Situational Judgement Test: How to Create Your Own

9 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 10 November 2020

A job candidate’s resume and first impression at an interview can only tell you so much about who they are. While resumes can be beneficial to collect preliminary information, the self-selected history of prior skills and job experiences on paper cannot predict how successful they will perform at a job in your company. This discrepancy can result in bad hires that produce low quality work and impact the company’s productivity.     

How mature is your hiring process?

There are lots of things that determine a successful recruitment strategy. Is it time to figure out where your weak spots are?

95% of companies admit to making bad hiring decisions, but rest assured, this can be avoided.    

So how can you overcome the limitations of traditional candidate assessment methods and find the best fit candidate?     

A Situational Judgement Test (SJT) may be your solution. This test can help you assess a candidate’s suitability to a role and make smarter hiring decisions. 

In this post, we will explain what situational judgement tests are, discuss the benefits they can provide, and share how to create an effective test for your vacancy.

What is a situational judgement test?

A Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is a type of psychometric test designed to assess a candidates’ behavioural response to specific, hypothetical scenarios presented within the workplace.

The goal is to provide realistic insight on the candidate’s decision-making, behaviour, and other competencies expected of a position.

These tests consist of different work-related scenarios the candidate could encounter, followed by possible actions they could take. Often, the candidate will be asked to select their most and least likely response or rank the options on a scale of effectiveness. Responses are evaluated against a scoring benchmark to provide context to their scores compared to an ideal performance.     

Take a job candidate for a managerial position, for example. They can be asked to assess a scenario in which a once disciplined employee begins to display poor time management and work ethic that interferes with other members of the team.

How would they handle this? What factors would they deem most important and what outcomes would they want to achieve? This information is not available from a resume so using an SJT to glean it ahead of the interview is a better way to assess job suitability.

How to create an effective situational judgement test.

What are the benefits?

Implementing SJTs in the pre-employment stages can pay invaluable dividends for your company in the long run. SJTs measure a candidate’s soft skills that aren’t typically assessed in other psychometric tests, like verbal or numerical ability tests.

According to a survey of HR decision-makers, 39% believe that soft skill assessment tools are worth the investment to improve hiring processes. It’s useful to understand the practical behaviours of a candidate and what social skills they possess. These factors estimate job performance better than the industry knowledge that can always be taught.

30% of HR decision-makers have also said the reason for a bad hire was because the employee’s skills weren’t checked thoroughly to ensure their fit for the position and company. In turn, being able to predict job performance can reduce the chances of a bad hire.

Here are some notable benefits of using SJTs:

1. Provides realistic insight into the job position

The nature of SJTs enables employers to design scenarios that best reflect realistic experiences encountered in a particular role. Providing an opportunity for candidates to understand the expectations of a position helps them recognize the decisions they may have to make and whether or not they can perform well on the job.

Research also shows that 96% of job candidates prefer assessments that reveal insights on what the job is like and how the work culture is. This makes SJTs a mutual benefit for you and the candidate.

2. Cost-effective method for screening applicants

Using SJTs in the pre-hiring process is a quick and cost-effective method for screening applicants at a high volume. This assessment can be conveniently administered online to a large pool of candidates, therefore reducing the need for face-to-face interviews.

Additionally, SJTs provide a standardized approach to reliably assess many more of the candidate’s skills than in a single interview. SJTs can replace traditional candidate assessment methods to save the time and resources required to maintain those recruitment means.

3. Valid predictor of job performance

Given the ability to fit SJTs to your company’s values and requirements, studies have indicated that there is a correlation between the assessment and prediction of the candidate’s future job performance. This will measure the fit of the candidate’s attitude and approach to tasks of the job position before they even join, thus mitigating your risk of a bad hire.

SJTs also show higher criterion-related and incremental validity when compared to cognitive ability and personality tests. This assessment is most effective when used in competitive markets for high-volume screening of semi-skilled or lower-skilled workers.

SJTs continue to grow in popularity in many job industries, including banking, customer service, sales, and consulting. Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 corporations, such as PwC, Deloitte, the NHS, and Herbert Smith Freehills law firm, have also incorporated it into their hiring process.

How to create an effective situational judgement test.

