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Job Simulations: Definition, Benefits, Examples

Asavari Sharma

February 22, 2022

Heard of job simulations? Let us explain. Finding the right fit for an open position can be challenging, especially given the vast number of talented job-seekers out there. HR leaders are naturally keen to invest in people who can have a long and productive career with the company.

For their recruitment drives, therefore, they are looking beyond the standard interview and CV review and switching to tests that accurately assess how a candidate will perform on the day-to-day. Perhaps the most popular assessment strategy in this regard is the job simulation.

Done right, job simulations can help you find the best candidate straight off the bat, which is why we have put together this handy guide to get you started on them. But first, let us get the basics out of the way:

What is a job simulation?

A job simulation is a type of recruitment test in which employees are asked to perform the type of work they will need to do every day on the job.

It involves the use of virtual work environments in which the candidate tackles issues and solves problems just as they would on a workday.

A job simulation assessment gives the candidate a preview of what life will be like in that role, while also letting the employer see more clearly how much of a fit the candidate is.

It can be conducted online or face-to-face, and may involve multiple interactions with the evaluator and with other team members.

Top job simulation formats

There are several possibilities when it comes to job simulations, including both face-to-face and remote assignments, and what you choose depends on what the role in question entails. Some of the formats commonly used by companies include:

1. Role-playing simulation

This is one of the most comprehensive types of job simulations out there, and assesses how well the candidate can navigate interpersonal relationships in the workplace environment. It can include group interviews, presentations, or mock crisis management situations. It is a good way to identify qualities such as leadership skills or a sense of initiative.

2. Work sample simulation

This involves giving the candidate a sample to create, such as they might have to on a daily basis in the job. It could involve writing some code, handling a customer query, drafting a press release or designing a social media banner.

3. In-basket simulation

This involves asking the candidate to complete a specific task within a specific time limit, such as handling customer calls or replying to emails.

The objective is to see how well candidates can approach a task, including prioritizing different steps, using data to progress forward and staying level-headed throughout. Job simulation ideal for managerial or administrative roles, where being well-organized is essential.

4. Situational judgment simulation

This involves providing the candidate with a work-related challenge and asking them to come up with a solution to it. It assesses their problem-solving and quick-thinking abilities and is ideal when interviewing for a customer service position.

5. Take-home assignments

This involves giving the candidate a task to complete in their own homes and submit within a specific deadline. It is a good option if the role in question is a hands-off or remote one, as it demonstrates how effective the candidate can be without a supervisor around.

Why should job simulations be part of the hiring process?

Resume screenings and interview rounds are all well and good in their place, but they only give you part of the picture when it comes to picking a candidate.

In fact, they may not even give you an accurate picture, as many candidates know how to fill their resumes with keywords so as to get past your applicant filters. Even the interview only gives the recruiter a background on what the candidate has done.

There is no verifiable way to see what the candidate is really capable of. That is where job simulations enter the picture. Here are the benefits of conducting work simulations in hiring:

1. Testing job-specific skills

You will naturally want to hire people who can adeptly do the job they are being paid to do, but there is only so much a resume or a standard interview can tell you in this regard.

For a contact center job, for instance, one of the key skills is the ability to demonstrate empathy and patience with the customer, which you cannot accurately gauge from a resume.

A job simulation, in this regard, places the candidate in an actual work environment and allows you to see how they handle pressure, present solutions and multitask to provide customer satisfaction.

For technical roles, you can conduct pre-employment assessments to test the candidates on their coding skills and knowledge in various programming languages.

2. Deeper insights

Job simulations also provide recruiters with insights into the candidate’s personality and ability beyond the immediate job-specific skills. For instance, you might have interviewed someone with a great academic background who speaks confidently, but gets flustered in a simulation setup. That person would not be able to perform in the long run.

By contrast, someone with a less fancy background and a softer personality in the interview might demonstrate a lot of patience and helpfulness in the simulation. The simulation lets you cut past the surface and see who is truly the better fit — in this case, the second candidate.

3. More inclusivity

Again, many companies continue to prioritize job interviews over simulations, stating that it is possible to determine a candidate’s actual capabilities if you just ask them the right questions. That is reasonable enough, but then there is the problem of how to make hiring impartial.

The fact is, unconscious biases inevitably creep into recruitment, even when the interviewer is being as fair-minded as possible. As a result, the best candidates do not always come to light.

By contrast, job simulation assessments are much more objective in how they assess candidates. The simulation provides an example of a task the candidate would be expected to do daily, and assesses their approach, attitude and results.

Every candidate undergoes the same test, and the same parameters are used to judge each of them on their performance (such as call resolution time or grammatical accuracy of a written piece). Biases, therefore, have no room to influence decisions.

