Online assessments

More and more companies are turning to online assessments to select the right talent for their company (Diercks 2020). For example, the donors' association for the promotion of sciences and humanities in Germany predicts that the use of digital selection tests and digital psychometric mini-games will increase by 82% by 2023.


Definition: Online assessment

Online assessment (also e-assessments) refers to internet-based aptitude diagnostic procedures for predicting occupationally relevant variables for estimating the aptitude of applicants (Konradt & Sarges 2003).

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Contents and fields of application of online assessments

The composition of the test procedures in an online assessment is derived from the job profile. Consequently, the procedures are tailored to the respective job profile and range from job-related personality tests to tests of cognitive abilities (e.g. intelligence and concentration tests).

Online assessments are mainly used in the pre-selection of applicants and serve to select suitable candidates from a large group of applicants (Ott, Ulfert & Kersting, 2017). However, they are also frequently used as a supplementary diagnostic component in the context of professional and scientific personnel selection, for example by conducting a cognitive performance test in addition to the personal interview. In addition to personnel selection, online assessments are also increasingly used in the area of career counseling. For instance, they are used in the form of self-tests of personal interests or in potential analyses.

Do online assessments have the potential to completely replace on-site selection tests? Time to take a closer look at the pros and cons of online assessments!

Online assessments: These are the advantages!

1. Objectivity and validity

Companies receive an objective and valid assessment basis for the competencies of applicants specified in the job profile. Due to the standardized test procedure and computer-based evaluation, the test results are independent of subjective, distorting influences such as perceived sympathy for applicants (so-called “unconscious bias“).

2. Economic efficiency:

Companies benefit from potential time and cost savings. This is because personal selection days and assessment centers are usually very time-consuming and expensive. This means, for example, that high travel and accommodation costs are usually involved, and the support of applicants on the selection day usually ties up valuable personnel resources. In addition, coordination efforts are reduced, especially through connections to existing applicant management systems (Applicant Tracking System, or ATS for short).

3. Applicant acceptance:

With online assessments, applicants benefit in particular from a high degree of flexibility: taking the test in the morning or in the afternoon, at home in the office or in a vacation home in Spain – this decision is usually up to the applicant. The tests are often designed in such a way that they can be easily performed on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. This means that the methods increasingly follow the idea of zero-footprint measurement – a burden for the participant practically no longer exists. This takes pressure out of the testing situation and makes for a more pleasant testing atmosphere. Consequently, applicants are usually very positive about online selection processes. This is especially important for game-based assessments the case. This refers to playfully prepared test procedures, in the form of psychometrically developed mini-games, which are used to measure cognitive, social and personality-based characteristics. Packed into appealing mini-games, online assessments are actually a lot of fun.

4. Instrument of employer branding:

To position themselves as an attractive employer for a young target group in today’s battle for high potentials, companies must create a positive applicant experience. For this to succeed, they need to better understand the needs of a new generation, such as their desire for digital and flexible solutions. Used correctly and consistently aligned with the needs of the target group, digital selection tests and mini-games consequently have the potential not only to select the right talent, but also to serve as a valuable employer branding tool (Kupka, Müller & Dierks 2010).

Online assessments: These are the disadvantages!


Fraud risk

While applicants are under continuous observation during an on-site selection process, they are generally unobserved during online assessments. Unsurprisingly, this also increases the risk of fraud. Applicants can either use unauthorized aids or ask other people for help. When choosing providers of online assessments, it is important to ensure that they use advanced technologies for reliable and accurate detection of fraudulent behavior insert.

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Lack of human fit

Hire an applicant without seeing him or her in person? This is out of the question for many HR managers. Because in addition to the technical fit, the human fit always plays a role, of course. After all, the new applicant should also fit into the team and the company. It is still best to find out whether this is the case in a personal conversation. But online selection processes and a personal selection interview are by no means mutually exclusive. Online selection procedures, for example, are rarely used for the final selection of applicants (so-called positive selection). Instead, these are primarily intended to recognize and sort out non-suitable candidates (this is also referred to as negative selection).

So instead of making a final decision based on the test result, a group of applicants should be pre-selected who have the competencies defined in the job profile. Positive selection continues to take place in the downstream selection stages, which are generally performed by humans.


The observation shows: Increased scientific and economic efficiency through leaner and faster processes are not mutually exclusive! Especially if potential stumbling blocks such as fraud risks are taken into account, online selection processes enable accurate, fair and cost-effective personnel (pre)selection.


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