Employee Assessments Should Help, Not Hurt: 3 Common Mistakes

Employee Assessments Should Help, Not Hurt: 3 Common Mistakes

Assessments have always been a part of your hiring toolkit and your overall hiring strategy, as they should be – but are you gaining the most value out of them? Here are 3 common mistakes HR and hiring managers make when using assessments:

#1: A Lack of Clarity

If we don’t know what we’re looking for, then how do we know if we’ve found it? Before jumping into a candidate search, most hiring managers know that they need to define the role and responsibilities, but writing a laundry list of duties and qualifications isn’t good enough. When we interview people (or meet people in general for that matter), we tend to assess them at 3 levels, each one more in-depth than the previous. When we define what we’re looking for in a candidate, we should think of these three levels as well.

The first two levels have to do with appearance (presence) and skill (the stuff we can gather from a resume). Most hiring managers are quite skilled at defining these levels, and they’re certainly important. If someone doesn’t have the required skill, education, experience, etc. for the job, then they might not be a good fit. But we hear about it all the time: hire for passion, attitude, character, personality – and train for skill. The reason we hear this so often is that these level one and two characteristics actually have a very low predictive ability of on-the-job performance.

Passion, attitude, character, personality – these are all part of a deeper assessment and sometimes it’s difficult to define what we need when it comes to these things. The problem is: if we can’t define what the job needs, how are we supposed to hire for it?

Here is where your assessments should come in! Giving a candidate an assessment is going to give you insight into their personality and probable on-the-job behaviours. But you can use that assessment tool before you even get down to your short list. Use your assessment tool to build a profile of your “ideal” candidate, to define what the temperamental and behavioural demands of the role actually are. If you aren’t doing this, you’re losing out on some major value from your assessment tool!

#2: Letting Your Assessment Make Your Decision

A common mistake that hiring managers make is automatically dismissing candidates who don’t match up with the job profile. You might be missing out on some star talent if you’re doing this. When it comes to temperament or personality, there is no good or bad. Many of us develop strategies to mitigate any weaknesses that are associated with our natural temperament.

For example, research has found that most successful salespeople have a certain level of assertiveness. But does this mean that every single successful salesperson is assertive? Not necessarily – perhaps someone who is not naturally assertive has developed a sales strategy that relies more heavily on, say, their ability to empathize and connect with others. They may not fit the profile of the “traditional” salesperson, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be extremely successful in their role. It all comes down to how they harness the natural strengths and mitigate the natural weaknesses in their temperament.

Remember that your assessment tool should guide your interview process – not define it in black-and-white terms. Identify your candidates’ gaps in relation to the job profile and then explore those gaps in your next interview using behavioural based interviewing. You may find that when you dig a bit deeper, a candidate does, in fact, align with what you’re looking for. You may also confirm what you see based on your assessment results, but now at least you have confirmed it!

#3: Not Thinking Long Term

When thinking long term, it’s important to understand the difference between high performance and high potential employees. Sitting at their desks, both kinds of employees might look similar. And we need both of them on our teams. They’re top producers, they’re technically competent, they work hard and they both enjoy challenge. The difference is that high potentials also place value on greater authority and responsibility over others, while high performers prefer to seek more challenge within their area of expertise.

If used correctly, your assessment tool can actually provide insight into who will likely fit into your high performance / potential groups, allowing you to develop your team accordingly. When hiring, it’s important to keep this in mind and think of the future. While a particular candidate might not perfectly match up with the job profile you created, it’s worthwhile to think long-term and consider what their career path might be within the organization. If you use assessments to make a hire and then tuck them away, you’re missing out on a huge amount of value. Assessments can be used well after a hiring decision is made, allowing managers to grow their employee development programs and help employees thrive in the organization. Think long-term and make sure you’re giving your high potentials and high performers the support they need to succeed!

Assessment tools can be a great resource to hire, develop and retain employees, but it’s important to use them correctly in order to see all the benefits. Don’t let your assessment tools work against you – watch out for these mistakes and you’ll see even greater results from your tools!


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