And the recruiter gets to actually test a candidate on the abilities they have rather than simply believing what they say in an interview or on a cover letter.

Using job simulations levels out the playing field for the candidates and helps you focus only on their performance. A work simulation lets you forget everything about how a candidate looks, where they grew up, where they went to college and so on — so you can focus on what matters.

4. Personalized training and onboarding

Every new hire will require some training to be fully effective at the job, and their results during the job simulation will help you personalize the training to their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if a candidate did well on a coding test but struggled to work with your software, you can walk them through how your tools and databases work.

5. Applicants can opt out of the process

Job simulations are not just for the recruiter. They are beneficial for the candidate too. Simulations give the candidates a taste of what life is like with the new employer.

Often, they may have a certain perception of what a role will be like, only to realize upon joining that it is quite different. They might realize that the job is a lot more stressful or requires a lot more extrovertedness than they are willing to sign up for.

A job simulation assessment allows them to pinpoint any such misconceptions from the get-go and bow out sooner.

Even if they do a good job, therefore, they might decide to leave. And while this might be disappointing for the recruiter, it is much better for a candidate and a company to part ways before you invest in them, especially given the high attrition rates in the company.

And of course, candidates who did well in the job simulation assessment and are motivated to do better will put in their 100% on the job, which means higher productivity and employee satisfaction levels.

6. See past external appearances

Job simulations offer a way for recruiters to see past external appearances and judge based on skill alone. Particularly when using AI-powered simulation software, recruiters can see the list of candidates ranked objectively on performance and decide whom to call in for further rounds.

Job simulations also help reduce turnover in the company, as they no longer need to invest in candidates who are unmotivated and will leave soon after joining.

Disadvantages of job simulations

It is amazing to see how work simulations can positively impact the hiring process and also make the lives of candidates easier. However, there are a couple of disadvantages of going for a job simulation, including:

1. Costs

Conducting a job simulation assessment can be costly in terms of money and effort. Designing effective simulation tasks, providing the appropriate environment to complete them in and replicating the process for large numbers of candidates can be tough.

In addition, investing in software solutions that facilitate virtual interviews and online task simulations can often be expensive.

2. Time taken

Job simulations can take a lot of time to design, especially if the company is getting a custom online job simulation portal created. Launching a simulation-based recruitment drive, therefore, takes a long while, and that is not viable if the vacancies have to be filled urgently.

Most common job simulation test examples

What a job simulation entails will depend on the role you are hiring for. Some may be more structured and task-based, while others may be more loose-ended. Here, we offer a few examples of work simulations to consider for different roles:

a. Customer service representative

  • Verify a customer’s user information
  • Respond to complaint emails and/or chats
  • Determine a customer’s eligibility for a discount
  • Inform the customer about a product/service change

b. Vehicle sales representative

  • Provide after-sales service
  • Offer deals and benefits as relevant
  • Calculate maintenance and other costs over two years
  • Demonstrate an understanding of different brands and models
  • Connect customer needs and expectations to available products

c. Executive assistant

  • Manage monthly schedules
  • Review and summarize reports
  • Coordinate meetings and events
  • Do cost analyses for business travel authorizations

d. Content writer

  • Work to tight deadlines
  • Understand assignment guidelines
  • Draft original and SEO-friendly content pieces
  • Work with a content editor to polish the assignment

Where to include job simulations in the hiring process

In general, work simulation tests are conducted either the screening stage or the final interview stage. Let us talk about how each scenario works:

1. Screening stage

Particularly for service companies, using a web-based simulation test at the start of the recruitment process allows the company to test for key skills right off the bat.

The test could involve writing code, drafting a blog post or writing ad taglines — anything that is job-relevant and can be done quickly.

Work simulations like this are an easy way to filter out the candidates who do not meet the minimum skill benchmarks, while also highlighting the ones who performed best.

2. Final stage

At this point, the company is focusing on candidates who have already demonstrated promise and who are likely to be serious about getting the role. Now, therefore, is the ideal time to invest in creating tailored live simulations that involve connecting the candidate to other team members. You can opt for a mix of group interviews, task-based interactions and skill tests.

Depending on your priorities and the role you are hiring for, you could choose to conduct a work simulation test at one or both stages.

Over to you

In conclusion, job simulation assessments allow for accurate evaluations of a candidate’s ability and are a strong indicator of how they will contribute to the company — a boon for HR managers seeking to refine their recruitment strategy.

From saving on attrition costs to shortening the time-to-hire, the benefits are considerable. Before your next hiring spree, therefore, work with your leadership team and devise a job simulation strategy. You will not regret it. Good luck!

Asavari Sharma

Asavari is an EiR at Adaface. She has made it her mission to help recruiters deploy candidate-friendly skill tests instead of trick-question based tests. When taking a break, she obsesses over art.

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