HR managers are often required to assess the skills of candidates for specialist jobs. Knowledge tests have traditionally been an important component of the assessment process, but these are too often focused exclusively on the technical aspects or “science” of specialist work. In practice, most jobs require a mix of science and “art” skills, including the ability to use techniques and tools relevant to an area of work, as well as the softer skills involved in interacting with other people in order to achieve work objectives.

This article discusses the development of an “art- and science-based” assessment tool for use in the recruitment of IT specialists for The City of Hamilton, in Canada. As a result of departmental restructuring, job roles were being redefined and a major recruitment exercise was planned. In this context, in January 2011, Schroeder & Schroeder Inc. was commissioned to develop an assessment tool consisting of questions and answers for use in the pre-screening of candidates for 17 positions in the newly created Business Applications and Service Desk sections. In developing this assessment tool, it proved necessary to address a number of key considerations as described below.