Assessing Transferable Skills in Candidates

Anete Vesere (1)

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer

How to Assess Transferable Skills in Candidates through different methods such as interviews, assessments, role plays and simulations

Transferable skills are abilities and competencies that can be applied in various contexts and industries as they indicate a candidate’s adaptability, versatility, and potential for growth. However, assessing transferable skills during the hiring process is often highly challenging as they are often intangible and thus hard to measure. 

In this blog we will discuss:

  • How to choose the right assessment method for transferable skills – four aspects to take into consideration
  • How to assess transferable skills through interviews, assessments, role play & simulations
  • What are the drawbacks of these methods when it comes to transferable skills
  • The best way of assessing transferable skills

How to choose the right assessment method for transferable skills

Considering these four following aspects – validity and reliability; objectivity; bias and fairness; what the assessment measures – when choosing a method of assessing transferable skills will help ensure that the assessment process is effective, fair, and reliable in evaluating a candidate’s suitability for the job. 

Validity and reliability

Both validity and reliability are important in ensuring that assessment results are accurate, consistent, and trustworthy. If an assessment lacks validity, it may produce inaccurate or misleading results, leading to incorrect conclusions or decisions.

It’s crucial to choose an assessment method that has been validated and tested for reliability by experts in the field. This ensures that the assessment is based on sound scientific principles and produces consistent and accurate results. Look for evidence of validation and reliability studies conducted on the assessment, such as research articles, technical reports, or published literature.


Objectivity is also an important aspect to consider when choosing a method of assessing transferable skills. Objectivity refers to the absence of bias or subjective influence in the assessment process. 

An objective assessment is one that is administered and scored consistently, regardless of who administers it or who takes it. Objectivity helps ensure that the assessment results are based on the individual’s performance or responses, rather than on the subjective biases of the evaluator.

Bias and fairness

Bias in assessments can adversely impact the fairness and objectivity of the evaluation process. This is precisely why it’s crucial to choose an assessment method that is designed to minimize bias and promote fairness. Assessments should be free from any discriminatory practices related to gender, race, age, or other protected characteristics. 

The language used in the assessment should be inclusive and unbiased, and the assessment tasks or questions should not favor any particular group. Carefully review the assessment for any potential bias, and consider consulting with experts or conducting bias analyses to ensure fairness in the assessment process.

What the assessment measures

This refers to the specific skills or competencies that the assessment method is designed to evaluate. It’s important to choose an assessment method that aligns with the job requirements and focuses on the transferable skills that are most relevant to the position.

Let’s say you are hiring for a project management position and you want to assess a candidate’s transferable skills such as leadership, communication, and problem-solving. Thus, the rational thing to do is to choose an assessment method that actually measures these skills.


How to assess transferable skills in candidates

You know what skills you’re looking for in candidates, yet you’re feeling a bit unsure in terms of where to get started when it comes to actually assessing candidates for these skills. There are three most commonly used ways of assessing transferable skills in candidates:

  1. Interview
  2. Assessments
  3. Simulations & roleplays

Assessing transferable skills in an interview

Behavioural interview questions

Perhaps one of the most common ways of assessing transferable skills is through behavioural interviewing. Behavioural interview questions are designed to elicit specific examples of a candidate’s past behaviour in similar situations. By asking open-ended questions and follow-up probes, you can assess a candidate’s transferable skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and leadership.

For example, to determine someone’s time management skills, you could ask: 

Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to get everything done on your to-do list. What do you do when your list of responsibilities becomes overwhelming?”

Personality fit interview questions

Personality fit questions focus on how the candidate absorbs and understands information, leadership under pressure, organizational skills and time management, process and rational thought. On top of that, they can also reveal the candidates’ flexibility, team spirit, what are their aspirations, work ethics and openness to change.

For example, to assess someone’s collaboration/teamwork skills, you could ask:

“Do you prefer working in a team or on your own? Why?”

Potential risks of using interviews for assessing transferable skills

Potential risks of using interviews for assessing transferable skills
  1. Interviewer bias.  For example, when interviewing a candidate, you will unconsciously be focused on assessing the similarities (or lack of similarities) you share with them. The more similarities you share, the more likely it will be that you have a positive view of this candidate, regardless of their suitability for the specific role (similarity/affinity bias).
  2. Interviews are often inconsistent. For example, instead of asking everyone the same 5 to 10 questions, you adjust your questions to the candidate, meaning that you might only have 1 similar question for everyone. This leads to an incomplete picture of candidates, forcing you to let your biases fill in the blank spot. 
  3. Interview answers are easily manipulable. At most, you will capture how someone wants you to perceive them. 
  4. Extremely time-consuming & costly way of assessing transferable skills.
  5. Interviews can be incredibly stressful for candidates. For those who have limited or no interviewing experience, an interview may be a nerve-racking experience, thus leading to a false impression of how they would actually behave in a workplace and specific role.
  6. Interviews may not showcase an applicant’s true capabilities. You can ask a candidate as many questions as you’d want during an interview, but you will never be able to capture someone’s natural attitude or true capabilities through their answers to these questions as candidates are likely to answer in a socially desirable way.

