You should never hire a candidate based on face-value alone. This is a mistake that many recruiters make and later regret. Sometimes, candidates misrepresent themselves and don’t truly have the right skills and personality to get the job done well. But rather than continue the search, your sense of urgency tells you to hire this person on the spot. It’s not until the new hire starts working and mucking things up that the realization sets in – this was a bad hire. Now you’re stuck.
Fortunately, you don’t have to find this out the hard way, Instead, it’s possible to spend some time evaluating candidates to make sure that the candidate is the right fit for the organization. From personality assessments to skills testing, recruiters have an arsenal of tools at their disposal to make smarter hiring decisions.
For the most part, candidate assessments are predictive by nature. They are not 100% proof that a candidate is the perfect fit, but the results can indicate someone with a high likelihood of being successful in the role. A recruiter will still need to perform other pre-hire activities to ensure a good hire (verifying work history, validating education, interviewing references, scrutinizing the resume, etc.).
One effective use of candidate assessment is uncovering the soft skills that are hard to pinpoint, but are vital to success in a certain work environment. According to the LinkedIn Global Recruiting Tools 2018 report, 63% of recruiters responded that traditional interviews fail to highlight these traits. The report shares how online soft skill assessments given to candidates can measure qualities that provide a more holistic image of candidates early on in the process.
Types of candidate assessments and screening tools
Candidates can be assessed in a variety of ways throughout the hiring process. It’s critical to understand the value that each kind of assessment brings to the table, and how they can impact candidate selection. Here are some of the most common assessment and screening tools used today.
Skills Assessments: The most common type of candidate assessment, the skills assessment measures actual job-relevant skills that an individual needs to be successful in performing basic tasks. This is often confined to hard skills, like technical knowledge, but it can also include soft skills, like the ability to adapt.
Temperament/Personality Assessments: These assessments help to determine if a candidate has the right type of temperament to handle a specific kind of job. It can be helpful to confirm whether candidates have the hard skills to perform a job well, but it’s often more helpful to determine whether they have the right personality traits that are conducive to long-term success in the role.
Cognitive Ability Tests / Mental Agility Tests: This is a timed test that is designed to determine how quickly a candidate can answer a series of questions in a short period of time. It helps employers see how quickly an individual can understand and process information, from math to reading comprehension, to meet the minimum requirements of a job. Cognitive assessments provide valuable insight into a candidate's ability to synthesize information, problem-solve, and communicate, three qualities that are integral to on-the-job success.
Behaviour-Based Interviews: While not an actual traditional assessment, behaviour-based interviews allow recruiters to see in person how a candidate may react under pressure or certain circumstances. Previous performance is a strong indicator of future performance, so a candidate’s responses to behaviour-based interview questions can help predict how they may perform on the job in the future. Behavioral interviews can also show how well a candidate can solve problems and how they relate to others.
Candidate assessments remove the human bias aspect of recruitment
Diversity and equality in hiring is not only good for business; it’s the law. When candidate assessments are used properly and consistently with all candidates, it can keep the recruiter focused on job-related traits that each candidate has. This helps prevent unconscious bias and produces better job matches. A research study at Harvard University found that when professional orchestra instrumentalists were asked to take an assessment pre-hire, 30% more women were offered a job.
Assessment questions can easily be added to the application process
With artificial intelligence tools and online applicant tracking systems to keep things streamlined, it’s possible to add a few screening questions to the process. Keep it to a minimum however, and remember any questions must be job-relevant (not of a personal nature). If a candidate isn't telling the truth, this information can be compared to the pre-hire assessment that they will take that goes deeper into specific skills.
Gives concrete evidence of the skills of each candidate (as stated on resume)
What’s found on a resume can be hard to prove. Unfortunately, one study shows that nearly 85% of candidates lie about at least one thing on their resume. Former employers may not be able to verify this information either, although you can certainly get more insight from your candidates’ references by asking the right questions. Instead of guessing, a skills assessment can be used to verify skills that they say they have.
Recruiters may not have time to grade candidate assessments for all candidates
It may seem inconvenient to some, but the assessment needs to be graded in order to be effective. The good news is that today’s candidate assessment options include automatic grading and comparison with other candidates. Many tools can assess a participant’s responses and deliver next steps that are tailored to how a candidate completed the assessment.
Companies may overuse a candidate assessment that doesn’t produce quality results
Any organization can get stuck in a rut. Using an assessment tool that’s out of date can produce dismal results. Invest in a modern tool that is routinely updated and designed to adapt to a changing professional world.
As with any recruitment tool, there can be potential issues, but the main thing here is that candidate assessments give the recruiter more information about each candidate in order to make a better informed decision. Having data for each candidate can determine the outcome of their career path and overall experience. This structure is what’s needed to maintain a strong workforce that’s loyal to the organizational goals.
Legal and ethical rules about candidate screening
The use of candidate assessments to test and screen candidates for certain skills and traits is commonplace in today’s world. Employers understand that the results are only to be used as part of an overall view of each candidate’s qualification for the job. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises that all employers must adhere to the guiding principle of “Can the employer demonstrate a job-related necessity for asking an assessment question?” Here’s what they say:
“Before asking an assessment question, the employer needs to evaluate if the information relates to the level of knowledge, skills, or competence for the job.”
Another important thing to note is that the assessment should never be used as the sole basis for making a hiring decision. Even if the candidate scores badly on some aspect of the assessment, this is not a reason to eliminate the candidate from consideration. Sometimes people become nervous and don't think well on their feet, or they have trouble processing information quickly. This doesn't mean that they won't perform well in the job. It just means that they have a more careful work style and need additional time to process things.
Need a real-world example of how assessments can make an impact? Check out how McQuaig assessments helped Sheridan Nurseries to double in size.
Try to think about things from the candidate perspective before asking them to take an assessment. First of all, explain that the assessment is used to help learn more about the candidate and their fit for the job and the company. Let them know they can ask for help if needed. Candidates also have a right to know how the assessment fits into the recruitment process and what the next steps will be after they take the assessment. Then, there is the question of where the information will be stored, and whether this information will become part of a permanent record with the company. Is there a good system for keeping this personal information secure or are the results destroyed after they are obtained.
Lastly, when using any candidate assessment, it’s important to give the candidate a good experience. Some assessments will require a time limit, like a cognitive assessment, but other assessments benefit from their flexibility. By allowing candidates to use tools like personality assessments on their own time, you can be sure that they're working in an environment, and at a time, that's best for them - and that can help candidates put their best foot forward.
When used correctly, assessments of all types can be a useful addition to your hiring toolkit. How have assessments helped you in your hiring initiatives? Let us know in the comments!
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