Is the design of online job assessments humane?

I’m a university student in my final year, and I’m currently applying to graduate jobs. I am really confused about the way in which many companies (especially the big ones) have designed their online assessments. Most of them do not even ask for a CV/cover letter/motivation letter/academic transcript. Rather, they have an aptitude test as the first step, and just ask questions about sexual orientation/socioeconomic background etc. The problem is that if you don’t pass these psychometric tests made of “real life based questions”, you’re automatically out of the game. At first, I thought it was just me not having the right “aptitude” for that specific company (which is fine). However, after 20+ applications I still haven’t managed to pass it. I’ve asked a few friends if they are having the same difficulties, and apparently many of us are in this limbo. At this point, we started questioning if we are a group of people with absolutely no common sense and no ability whatsoever to interact with others.

It appears to me that not only these tests favour people with access to a fast connection/good laptop (many of us are not from very privileged backgrounds/areas, unfortunately), but also cancel the humane experience of looking for a job. Some of these tests involve fast paced and visually distracting games which might be hard and confusing for people with attention deficit disorders. Fortunately there are others that have the option to have a simplified experience. However, if I’m presented with a question and a set of predetermined answers I don’t find appropriate on an hypothetical real life situation, this does not imply that I will behave in this or in that way when actually facing that specific problem. I personally believe that such a depersonalising process is not beneficial to neither the company nor the person who’s applying.

I would like to discuss this topic further, and I hope to find people who know how and why hiring processes are designed in this way.


I find this a very interesting topic, @maky, even though coming from a tech background I have not noticed this so much. For what lines of work do you notice this the most, and do you have some concrete examples that stood out most prominently as depersonalising?

Sure! In the post I refer to the so-called “Big Four” consulting/accounting firms, and some medium sized financial institutions. What I’m finding depersonalising and confusing is the fact of not being valued for my professional experience, academic achievement, skills and interpersonal abilities. At some point I found myself playing the same games over and over again (it takes a lot of time to complete them, imagine for more than one application) and thinking “what am I even doing?”, because that didn’t not feel like job search at all. An example, arrows quickly appear on the screen and you have to push the key that goes in that direction- repetitive, distracting. Starting a job application answering questions about my sexual orientation and socioeconomic background also makes me (and from what I know, many of my peers) quite uncomfortable. The fact that before having a one-to-one interview, or better an assessment day when they can actually see you and how you work with others, we face aptitude tests feels really alienating. It’s not the concept of having an aptitude test that bothers me, rather the way it is formatted. If I have to choose and rate predetermined (behavioural) answers, well, that’s not really me behaving/or valuing behaviours in a certain way. It feels like being “framed” in answering in a certain way/not really having a choice. Behaviour is highly context dependent, and the context they provide is a bit superficial.

Being blocked from actually applying for a job in the usual way because of this, not having any human interaction in the process, being judged as a person by a software that gives back a pre-generated report…well, this is sad and alienating.

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This is offensive even. Almost to the point that would make me think twice about “Do I really want to work for such a company?”

I entirely agree with you. These arguments you make all seem very valid, very rational and commonsense to me. You could consider turning this in a strategy and go on a ‘counter-offensive’ when next time you are approached in a similar way.

If you spend some time to write a really good piece of text laying out these arguments quite clearly (tell how it makes you feel, and what your peers experience too), you can then approach some higher-ups in HR after your interview with it, and - who knows - blow them off their socks, and land the job (or at least skip that initial phase).

Thank you so much for your reply, it’s good to know that there is someone who understands. I’ll follow your suggestion and I’ll definitely write a good piece of work about it. It’s never too late to make things change and people aware.


Hi @maky, it sounds like you’re talking about gamified cognitive assessments, which I too find a bit odd to complete. I’m currently doing a PhD on how another type of recruitment technology (one-way recorded interviews) affects how applicants feel about the application process, and how we might be able to improve the experience for applicants - I’d love to hear your thoughts on these types of assessments if you’ve completed them before!


Hey @maky, I totally support you in your opinion. I agree with @aschrijver as well. If even applying for the job doesn’t feel comfy to you, it’s highly possible that the company values, social structures, and politics will not align with you as well. For me, it’s like dating someone, not feeling there is a match on a first date, highly possible it will not work. I don’t think it’s necessary to squeeze yourself into predefined boxes. Follow your instincts and what feels good to you. This is, in the end, what the creators of this forum did. It’s not an easy path to follow, but I assume, the only one that will make you feel good.


Hi @HayleyIM, thanks for your reply!! I only did one-way recorded interviews a couple of times last year. As I’m fully aware of the time and cost effectiveness of these processes, I would outline again how the lack of human interaction, especially when speaking, can be detrimental. What I say might be biased from the fact that I’m really a “people’s person”, but I believe that eye contact and non-verbal communication sometimes change the game (in better or worse obviously), as people -either consciously or unconsciously- adapt to the interviewer’s (verbal and non) reactions. Also, the fact that you can re-watch and re-record your video could lead people to be more prone to second guess their answers and become more nervous/anxious. As a user, I would enjoy an intuitive, aesthetically pleasing (colours are powerful weapons), system that mimics the real life experience, recording as you go and asking questions even if it interrupts you -as an actual interviewer would do :wink:, and give possibly only a couple of attempts to re-record if something unexpected happens (I can imagine a child crying, the postman knocking at the door, someone not feeling well). Maybe add the feature to use a digital background as Zoom does for people who feel uncomfortable with showing their living conditions.

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Hi @Luciak, thank you, what you say is really inspiring :pleading_face:

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Hi @maky, this is very sad, just another example of what Cathy O’Neil defines as ‘weapons of math destruction’. It’s easier and quicker to assess many candidates through an automatic process than interviewing them in a long 1-to-1 process. No matter how the automatic solution is designed (in a more or less alienating way), the result will always be the same: people carrying multifaceted and unique personalities and values reduced to a bunch of numbers and tags. This is inhumane for the candidate and detrimental for the company that loses extremely good candidates.