Three Powerful Ways to use Assessments in Recruiting

Leora Baumgarten —  October 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

Assessing CandidatesThe goal of any recruiting process is to select a candidate who is likely to be effective on the job and contribute to the company’s overall success. While that sounds easy, if you are an owner of a small or mid-sized company, an HR professional, or a manager, and are responsible for recruiting and hiring, it’s likely you’ve experienced stress as you move through the recruiting process. Chances are good that there are several steps you take to learn about the candidate and predict their future success. One of the tools that many companies, recruiters, and HR professionals use are assessments.

There are several types of assessments available in the marketplace. Assessments fall into three general categories:

  1. Skills assessments – the goal of these tests is to uncover whether or not the candidate has the skills to perform the duties required for the job. Skills can range from typing or data entry speed, to knowledge of programming languages, sales skills, or other technical skills like welding or operating various equipment.

  2. Cognitive abilities tests – the goal of this test is to uncover the candidate’s ability to learn, apply logic, and to assess reading comprehension, math skills, and general knowledge.

  3. Personality  assessments (including behaviors, motivators, values or integrity etc.) – the goal of these types of assessments is to learn about how the candidate will interact to others, respond to stressful situations and determine if a candidate will fit in with the culture of the work place and the demands of the job.

You probably use other tools to learn about candidates. These include candidate screeners and interviews. Candidate screeners are often part of the initial application process. Depending on the system used, a screener might include questions about skills, work experience, salary, and even work behaviors like travel and work schedule. Interviews, when done well, can shed light on the personality, values and skills displayed by the candidate.

It’s important to use assessments in a way that will improve the likelihood of selecting a candidate who will succeed on the job. A recent article in Entrepreneur put it best by saying, “A behavioral assessment is only helpful if you understand what behaviors would be successful in that particular job.” If you don’t know what behaviors will lead to success, implementing this type of assessment won’t help achieve the goal.

There are three powerful ways to use assessments:

  1. Use an assessment that will illuminate characteristics or proficiency you would like to know about the candidate. If on-the-job success is dependent on a specific skill set, choose an assessment for those skills.

  2. Use a high quality assessment. Most high quality assessments are validated. Validation means that research tools were used to gather data to demonstrate that the assessment measures what it claims to measure, that cultural bias is not a factor in the results, and that the results are reproducible. Also consider cautionary information expressing ways that the test should not be used.

  3. Use the assessment results as one factor in the decision making process. It is easy to imagine that excellence in a single skill or behavior might carry a candidate to success. Serious shortcomings in other areas can be devastating for on the job performance.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, which discussed academic research on this topic, the assessments which correlate best with employment success includes multiple measures, “cognitive ability, personality and interests.” For example if data entry speed or typing speed is important, candidates should be asked to take a typing test. And if customer service attitude is important choose a behaviors and motivators assessment that uncovers how a candidate will respond to others. If the job requires logical thinking and an ability to learn new information quickly, try a cognitive abilities assessment. Gathering a variety of information that is important for success will help prevent bad hires.

During the recruiting process take steps to find out as much as you can about the candidate’s skills, experience and behaviors to predict their future success. Use a combination of information to make a smart hiring decision and to mitigate the risk. Choosing an assessment that’s right for the job, could mean that you are using a skills assessment, a cognitive assessment or a personality assessment, depending on job requirements. Use a combination of assessments including screeners and interviews. Sounds easy, right? But remember that it’s also important not to alienate candidates by prolonging the pre-employment process or by asking them to take so many tests that the feel like a guinea pig instead of a valuable prospective employee.

Leora Baumgarten


Leora is Vice President of NewHire and a pro when it comes to hiring & recruiting for SMBs. When not at the office, you can find her swimming in Lake Michigan or spending time with her family in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Connect with her on Google+.

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