Multitasking tests can be a great way to ensure candidates can handle daily life in certain roles. Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, can also take a toll on productivity.
It is, however a difficult quality to measure. Asking a candidate to give you examples of times they’ve had to multi-task doesn’t demonstrate a skill, it just tests someone’s interview preparedness. A multitasking test will help you to understand someone’s capability in this area. However, as this post will reveal, not all multi-tasking tests are created equal.
What is multitasking?
Multitasking is commonly known as the ability to complete several tasks simultaneously. This definition is, however, contentious and there is evidence to suggest that the human brain doesn’t actually multi-task, rather it just switches between tasks quickly. Putting neuroscience to one side for a second, whether our definition incorporates an ability to switch tasks quickly or to run them concurrently, multi-tasking in a broad sense can be a valuable skill for us to possess.
Many roles that require multitasking go unnoticed. Take the call centre worker for example. This employee needs to speak on the phone dealing with a customer’s problem whilst simultaneously logging details into a computer screen, solving the problem whilst explaining the information back to the customer. If they are unable to do all of these tasks at once they will be ineffective at the job.
Multitask testing provides employers with the means to evaluate how effective a candidate is at switching contexts and their ability to mentally juggle multiple tasks at once; a really valuable tool in the pre-employment assessment phase.
How to Test Multitasking Skills
1. Know the role
It is helpful to know exactly the type of tasks that the employee will need to juggle. Is it a role that involves communicating directly with customers whilst solving problems? Or is it a mix of digital and physical tasks? Do they need to be able to avoid or manage distractions?
The most accurate assessments are contextual. i.e. set within a real-life setting. It matters what tasks someone will be doing so measuring the exact skills and behaviour is always the best approach. Knowing the job role thoroughly will help to design the most effective multitasking assessment
2. Determine the most appropriate style of test for the role
Tests should be tailored to the actual responsibilities of the role, but they also need to consider the candidate journey. When in the recruitment process will candidates be tested? At the start, or mid-way through? Knowing this may determine what type of test you want to create and the medium of delivering it.
Multi-tasking tests can be delivered online through a work simulation pre-hire assessment, other times it’s best to assess it in person via a role-play exercise. First, identify what types of multi-tasking shows up in the context of the role. Is it simultaneous communication and data entry, or perhaps it’s visual identification, attention to detail and customer-service?
3. Evaluative Assessment
Your test should involve each candidate having to focus on completing a number of tasks simultaneously. This may involve tasks overlapping with specific time intervals and task switching. By comparing how long it takes for people to get everything done, you can measure the cost in time for switching tasks. You can then also assess how different aspects of the tasks, such as complexity or familiarity, affect any extra time cost of switching.
This should provide a sound evaluation of the candidate’s ability to juggle tasks under pressure. Our online pre-hire assessment tool automatically enables multi-tasking questions that create artificial pressure through time penalties or inaccuracies.
4. Let the candidate experience the role
Personalised job simulations and automated work samples have the added benefit of providing a realistic job preview for candidates as part of the assessment. This will be more effective than just giving candidates a generic multitasking test as it will also give them an insight as to what the role will involve. This offers them the opportunity to decide if the role is really suited to them as an individual.
5. Involve a memory component
Research suggests that people who are good at multitasking tend to have a better prospective memory. Prospective memory involves remembering to perform a particular task at some point in the future. In a work context, this may be things like replying to an email or remember to conduct health and safety procedures. Of course, prospective memory can also be a highly valuable skill for employees to possess, therefore testing someone’s multitasking capability can bring a correlative benefit.
Selecting candidates with strong prospective memory abilities can be valuable in environments where there are few reminders for tasks to be performed such as startup or unstructured workplaces.
6. Keep it basic
Multitasking tests shouldn’t require any pre-requisite training or domain knowledge. In fact, it’s important to check that your test doesn’t benefit candidates with previous domain expertise. Your test provider should be able to help you with validating that either before or shortly after a test has been activated.
7. Score it Objectively
Where possible tests should be objectively scored. Meaning that it shouldn’t involve personal opinions or thoughts. Scoring consistency is easier to achieve via online assessments rather than in-person assessments with a manual scoring element. The best selection methods combine the objectivity of an online assessment with an in-person subjective assessment, however, it’s important that these tests are measuring the same things in a relatively similar way.
8. Weighted Scoring
The final thing to consider is how much emphasis you want someone’s ability to multi-task to have in the overall selection decision. Although a critical skill it usually needs to be considered alongside your other desired attributers in your ideal candidate profile. Knowing this is critical to making better hiring decisions, after all no role consists of pure multi-tasking, it’s also important to be good at the separate tasks involved!
Testing a candidates ability to multi-task for certain roles can be crucial. For example, losing just a half-second of time to task switching can make a life or death difference to an air traffic controller or a driver. On a more generic note, the impact of slow task switching can negatively impact someone’s productivity if they are switching tasks constantly over the course of a working day.
Multitask testing in the pre-employment stages should make your selection decisions, for the roles where it is essential, much easier by unlocking information what you can’t easily get from a conventional interview. It will enable you to get a valuable insight into the skills of a candidate, which are usually only revealed once employed.
If you need any assistance with multitask testing, please get in touch with us here at ThriveMap. Our real-life assessments will help you conduct an effective and informative multitasking test for any job roles you need to fill.