The future of recruitment: Situational Judgement Testing

What’s Situational Judgement Testing? Ask James Meachin.

The world we are living in is quickly moving down a path which will see it become almost entirely digital. Technology has permeated our whole lives – we use many apps and websites each day which are all designed to help us communicate, organise ourselves and even find work.

It is unsurprising, then, that as the general public seek out employment through digital channels recruiters are seeking to digitise their hiring practices.

Online recruitment is driving much higher numbers of applicants for each vacancy advertised. This means, due to the sheer volume of candidates coming in, we have to change the way we look at recruitment processes. 

What is a Situational Judgement Test?

Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) present candidates with realistic scenarios that they may face in a role on a day-to-day basis. These scenarios can be presented across a wide range of media, including text, audio and video.

Research shows that SJTs lead to better levels of diversity than traditional psychometric ability tests.

These different ‘situations’ come with a range of responses which the candidate can pick from – rating the effectiveness of each response as they go along. This allows recruiters to test how well a candidate’s judgement pairs with the position they are applying for, and whether their ideals fit with the culture of the organisation.

We also know that candidates who show better judgement when completing SJTs are also likely to show better levels of judgement – and therefore performance – when they’re actually functioning in the role. There are three key advantages that SJTs have over traditional psychometrics such as verbal and numerical reasoning tests when using for screening:

Creating a diverse workforce

It is no secret that creating diverse workforces is a key challenge and concern for recruiters. In fact, hitting diversity targets has been revealed as a top priority for graduate recruiters in a survey by the High Fliers Research Centre: 69% of organisations cite diversity targets as an important challenge, far more than any other factor they were asked to consider.

SJTs can be an important tool with which recruiters can help to improve diversity outcomes. Research shows that SJTs lead to better levels of diversity than traditional psychometric ability tests.

Generating breadth of knowledge about candidates

Screening tools that can measure a wide range of characteristic and qualities are important because they allow for meaningful assessments to occur at a pace which matches the current speed of recruitment processes. This is another reason that SJTs are favourable – they are versatile and broad in the way they measure candidate’s suitability whilst also allowing for rapid analysis.

When we worked with a major retailer to develop an SJT for selecting shop-floor staff, we explored three major categories of job performance:

  • Task performance – how effective someone is at delivering the core requirements of a role. This includes the behaviours found within a competency framework. In our research, we used performance ratings from line managers to measure task performance.
  • Citizenship behaviour – the extent to which someone is a ‘good organisational citizen’ by going above and beyond what is expected, such as helping and advising others, and going out of one’s way to get the right result. We used ‘special recognition’ awards that were given by store managers on a discretionary basis to measure citizenship behaviour.
  • Counter-productive behaviour – this is the ‘dark side’ of performance at work and it includes theft, disruptive behaviour, and unauthorised absences. We used unauthorised absences to measure counter-productive behaviour.

Surprisingly, we found that SJT scores were able to predict all these performance outcomes to a highly accurate level. Thus, using SJTs to screen candidates can be regarded as very useful due to the wide range of performance outcomes they are able to predict.

This is probably because SJTs, when well designed, are able to reflect the diverse range of scenarios that candidates will face in the role they are applying for. Due to this fact, they help recruiters to select the most effective and well-rounded candidates – as opposed to traditional psychometric tests, which can only really predict task-based performance.

Attracting the right candidates

As recruitment becomes more and more competitive, many organisations are trying to make themselves stand out of the crowd when it comes to differentiating from other brands. This largely involves developing a strong image and culture – this is a concern that the High Fliers Research Centre found was second only to diversity targets.

Whilst traditional psychometric tests are generic and therefore communicate nothing about the employer to applicants, SJTs offer candidates rich insights into the role they are applying for, as well as the attitudes of the organisation in questions.

In a sense, they’re able to offer potential hires a ‘realistic preview’ which candidates can use to better their understanding of what they will experience and how highly they rate the organisation as a prospective employer.

Providing a realistic preview early on in the recruitment process is important, and there are two major benefits of using SJTs to do this. First, because it helps an organisation to differentiate itself from others by showing off what makes both the organisation itself and the role on offer unique from others.

Second, using SJTs will also help to reduce turnover for successful candidates as they have realistic expectations coming into the job.


SJTs allow recruiters to examine candidates in a way that previous forms of testing have not been able to.

By bringing the candidate directly into the working world through realistic scenarios, and assessing factors which would have been previously left uncovered (such as cultural fit), recruiters can use SJTs to create better, more diverse pools of candidates who are highly suited to the roles they’re applying for. 


About the author

James Meachin is head of assessment at Pearn Kandola.


Read more about assessment here.



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