Selection Methods

Why use tests?

The interview can be a less than perfect means of assessing a candidate's suitability for a particular job. There are several reasons for this.

Within a selection interview, it is difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate subjective judgements. The use of objective standardised tests helps to compare fairly the candidate with the requirements of the post.

Most jobs require a range of knowledge or aptitudes which cannot be tested properly in the interview situation alone. It is good practice to look for other sources of evidence to support the claims made by candidates in their applications and interviews.

Selection tests should not be used as an alternative to the interview, but rather to supplement that process. If selection tests are to be used it is important to give candidates notice of the fact, to explain a little about the nature of the test and how long it will take and to ask if any special arrangements are necessary to accommodate a disability. Some forms of tests may unfairly discriminate against people with certain disabilities.

When tests are used it is crucial that notes relating to the test are kept with the interview notes for six months after the selection.

Types of Assessment and Selection Tests

These should be designed to gather information about the ability of the short-listed candidates to carry out the specific duties of the post by testing aspects of the Person Specification, which cannot easily be evaluated by interview or reference.

Internal and external candidates should be treated equally and invited to take part in all the selection exercises.

Nature of the Post Selection Exercise
Academic/ Teaching post Candidates could be asked to deliver a seminar, Workshop or give a departmental presentation
Research posts Candidates could be asked to give a short presentation to the selection panel or write a report
Clerical posts Candidates could be asked to complete a speed typing test and/or an exercise on one of the Microsoft packages e.g. Word or Excel. An 'in-tray' exercise could be used to test other job-related skills such as prioritising, organising workload, communication skills e.g. letter or memo writing.
Technical posts Candidates could be asked to set up a particular test or to do some fault diagnosis on a test and suggest possible causes and methods of rectifying them.
Manual posts A practical test could be used to assess an individual's skills on a relevant aspect of the job
Posts involving finance Candidates could be asked to interpret financial information or to complete a numeracy skills test.
Posts that require supervisory skills Candidates could be asked to take part in a supervisory role play.
Professional/Management posts Candidates could be asked to prepare a report, analyse information, give a presentation on a relevant subject, role play or case study.

In setting up and running selection exercises the following principles apply:


There should be a clear understanding of what is being tested and what status the test/exercise has within the overall selection process; it should not be a straight pass or fail but should be considered alongside all the other information gleaned from all the other selection methods.

If the test / exercise involves using a software package, experience of using that specific software package must be an essential selection criteria for the post;

Where appropriate, selection tests/exercises must be adapted for a candidate with a disability. For further guidance on this contact HR.

The test/exercise must be properly planned in advance and each candidate given information on what is involved and sufficient time for any preparation required, this is particularly important in relation to disabled candidates.

The test/exercise must not be biased in favour or internal candidates; it should not test local knowledge e.g. internal procedures.

Objective criteria should be used in the assessment and all information relating to that should be reported in a standard and consistent format to the interview panel.

If there are any factors which may have influenced a candidate's performance e.g. interruptions, medical conditions etc these should be reported to the panel.


Candidates should be given as much information as possible about the expected focus of the presentation, linking this to the criteria shown in the person specification e.g. where an appointee is being sought with a research track record or with research potential, candidates might be asked to deliver a presentation 'on a topic related to your current or future research interests';

Candidates should be provided with information about the intended audience, the expected length of the presentation and the facilities available.

Objective criteria should be set to assess presentations for potential lecturer's e.g. academic content, clarity of expression, ability to adjust content to audience and enthusiasm for the subject.

Skills Tests:

All tests should be given with clear, unambiguous instructions;

Tests should be uniformly administered i.e. by the same person, in the same circumstances, with the same instructions and with the same time limits.

The person administering the test must be made aware of their responsibilities. They must not attempt to 'interview' the candidate or obtain information from them.

The selection methods must be notified to the Recruitment Team. This will ensure that short-listed candidates are informed about the selection process in their invitation to interview letter.

Last updated Jun 2009 (Kate Jenner)
Review Date Sept 2014

Lancaster University
LancasterLA1 4YW United Kingdom
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