An Assessment Test That Is Hands-On

I’m used to thinking of assessments as being paper and pencil exercises — or the online equivalent. A more modern type of assessment is an online game or simulation; and these are indeed useful tools for measuring traits and abilities.

OptiTest Assessment Machine

However, it only makes sense that an assessment for mechanical skills would involve hardware rather than paper or computers. I got a huge kick out of the Optitest assessment for mechanical skills, in part because it is so different from what we usually think of as an assessment test, and in part because the value is so self-evident. It’s easy to imagine someone who is great at fixing machines, but a disaster at any kind of paper and pencil test — so to test that person you want to put them in front of hardware.

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The assessment is quite straightforward. The person is shown how a machine works, then sent out of the room while the assessor disables the machine in one way or another. The person then has to fix the machine and is judged on the speed of repair and the logic of their approach.

What is interesting?

  • Most HR people live in a world of paper and computers, it’s interesting to see an assessment designed for people who spend their days with machines.

What is really important?

  • What matters is the dispersion of mechanical abilities amongst applicants (i.e. how much difference does it make to weed out poorer performers or to distinguish good from great?) If the dispersion is great then an accurate assessment has a lot of value.
  • My suspicion is that the dispersion of ability is high and that mechanical assessments of ability will be effective. It would be easy enough to get empirical data by experimenting with the test and I’d certainly be interested in seeing how that turns out. If someone has such data, let me know at

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.



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