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December 16, 2009 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me create a Word test that I can email to potential employees (without them being able to cheat on it too easily)? And without purchasing new software?

I need to test about 67 people on their Word skills -- and it would be much easier if I could email the test to them rather than have them take the test in my office.

What I'm envisioning is sending candidates a PDF of how I want their final product to look, along with a totally messed up Word document that they'd have about half an hour to fix.

Is there a way to do this just by looking at the document's history? Is there a way to make this happen without spending a few hundred dollars on a quiz license?
posted by ohyouknow to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
 
A low-tech solution might be to make them commit to a predetermined schedule.

For example:
1) Confirm a window of availability say 2-4PM. (this could be for one or many applicants)
2) Let them know that you will send the e-mail at 2:15 and that you expect it back by 2:45.
3) Send the e-mail promptly and then just wait for the replies.

Of course, they should know to contact you if something seems to be wrong, e.g. it's 2:20 and they haven't received the e-mail. You'll probably need to be a bit flexible.
posted by oddman at 10:25 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have them do it in the office during a set time period and tell them to "track changes" so that you can see what they did.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2009


Track changes should work if they do it at home and send it to you. Turning on track changes will then be part of the test.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:31 AM on December 16, 2009


Track changes is an OK idea, but in my experience with Word 2007 (if that is what you will be using), it causes a lot more trouble than it's worth when it comes to formatting and styling.
posted by muddgirl at 10:44 AM on December 16, 2009


Trouble with timed testing at home is that you'd have to ensure they all have access to the same version of Word on suitable computers, etc. Someone running Word 2007 on a brand new PC is going to be considerable less frustrated and have more "time" that someone with still has Word 2000 on Windows XP or worse, for example. Or what if they don't even have Word at home? It's not like it's free (technically). Also -- what happens if their internet goes down? There couple potentially be a ton of variables outside of both yours and the testers control. Unless the job is one where also being able to work at home reliably is a criteria, you're giving those with better setups a distinct advantage.
posted by cgg at 10:53 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pardon the typos. Geez that's horrible.
posted by cgg at 10:54 AM on December 16, 2009


Alternately, you can watch them in real-time.

Set up a LogMeIn account on a PC that is has the proper specs to perform the work you want done.

Provide the instructions or details a little ahead of time and Schedule your tests an hour apart and have them log in 5 minutes after the hour to perform the test (Or read the instructions and then perform the test if you don't want to give away too much.

You can watch them "over the shoulder" in real-time to see what they do and how they do it or set up a screen/video capture software ( I won't link, there are so many) to record throughout the day and you can review their steps later at your leisure or share the video with others in the process.

This has the advantage of putting them in the right environment (your PC and network) with the right software and tools at their disposal. While the time limit can be stressful to some candidates, a 30 minute expectation for a 10-15 minute job is not outrageous. Once they complete, then can log out of logmein.com and shoot you an email to confirm. THen you can change the logmein account password to the next candidates login info (Oh yeah - have diff passwords for each candidate and only set them up for use in the right timeframe.) If you really need to do this fast or multiple people simultaneously you could set up multiple VMware sandboxes and test them all at once or setup logmein on multiple machines for the same effect.

When I occasionally need to hire programmers or technical people for small jobs I do something similar and give them a small bit of code or something to fiddle with. Beginner's tend to react slowly and probably refer to manuals or search Google, etc. Most experienced people jump right in and get their hands dirty. I use their activity and reactions to this test as one factor of several in the hiring process. So far, I've always found stellar people who you can tell know their stuff and aren't just BS-ing like can so often be done in an face-to-face interview whether the interviewer is as well versed in the topic or not.
posted by emjay at 11:57 AM on December 16, 2009


There are too many variables at play here for this to be a fair or even useful test. Even if you could control for most of those variables, (i.e. by scheduling time for each candidate in a lab, for instance), their ability to perform this particular task within the parameters you've set doesn't yield much useful data. How often do your regular employees spend unscrambling "totally messed up" Word documents? Is testing potential candidates on such a narrow range of skills in one software package going to let you know who will be a good employee? I don't think so. Some will be able to jump through this particular hoop better than others, of course, but I wouldn't put too much stock in that.
posted by wheat at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2009


I absolutely agree with cgg.

Also, I will point out that, at home, I have a Mac and use Pages. I bet a lot of your candidates might have similar setups. I mean, if you want to arbitrarily slim down your candidate pool, this is definitely one way to do it.
posted by General Malaise at 12:56 PM on December 16, 2009


I will definitely be interviewing everyone in person -- but only after they've passed my test (because my client has their own version of this test that they have to ace in order to get on this project).

emjay, that's a great suggestion but I unfortunately don't have the time to watch them over their shoulders. I'm also not nearly as tech savvy as you clearly are to be able to pull something like that off. I think just giving everyone a 35 minute window and forewarning them that they need to get themselves to a Kinko's or something if their computer doesn't have Word is probably the easiest way to get this done quickly.

Thanks guys! You've helped make this crazy day much more manageable. Metafilter rocks.
posted by ohyouknow at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2009


wheat, my candidates are word processors for law firms. Their jobs exist because attorneys mess up documents all the time and then need word processors to help save their documents. It is also critical for all of their (rather complicated) documents to be formatted just so in order to be accepted by each court (and different courts have different formatting rules).

But as a threshold issue, none of my candidates will be able to work unless they can ace my client's much more difficult test. So I'm doing them a favor by giving them a shorter and easier version to warm up with prior to the exam with the client.
posted by ohyouknow at 4:51 PM on December 16, 2009


Why should they go pay Kinkos $12 or whatever an hour costs even though they only have a 1/67 chance of getting this job? Imagine someone from a disadvantaged background who is currently broke and whose family doesn't have a computer, but who did learn awesome Word skills at the college computer lab, and make your method one that won't drive them away. I'd say to applicants that they also have the option to come to your office and use your computer for free. That way you will be screening for ability, not computer ownership and/or disposable income.
posted by salvia at 5:57 PM on December 16, 2009


There are 20 spaces available. Of the 67 who applied, 80% of them have zero relevant experience.

But all this is beside the point. My candidates are not college kids, they are professionals with a very specific skill set that I'm really not interested in explaining here. Only one of my candidates doesn't have a computer with Word on it and she will be testing at my office.

Sheesh.
posted by ohyouknow at 6:06 PM on December 16, 2009


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