Assessments for assessing transferable skills

Behavioural assessments

Behavioural assessments are tools that evaluate a candidate’s natural tendencies and traits. They can be useful for assessing transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, creativity, and leadership. 

Soft skills assessment

Soft skills assessments are tools that evaluate a candidate’s more non-technical skills and transferable skills, such as empathy, creativity, and adaptability. They can be helpful for assessing transferable skills that are essential for effective collaboration, leadership, or customer service.

Cognitive ability test

A cognitive ability test is a type of a pre-employment test used to assess and objectively measure a candidate’s cognitive skills. Cognitive assessments do not measure what we think about or what we already know, instead these pre-employment tests focus on finding out how individuals think about certain things and situations.

Potential risks of using assessments to measure transferable skills

Potential risks of using assessments to measure transferable skills
  1. Limited validity. Assessments may not always accurately measure the intended transferable skills. The validity of the assessment may be limited, leading to incomplete or inaccurate results.
  2. Lack of context. Assessments may not take into account the specific context in which the transferable skills are being assessed. For example, a candidate’s performance on an assessment may not necessarily reflect their ability to apply the skills in a real-world work environment.
  3. Self-reporting bias. Some assessments rely on self-reporting by candidates, which may be subject to bias or exaggeration. Candidates may also provide socially desirable responses rather than truthful answers, which can impact the accuracy of the assessment results.

Assessing transferable skills through simulation & roleplay

Role-play exercises

These are simulations that replicate real-life scenarios that a candidate may encounter on the job. They can be helpful for assessing transferable skills such as customer service, conflict resolution, negotiation, or decision-making. 

Realistic job previews/job simulation tests

Realistic job previews or job simulation tests allow candidates to experience a realistic scenario of what the job entails. This can be helpful for assessing transferable skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, teamwork, and leadership. 

By giving candidates a chance to experience the job before being hired, you can assess their fit with the company culture, values, and expectations. 

Immersive situational judgement tests

Situational judgement tests are tools that assess a candidate’s ability to make decisions and solve problems in hypothetical scenarios. They can be helpful for evaluating transferable skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, and conflict resolution.

For example, you could present a candidate with a scenario involving a challenging situation and ask them to select the most appropriate course of action.

Potential risks of using simulation & roleplay for assessing transferable skills

Potential risks of using simulation & roleplay for assessing transferable skills
  1. Unrealistic scenarios. The simulations and roleplays may not accurately replicate the real-life situations that candidates may encounter on the job. This can result in a skewed assessment of their transferable skills and how they would perform in actual work settings.
  2. Limited generalisability. The skills demonstrated in simulations or roleplays may not necessarily translate to real-world performance. Candidates may behave differently in simulated situations compared to how they would in actual work scenarios, leading to inaccurate assessments of their transferable skills.
  3. Bias in scenario design. The design of the scenarios used in simulations or roleplays may inadvertently introduce bias, leading to unfair evaluation of candidates from different backgrounds, cultures, or identities. Care must be taken to ensure that scenarios are inclusive and do not discriminate against certain groups.
  4. Resource-intensive. Implementing simulations and roleplays can be resource-intensive, requiring significant time, effort, and potentially financial investment. Organizations need to carefully consider the practicality and feasibility of using simulations or roleplays in their assessment processes.
  5. Lack of standardization. Ensuring consistency and standardization in the design and administration of simulations or roleplays can be challenging. Variability in the assessment process can lead to inconsistency in evaluation and result in unfair assessments of candidates’ transferable skills.

The best way of assessing transferable skills?

Game-based assessments are a relatively newer approach to assessing transferable skills, but they are gaining popularity due to their effectiveness in measuring behaviour and cognitive abilities. 

Game-based assessments are highly effective in assessing transferable skills, as they provide a realistic and engaging environment for candidates to demonstrate their abilities. These assessments allow candidates to showcase a variety of their transferable skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, learning ability and many more. Moreover, game-based assessments are less biased and more objective than traditional assessments, as they are based on the candidate’s actions and decisions within the game, rather than relying solely on self-reporting or subjective evaluations.

Additionally, game-based assessments can be time and cost-effective, as they can be administered remotely and can be completed at the candidate’s own pace. They can also provide valuable data and analytics for evaluating candidates’ performance, identifying strengths and areas for improvement, and making informed hiring decisions.

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