The public sector is the biggest sponsor for pre-employment tests, whether it is the Union Public Service Commission, Banking Services Recruitment Board, University Grants Commission or Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. This year, we witnessed the Reserve Bank of India—which is one of India’s largest public sector employers—restructure its hiring and assessment process in order to “strengthen itself in the changing economic scenario.”
In recent years, recruiters have realised the importance of pre-employment testing to short-list candidates. A high-quality test is now correctly understood to be a reliable and accurate means of filtering job applicants for a role. A more rigorous selection process helps to recruit people who have a high aptitude for the role, which, in turn, reduces the cost of training new recruits and helps organisations to attract and retain employees, resulting in a more productive and satisfied workforce. Having significantly matured, assessment for pre-employment and role-advancement is now far more tuned to hiring candidates whose background, experience and personality match the overall requirement of the organisation, and not just those with the best academic credentials. Employees who are better suited to their roles are also likely to be more satisfied with their jobs.
Late last year, on the recommendation of the Administrative Reforms Commission, the ministry of personnel introduced a four-stage assessment for promotion from the state civil services to the three all-India services (Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service). Previously, promotion was on the basis of review of their seniority and annual confidential reports (ACRs) rather than a more transparent merit-based testing programme as gained through valid, scientifically-based assessment. However, much depends on the level of security and rigour of assessment tests, for them to be effective. In this case too, the new process is subject to revision after a period of three years.
Although India churns out the third-highest number of graduates in the world after China and the US, recent surveys indicate that up to 75% of graduates in India are not ‘employable’ by global standards. Add to that the fact that only 19% of engineers and an abysmal 5% of graduates from other streams are considered fit for employment. This poses a huge challenge to recruiters who struggle to find employees that possess not just knowledge of the technical aspects of a job, but also the power of critical thinking and analysis that is a mark of a high-quality employee. Corporate India has drawn attention to the significant need-gap between higher education and industrial needs in the country through bodies such as the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Industry bodies have recommended a slew of reforms, including improving the quality of higher education through PPPs and making it easier for foreign universities to set up shop in India. However, these are medium- to long-term solutions that will take at least a few more years to bear fruit. Meanwhile, companies in India will have to churn the existing talent pool for high-grade recruits. Pre-employment skills assessment can measure how a candidate matches up against every aspect of a position, from requisite skill and knowledge to personality fit, prior to hiring. It reduces turnover and minimises failed “on-the-job” deliverables promised by overly zealous, but under-qualified, job candidates.
Whilst the larger challenge is to improve the quality of teaching and learning to ensure that a much larger percentage of Indian graduates are job-ready, in the interim, companies can effectively leverage pre-employment tests as a viable means to sort through the large pool of job applicants as well as fit employees into roles most suited to them, in the course of their career. Aptitude testing and assessments are indispensable for pronouncing India’s talent on a global scale. The job market is increasingly demanding it, and having validated skills gives employees’ greater confidence, more targeted value to their employers, tangible merits to enhance promotion opportunities and higher job satisfaction.
By Wade Britt
The author is country manager, Prometric Testing Services