T.O.I.F. – How to Build Transparent, Objective, Impartial and Fair Assessments - Perennial Talent
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T.O.I.F. – How to Build Transparent, Objective, Impartial and Fair Assessments

How many times have you been asked to take a test that had nothing to do with the job that you were applying for? And if you were screened out of the application process, was it because you didn’t perform well on a test that you didn’t know how to prepare for?

These are serious and high stakes questions for candidates who may be screened out of the application process for reasons that have nothing to do with their actual knowledge, skills, and qualifications related to that job. As an employer, you may be missing out on some great candidates just because they don’t perform well on some arbitrary test. To avoid making costly mistakes, make sure to follow T.O.I.F. principles when developing and administering your tests.


There is nothing wrong with communicating the intention of your test to the prospective candidates. If it is a situational judgment test, the candidates should know that they will be tested on some common situations that they are likely to experience on the job. If it’s a knowledge test, the candidate should be aware that they will be tested on knowledge relevant for the job, such as asking a candidate to develop a Java script if they are applying for a software development job.


Who is building these tests? Is it someone who knows the job and is considered an expert in his or her field? Depending on the job or occupation, multiple experts may be necessary to write these questions. Imagine having only one physician developing all the entry tests for physicians. Would all the physicians agree on the same treatment approach in all cases? The more complex the job, the more experts should be involved in developing these tests.


Impartiality speaks to how the test is scored. If developing questions with pre-determined answers such as multiple choice, the correct answer needs to be justified either by an established reference source or accepted best practice. If developing open-ended or constructed response questions, there needs to be a well-defined answer key that clearly answers the question being asked. The candidate should have an idea as to what kind of response is expected from them. When scoring these questions, markers should be trained and have clear guidelines. Where possible, multiple markers should be used.


Fairness is the ability to develop assessments that test only the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the job in an appropriate way. For example, is your language too complex for the position you are hiring for? Are you introducing jargon that may disadvantage someone who’s not native in that language? Are you asking someone to write complex essays if you are only testing technical knowledge? Try to align your assessment method as closely as possible to what the actual performance requirements are.

So next time you are thinking about building a test, keep this handy acronym in mind to help you stay on track.

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