests via a mobile device. So, while it is technically possible to run assessments on smartphones, you may question whether you should offer this for ‘high stakes’, time-critical tests such as numerical reasoning. 

That creates a new responsibility for you as the employer. Importantly, you can now decide which tests candidates can take on which device. So, for example, you could allow ‘low stakes’ assessments - such as pre-selection job previews or career choice support - to be completed on any device and you can specify that high stakes assessments can only be taken via a tablet, laptop or desktop but not via a smartphone. This helps to create a level playing field, as you’re ensuring that your applicants take your tests under similar testing conditions. Good practice is to allow candidates to practise any test before starting it for real and to offer advice on how they can to prepare for and complete the test most effectively.

Technical considerations

Some test providers will say that their HTML tests will work on a tablet. Yes, you might be able to view their tests on a tablet but they may not have been optimised for a mobile environment. Classic HTML is fine for static documents but it was not designed for dynamic applications. At cut-e, we use AngularJS, a toolset supported by Google that addresses the shortcomings of HTML and simplifies the development of advanced HTML5 applications. 

Another consideration is whether you should use a ‘native app’ - that users can download from iTunes or other app stores - or a ‘web app’, where the browser plays the test. The former requires users to install an app on their device, which can be annoying; the latter allows users to simply click and start. 

HR teams will want a full report on the results but the candidate may only want relevant feedback and the implications of their results.

There are also issues around capturing the results of mobile assessments, compiling these and presenting them in a meaningful way. HR teams will want a full report on the results but the candidate may only want relevant feedback and the implications of their results. All reports need to be presented in a mobile-friendly format.

Clearly, several factors need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether or not you should offer assessments on mobile devices. Essentially, you should only do so if the tests have been specifically designed, optimised and developed for mobile use - and if you can control which devices are used for which test.

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