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Here is a challenge for you: Try to produce a skills test that is both equitable and culturally responsive. It may sound simple, but designing a skills assessment that does not disparately impact one group or another is impossible. It simply can’t be done, right? All tests are culturally biased, are NOT equitable, and lend themselves to SOME sort of bias, don’t they? This is a hot topic with today’s multicultural workforce, and HR is in the middle of the conversation.

The Importance of Equitable Testing

Human resource professionals are tasked by their companies and clients to find, recruit, and acquire the best talent in the labor force. One of the ways HR professionals do this is by administering talent assessment tests to candidates from all walks of life.

Many barriers, however, get in the way of eliminating bias, and two major biases tend to influence all tests, including talent assessment tests. More on those later.

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The Role of Diversity and Socioeconomics

A diverse workforce includes all generations and protected classes (race, sex, age, and religion), plus socioeconomic diversity, which is reflected in a person’s upbringing, education, and occupational background.

With socioeconomic considerations, generational identity, and protected classes, the need for an organization to have cultural sensitivity, acceptance, and inclusion is greater today than in the past. More diversity in the workplace is great, but the more diverse the employees, the more difficult it is to create equitable and culturally responsive skills assessment tests for all. Yet, we must work toward that goal.

Two Types of Bias

When working with vendors to create and design an assessment test, HR must especially be aware of two types of bias, particularly for compliance purposes.

The first type of bias is cultural bias, which occurs when the test and desired results are skewed in favor of the culture of the test creator or majority population. For instance, could an American assessment company create a skills assessment test for football players in Columbia? Remember, American football is very different from international football.

Here is another example of cultural bias in testing: Who do you think would score higher on a skills assessment test on troubleshooting equipment from the 1980’s and 1990’s?

A.) Baby Boomers

B.) Millennials

C.) Gen-X

Hopefully, you didn’t choose B, and, to flip the scenario, who would likely score higher on a skill assessment test regarding Snapchat or Instagram filters? These skills, too, contain cultural bias.

The second form of bias is method bias, which involves the methods or tools needed to complete a test. An example of method bias would be a test that is exclusive to those with mobile phones, Internet access or the latest software upgrade. Believe it or not, some areas in the United States do not have Internet access or Wi-Fi. A large portion of the population does not have smartphones (not to be confused with cell phones).

We see this in some school systems as it relates to standardized tests. Certain schools can’t administer the latest online testing modules because they do not have adequate computer technology, access, or classroom tools. In other cases, the standardized tests are challenged because some schools do not have the materials or follow a curriculum that will allow students to succeed.

While no one can create a perfectly equitable and culturally responsive skills assessments, you can minimize the bias.


Launched in 2003, eSkill Corporation has developed a focused expertise in job-based skills testing software and content. eSkill has tested millions globally since 2003 with zero legal challenges – the best compliance record in our industry. eSkill has the vision of providing the most relevant and valid tests for any skilled job.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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  • Kristina says:

    Great post Chris. If companies aren’t taking into consideration and trying to avoid cultural bias they are going to get some bad marks when they get a visit from the EEOC or OFCCP (depending on what field of work they are in) auditors.

  • Lewis says:

    Thank you for your article. I will follow your advice.

  • Paul says:

    All organizations need to embrace cultural sensitivity, acceptance and inclusion to grow now and succeed in the future.

  • Kevin S. says:

    Thank you for explaining so well the two biases that affect how reliably we create assessments.

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