Technology and The Corporate Mindset

Computer Guy memeI recently had the opportunity to evaluate an entry-level technology test for a large national organization.

The test is comprised of six parts:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 proficiency
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Accuracy
  • 10-key dexterity
  • Typing speed

Of these six tests, only one is used to determine whether a candidate will be considered for employment.

Test One:

Windows 7, although still supported by Microsoft until January 2020, is now three generations out-of-date.  But give them credit for not using Windows XP.

The first rule of this test is you cannot use the function keys (F1 through F12), which makes no sense.  The function keys, the Windows key, Alt, Ctrl, and the context menu key were created because Bill Gates hated the mouse.  He wanted a way to do everything faster and more efficiently from the keyboard.

For an employer to require a potential employee to perform tasks using the slowest possible method seems incredibly counter-productive.

The test is administered in a simulated Windows 7 environment.  As a result, many of the tasks assigned could not be completed using real-world methods.  The simulator would only accept correct answers limited to pre-programmed parameters.  So even though there are multiple methods within Windows 7 for completing a task without using the function keys, the simulator would accept only one method as the correct answer.

Other elements of this test also made no sense.  There are administrative tools, such as the Windows Control Panel and Run command, that an employee should never be able to access.  These should be the exclusive domain of the IT department.  And yet, the simulator required participants to make alterations in these areas.

Other tasks in this test were very rudimentary.  They involved creating and naming/renaming folders and files, as well as a few other basic functions.

Test Two:

The spelling test consisted of nothing more than identifying the correctly spelled word from four choices.  For example:

  1. Antidisistablishmentarianism
  2. Antidisestablishmentarianism
  3. Antidisestablishmantarianism
  4. Antidesistablishmentarianism

However, as I write this, three of the choices are underscored with a wavy red line.  The spell checker automatically identifies the incorrect options.  In an office setting where the computer is the primary instrument for creating written documents, a person’s ability to spell correctly is less important than the ability to utilize the available technology tools.

Again, this is not a real-world test of a person’s ability to do assigned work for this particular company.

Test Three:

The grammar section is almost identical to the previous test.  Four variations of the same sentence are presented.  Pick the best choice.

The majority of these questions were poorly worded.  But selecting the correct answer was more a process of elimination than identifying the grammatically correct option.

Test Four:

Compare two items to determine if they are identical or not:

  • 4789911.1
  • 478991.11

This is a timed test.  Answer as quickly as possible.

Okay, do you want fast or do you want accurate?  You don’t get both.  In business, you want accurate.

Test Five:

This test uses the 10-key pad section of a standard computer keyboard.  Simply input the lists of numbers displayed on screen as quickly as possible.  This is not a timed test.

Accuracy scores more points than speed.

Test Six:

This is the worst test and the one that counts more towards potentially being hired by this company than any other test.

The goal is to type 30 words per minute, but the test simulator is nothing like working in an actual word processing program.  This test screen is comprised of two basic windows.  The first contains a long, poorly worded paragraph and the other is a blank window where participants type what is written in the first window.

The instructions clearly state, “Do not hit the Enter key.  When you reach the end of a line, the program will automatically move to the next line.”  Got it?

Not all of the paragraph is visible.  There is a scrollbar on the side of the first window.  “Don’t hit the Enter key.”  Clicking on the scrollbar does nothing.  “Don’t hit the Enter key.” Grabbing hold of the scrollbar and trying to move it does nothing.  “Don’t hit the Enter key.”  Clicking in the paragraph window and using the mouse scroll wheel does nothing.  “Don’t hit the Enter key.”

Static Dialog Box

How do you scroll down to see the rest of the paragraph?  Hit the Enter key!

Anyone who does a large volume of typing (or gaming) uses special tactile keyboards that make loud clicking sounds as they type.  The test, however, used a $5.00, throwaway keyboard.  These are the keyboards that come with most new consumer grade computers.

These cheap keyboards go squish, not click.  This slows down even the fastest typists.

End of Test:

What do the test results say about the person taking the test?

How many words per minute a person can type under horrible conditions.  That’s the only thing the company is really concerned about.

What does this test say about the person administrating the test?

They have no idea how to do their job.  They rely upon a poorly designed test to eliminate anyone who can’t type a minimum of 30 words per minute.

The first test, computer literacy, was fair but inaccurate.  In our digitally dependent society, it’s amazing how many people still cannot work even a simple computer program.

Perhaps most of the test is designed to weed out the completely inept of potential candidates.  If so, there are better ways of testing for competency.  And better methods for conducting business.


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