How to Create an Effective Situational Judgement Test:

1.   Perform a job analysis

Before determining the criteria for your ideal candidate, you must gather information on the position by performing a job analysis.  A job analysis involves studying the responsibilities required of the job and the working conditions necessary to cultivate high-quality performers. Signal, our new job analysis tool can help you conduct one quickly and effectively.

Our approach at ThriveMap is to view the job role from two perspectives: the HR and recruitment team (top-down) and the person doing the job (bottom-up). HR leaders should provide details about the job description, reasons for success and new hire failure on the job, and the skills required to maintain the performance standard.

Furthermore, it’s important to ask high performers or role experts to create a job narrative that illustrates their daily experiences, responses to typical situations, and work environment.

This information is useful to personalise the scenarios of the assessment with your company’s unique challenges and appropriate behavioural responses.

2.   Capture your Ideal Candidate Profiles (ICPs)

Using your job analysis insights, create an ideal candidate profile to streamline your search in a large applicant pool.  This candidate profile can consist of must-have competencies, nice-to-have skills, and cultural expectations that best align with the position. 

For example, the must-have skills for a business analyst may include critical thinking, time management, and problem-solving. While some nice-to-have skills could be adaptability, resilience, and creativity.

Your ideal candidate profile is your blueprint to create scenarios that ensure the logistics of the position and organizational fit demands are being assessed.

3.   Design practical and realistic job scenarios

Once your ideal candidate profile is complete, you can translate those requirements into realistic assessment experiences. Come up with scenarios that are commonly encountered on the job. Be specific, but make sure to also capture the ambiguity of the event in the workplace. This approach engages the candidate’s critical thinking and decision-making skills as not all problems in the real world have a clear-cut solution.

Use the feedback from your HR leaders and role experts to create a list of actions the candidate could take. Having their specific, on-the-job insight can guide the wording of your answer choices. The word choices should reflect the thought process and emotions of an experienced member of that position. 

Additionally, it’s best to include one correct response and then a similar response that stimulates their train of thought.  While there may not be a universally correct answer to every situation, there is an answer that can be considered the most appropriate or effective based on the standards that you hold your employees to.

4.   Perform testing and validation

Create the scoring key that the SJT will be evaluated against by asking your HR leaders, role experts, and high performers to review the assessment and select their own effective response to each scenario. Their experiential input can confirm which answers are in fact the most appropriate or incorrect. 

Another approach we use here at ThriveMap involves statistical analysis. We test and validate assessments using data analysis to set the initial scoring benchmarks. As you get real-time data from your job candidates, your scoring accuracy will improve to reflect a useful predictor of job performance.

5.   Adapt to continuous feedback 

After distributing your assessments, you will receive realistic insights on which elements of your test predict success in the position. It’s important to stay updated with the evolving structure and demands of the job role and your company. This can make sure your assessments help you to find the right candidates to fulfil your hiring needs.

Adapt your SJT to continuous feedback when job changes arise. Be sure to update your assessment scenarios and responses to communicate the new behaviours and competencies that you’re looking for.

How to create an effective situational judgement test.


Traditional candidate assessment methods, such as resumes and interviews, are valuable resources that can provide insight into a job candidate’s previous work experiences. However, there are critical limitations to these methods that can prevent you from assessing the true competencies of the candidate and predicting their future job performance at your company. 

A customised situational judgement test can be your solution to gain a deeper understanding of the decisions and behaviours that a candidate will realistically carry out on the job. The scenarios presented in this candidate assessment can be tailored to the skills and experiences necessary to best match the demands of your job position and company values. 

Following our comprehensive guide above to creating an effective situational judgement test will equip you with the resources to hire smart and save time in the hiring process.

If you’re interested in creating a personalised Situational Judgement Test for your hiring needs, please contact our team at ThriveMap! Our specialists will work with you to create a transparent, authentic assessment to help you hire more effectively.

How mature is your hiring process?

There are lots of things that determine a successful recruitment strategy. Is it time to figure out where your weak spots are?


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About ThriveMap

ThriveMap creates customised assessments for high volume roles, which take candidates through an online “day in the life” experience of work in your company. Our assessments have been proven to reduce staff turnover, reduce time to hire, and improve quality of hire.

Not sure what type of assessment is right for your business? Read our guide.

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