Pre-Employment Aptitude Tests Can Fill Gaps Left by Academic Credentials in India

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The following op-ed appeared in The Hindu newspaper, and the writer is the India Country Manager for Prometric 

Academic credentials are not a safe bet in India, given the education standards. Hence, the need for sophisticated metrics

The public sector is the biggest sponsor for pre-employment tests, whether it is UPSC, Banking Service Recruitment Board, UGC or IRDA. This year, we saw the Reserve Bank of India, one of India’s largest public sector employers, restructure its hiring and assessment process.

A high-quality pre-employment aptitude test is now correctly understood to be a reliable and accurate means of filtering job applicants.

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.

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, going beyond just those with the best academic credentials.

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).

Earlier, promotion was on the basis of review of their seniority and Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) rather than a more transparent merit-based testing programme.

Make it effective

Rigorous and well-designed skills-testing not only helps organisations to attract and retain employees, but also results in a more productive and satisfied workforce.

However, much depends on the level of security and rigor of assessment tests, in order for them to be effective. In this case too, the new process is subject to revision after a period of three years.

Though India churns out the third-highest number of graduates in the world after China and US, recent surveys indicate that up to 75 per cent of graduates in India are not ‘employable’ by global standards.

This poses a huge challenge to recruiters who struggle to find employees who that possess not just knowledge of the technical aspects of a job, but 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 like the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

There is a very wide variation in the standard of teaching across India. A majority of universities and colleges do not meet the minimum criteria for infrastructure and teaching standards and a large number of institutions continue to operate without as much as accreditation. Additionally, an outdated curriculum contributes to creating this situation.

No quick fix

Industry bodies have recommended a slew of reforms, including improving the quality of higher education through private-public partnerships (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 another few years to bear fruit. In the 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. 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, in the interim, companies can effectively leverage pre-employment tests as a viable means to sort through the large pool of job applicants.

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.