Job candidates are expected to talk up their IT skills during the interview process but, when they can't deliver on their promises, the result can be a costly and time consuming appointment disaster.
Software development and IT services company MMT has slashed the time and cost of recruiting technical staff by making candidates sit online skills tests from TeckCheck as part of its recruitment process.
"In terms of assessing technical ability TeckCheck has been spot on," said Peter Gentry, group infrastructure manager at MMT. "It isn't the panacea to perfect recruitment but it eliminates some of the risk."
But although the TeckCheck software helps assess technical proficiency, MMT admits that it is no guarantee for a match made in heaven. Some 10 per cent of the 50 IT personnel taken on by the company over the last 18 months didn't work out because of cultural issues.
"You expect candidates to talk up their capabilities but there have been occasions where they talked them up too much and couldn't deliver," Gentry said.
MMT pays an annual £20,000 fee for access to TeckCheck's online assessments across a variety of technical skills including Visual Basic programming, Oracle development and internet-based skills such as Java and ASP. Tests take approximately 45 minutes and the results are posted up immediately.
Although unwilling to put a figure on the cost savings, Gentry described the decision to use TeckCheck as a "no-brainer".
In-house technical staff are no longer pulled off projects to conduct interviews, devise tests and analyse results, a process that Gentry describes as time consuming and extremely subjective.
"Resources were not being used effectively and we weren't guaranteed a suitably qualified technical recruit at the end of the lengthy process," he explained.
There's also the cost benefit of not taking on the wrong person. "We've done the cost benefit analysis and didn't hesitate," Gentry said. "When recruiting technical personnel we need to ensure that they are the most suitable and competent people so we can deliver to our client's expectations. It is estimated that the cost of a bad hire is approximately £60,000."
But the need for skills assessment software suggests that technical certification is failing to provide employers with the rubber stamp of approval they need.
"A lot of accreditation schemes are very theoretical," said TechCheck business development director David Beer. "Certification means an individual can do the exam, but it doesn't necessarily mean they can do the job."
It is a criticism that some companies have taken to heart. Earlier this year Microsoft changed its Windows 2000 MCSE certification track following concerns that the exams did not properly reflect the skill sets needed by today's developers.
"One of the biggest issues facing us is making sure that we're arming people with the right skills to tackle the issues facing our largest customers," said Robert Stewart, general manager of Microsoft's training and certification division.
Beer stressed that TechCheck did not recommend that the software be used in isolation to recruit technical staff. "But we have a number of clients which take the view that the only important thing about contractors is: 'Does he know the programme and can he start on Monday?'," he said.
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