Well done! You are completely average. Nothing more, you’re just muddling along with the rest of the population, not doing anything particularly special. Distinctly…. average. It doesn’t feel very good to be given that label, does it? And how about I kick you when you’re a bit down already and say you’re below average? The majority of people are better than you? You should buck your ideas up, in fact, you’ve failed. Now shuffle off and don’t darken my door again please. Ouch! Harsh isn’t it, to have someone tell you how you measure up? As a recruitment testing provider the team at ISV is often asked for pass marks for our skills tests. What is a good score? What’s average or above average? These are questions that crop up on a regular basis. Our answer is always the same. We don’t set pass or benchmarks for our skills tests because who are we to say what is acceptable or what is ‘normal’? Quite simply, what is relevant for you and your client could vary hugely from someone else. What is acceptable in one job role might not be for a different position. For example; today you could be recruiting for a Marketing Executive. You need candidates to have excellent literacy and a good grasp of Microsoft programs like Word and PowerPoint. Tomorrow though, you might be sourcing a credit controller. This individual won’t be using Word as much so a very basic understanding is fine, however they will be using Excel on a daily basis. Ideally, you need someone with more advanced Excel knowledge. Suddenly the sliding scale of a pass mark or ‘good score’ changes. It really is relative to the company and job role. There is nothing worse for a candidate or colleague to be assessed in a skill set that is irrelevant to them. A) They will most likely score poorly and b) being labelled as not good enough is, as we know, a pretty nasty badge to have pinned on you. It is a knock to the confidence and, depending how the message is delivered, it’s a low point in the candidate journey. So do test candidates or colleagues only on what is relevant. Avoid selecting tests or overloading candidates just for the sake of it especially if the skill set is not appropriate for the position. Remember, as Einstein put it: “Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” On the flip side there is something quite special about knowing you’ve done well. This gives candidates something to punch the air about and they can head off for interview with a spring in their step. If you’re assigning relevant exercises, this shouldn’t be an issue. The candidate should score well and be reassured of their competency. If you are a recruitment consultant your client might want some kind of benchmark. For in-house recruiters the same goes, but here you have access to existing colleagues. Why not benchmark these colleagues or teams? Find out what the average is and what good looks like for your company (or client) or the specific position. Of course, for some assessments where safety plays a part, it is necessary to have a pass mark. Food Hygiene for example; you wouldn’t want a candidate working in a kitchen if they don’t know the basics of handling and storing food. The same goes for those working in construction or those who are hands on with hazardous materials. This is different. The message here is ‘we need you to know and understand this information before you start work, for the safety of you and those around you.’ Rather than ‘we’re passing judgement that you are below par.’ Candidate testing companies can of course provide average scores. We can access our database and share the average for our basic bookkeeping test (62% if you’re wondering) or our mixed ability Excel test (53%) for example. Given that thousands of these tests are taken on a weekly basis, by candidates whose skills are spread along a wide spectrum, it doesn’t mean much. The results are likely to be skewed to a very middling (average) number. That said, testing providers who know their market can advise on what is considered a competent score and what to look out for. In recruitment testing, be wary of companies who set out benchmarks for you. It’s up to you to decide what’s appropriate. But do seek guidance by benchmarking existing employees and working with your provider. And please do consider what skills you are testing and how the scoring message is delivered. No candidate should be made to feel like a fish climbing a tree. ***** ISV.Online is the leading supplier of skills testing software and services to the UK Recruitment Industry. Used by 9 of the top 10 UK agencies, by number of offices, and 7 of the top 10, by revenue, ISV.Online offers candidate skills assessment and evaluation software and online training tools, allowing agencies and in-house HR/recruitment teams to validate the skills of potential candidates and existing employees across a wide range of areas.