New Candidate Screening Tools

11 Mar, 2014 By: Robert Green

How do you select the prospective employee with the best CAD skills?

I recently fielded this question on my CAD Manager's Unite! Facebook group about screening potential new hires for CAD/BIM competency:

Does anyone have a good suggestion for a CAD test to give to potential new hires for an architectural firm? Something that would be more hands-on drawing rather than just question and answer.

I love this question because it tacitly conveys that only a hands-on evaluation really lets you gauge CAD competency! I knew that the manager asking the question was using AutoCAD, so here was my response:

Give them a project to draw and include a title frame, plotting, and scale parameters in the task. They can capture to PDF for the final submittal. Give them something you could do in 10 minutes and if it takes them more than 25 minutes, that's a problem. Check for accuracy and, for AutoCAD, go backwards through the Command history to gauge their approach.

Here are some other great tips from the group I'd like to pass along:

  • I recommend that you create a test that contains what you would at least expect a new hire to know. For instance, for Civil 3D I created a basic-level test that let me know if they knew the Civil 3D basics like how to create a Surface, Alignment, Corridor, or Assemblies. I expect them to know basic CAD. If they do not know that, they will not even be able to complete the Basics of Civil 3D. Also, time them to see how long they take to complete the test. Use current employees to create a benchmark for time. Also, I would keep the test a surprise. See what they know when they are put on the spot.
  • I come from the mechanical world but this might help. I have given a three-part test in the past. The first part is a written test to assess basic knowledge of the CAD tool, in my case SolidWorks. Second is a drafting test, one simple assembly and one simple part, to quickly assess drafting skill, and the third test is modeling a part from a hand sketch. This test does two things. First, it lets me see how they model designs and second there is a key piece of information that is left off the sketch. This is done to see if they are willing to ask if something is unclear. You would be surprised how many people make things up.
  • I've used Knowledge Smart in the past. They are the ones that make the AUGI Top DAUG test.
  • Out of all of the tests I've taken, my favorite was "Draw a circle exactly in the center of a rectangle using only the rectangle and circle commands. 60 seconds. Go."
  • We have them draw one of our standard details.
  • The important part is that you test them in some way. This past year we had to let go of three new employees because they exaggerated their skill set in the interview. I was not involved or else I would have tested them. We would have saved time and money.
  • We started with a messy hand-drawn sketch of an architectural detail — like it was drawn on a napkin. It was fairly simple. AutoCAD was already running with a new drawing without layers or blocks. This let us see if the user created layers, text styles, and if the notations were arranged neatly. This is very similar to Robert Green's idea and it weeds out many. We discussed the results with the prospective employee if the test result didn't seem to match with their resume.
  • My favorite is the reactions from folks such as: I'd never take one of those tests, I'm a professional and should be treated like it! That right there is also a result that weeds out folks you don't want working in your office.
  • Make sure that you tell them that there will be a test when you make the appointment to interview them.

I'd like to thank everybody who participated in this conversation and hope that you find some hints that will help you in screening new hires.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: New Candidate Screening Tools
by: cmartinell
March 12, 2014 - 1:58pm
Hello. Just another thought from the masses here. Make sure that the test you administer is geared properly. Example, we are a traffic and transportation civil firm (we design traffic signals), and we had two candidates that we administered a simple (in our minds) CAD test for them. We gave them 15 minutes to reproduce something. When we came back in, neither had produced a single line. The problem was that the test was geared towards someone who knew signals, and neither of our candidates came from a signal background. Because the "theme" of the test threw them off, they were unable to move beyond that. We still hired one of them and he worked out very well.
Re: New Candidate Screening Tools
by: miDGeman
March 18, 2014 - 1:43pm
Everyone is disregarding fundamental knowledge. Like the dimensions of format sheet sizes (anything but 8-1/2" x 11" are the norm for A Size), or how many views are required to describe a `catalog' ball bearing (2 views minimum where I work - seriously). They were passed-through classes thought by instructors that went to school there as well. I'm refering to 2 local `universities'. It is only getting worse. Every one thinks it's cool when the machine shop asks for a model (what they are saying is that the drawing is useless). And why are there undimensioned isometric views on drawings?
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