Archives For Assessments


When hiring a new employee, the interview process should include multiple candidates coming in for face-to-face interviews. Oftentimes you’ll find a candidate who surprises you in a how-did-they-get-this-far sort of way. It’s not ideal, but people can look good on a resume and have the experience that you’re looking for, but they may end up being something completely different in person. One of the ways to limit this possibility, is the implementation of assessment tests.

Skills and assessment tests come in many different shapes and sizes – you can get one that judges someone’s ability in almost anything. Here is a look at some of the different types of assessments.

Software Testing

            Let’s say you’re trying to hire someone for a marketing position. Chances are good that you’re going to want someone who can use Word, PowerPoint, and/or something like Photoshop. In that case, test them on it before you interview them. If you have a list of 10 people who are in the hunt, have each of them take a PowerPoint assessment test and see that two or three of them will have eliminated themselves by way of poor results. Sure, according to their resume they have the experience, but rather than finding out too late, you’ve now seen the truth in the form of a score report which takes up 15 seconds of your time.

Intelligence Testing

            While it’s hard to say that any test is bulletproof, certain tests have a reputation for being good measuring sticks. Our rule of the thumb is that before you use it on a candidate, you must use it on yourself! Feel free to try out a few of our options here. Among the most reputable is the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability test. Employed by the NFL since the 1970s, the Wonderlic tests a person’s general intelligence, aptitude, and problem-solving ability by running a participant through a series of 50 questions over 12 minutes (or an off-site, remotely administered version at 30 questions over 8 minutes). The results are sent back to you with the score ranges color coded and the score (or applicable score range, in the 30-question version) highlighted on the page.

Behaviors and Personality Tests

Sales assessment tests seem to be the most common example of these (Meyers Briggs has long been one of the most popular sales assessment tests) but there are many different options when working to assess behaviors. These tests will ask a series of questions that help determine what motivates an individual, how they act naturally, how they act in a workplace, and what kinds of results they value most. As an example, Target Testing International (TTI) has a test which features a DISC assessment – determining the candidate’s Drive, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance – and a PIAV side – determining the personal interests, attitudes, and values of your potential employee. When used together, they provide a strong indication of the person’s makeup, which can then be measured against what you know about the position you want to fill.

Beyond this, there are certainly other options still out there for you to assess your candidates. Obviously, each of the above choices does come with a relatively low financial cost; significantly lower than finding out that someone doesn’t have their advertised skills after you hired them.

“In the interview he seemed like Brad Pitt, but once I hired him he was more like Danny De Vito.”

Business owners, I love you – but you don’t know how to hire.

You interview a candidate for a couple of hours or maybe even take him out for a meal. And if you are really thorough, you call a few of his references. While he’s got a few quirks, you hire him and hope to work alongside him for years to come.

personality profiles

Now come on! Do you buy a house that quickly? Or a car? When you think about it, the hiring practices of business owners are kind of crazy!

The challenge is that you can’t “test drive” your job candidates. You need to fill a job, and they need to get a job. The window is (hopefully) short for both of you. So how do you “get to know” a candidate really well in a short period of time? How can you more quickly learn who this person is and how they will fit with your team?

The only way I have found to do this is to conduct a personality profile assessment. This assessment, usually taken online, asks questions about a candidate’s temperament and personality and then delivers a report outlining the candidate’s profile. When you compare the candidate’s profile with the profile of your other team members, you can see whether the person is a fit or not.

I rarely see a profile that’s “bad” or “wrong for the position.” Instead I’m asking, “What are the risks and opportunities in hiring this person?” Sometimes a team needs a diversity of personalities to get the work done, but knowing how different people think can head off problems. For example:

  • When hiring for a role on a very fast-paced team with a lot of team members who like to give verbal direction, I saw a qualified candidate who was process-oriented and loved detail. This candidate would be a terrific fit, if the team could find a way to accommodate the candidate’s need to process new information and desire to get things in writing. This profile prompted a discussion that eliminated a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.
  • A very visionary, strong-willed client is hiring an assistant whose personality profile reveals that he is very concrete and pragmatic. How will the assistant get the detailed direction he needs? Will the manager be willing to slow down in order to answer all of his questions? If not it’s a disaster — if so he can really fill in a weak spot that the manager has.
  • An introverted finance person joins a team of highly extroverted salespeople as a pricing analyst. How will the team accommodate his need for greater analysis time? How will the introvert accommodate the team’s strong desire to brainstorm and problem-solve verbally?

These are real issues that come up all the time during the hiring process. Using a reliable, accurate, and well researched tool can help to head these issues off at the hiring stage and pave the way for a more successful hire.

What kind of tools do you use to make your hiring more successful?

Brad FarrisBrad Farris is a small business advisor with Anchor Advisors, Ltd. in Chicago, IL. Since 2001 Anchor Advisors has been helping creative professional firms to grow, by helping them clarify their purpose, get the most from their people, keep their eye on key performance measures, and implement consistent processes. Brad is also the author of 3 e-books and managing editor of EnMast, a business owner community. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

How to tell candidate is lying picture

Just as you might put on your best clothes, smile, and fib a little to impress a first date, job candidates sometimes do the same thing when trying to get a job. When dating someone new, you don’t get to really know the person until several dates in – when the “honeymoon” phase starts to wear off.

Hiring an employee is the same way except you don’t have very many “dates” to get to know who they really are. It’s important to find if they’re lying to you right away to prevent you from making a bad hire.

A lot of candidates lie

According to the Society of Human Resources Management, 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information. The Wall Street journal also found that 34% of all application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform essential functions on the job.(1)

And to add the 9% of job applicants who falsely claim they have a college degree, list false employers, or have identified jobs that didn’t exist.(2)

These are some pretty substantial numbers – how are they getting away with this? 

There are a few websites out there that candidates are using to back up their lies. sells fake job references for candidates and boasts the following on their website:

“We will act as your very own human resource department and supervisor using one of ours/or your virtual company. Verifying your name, job title, job description, work dates and answer any questions with a positive reference in a professional, business like manner.”

It gets worse. sells a book on how to “fill in the gaps” on your resume with false information, written by a former recruiter:

“There are a lot of legitimate reasons for writing a fake resume. Perhaps your current job title didn’t properly convey all the duties or responsibilities that you had. Maybe you are unemployed for a period of time. Everyone knows that doesn’t look good on your resume. Did you assist a manager who was incompetent and wouldn’t give you a good reference if his life depended on it? The bottom line is if you know you can do the job, why shouldn’t you fluff up your resume a bit?”

Why shouldn’t you? …Well, maybe personal integrity or ethical standards, to name a couple of reasons.

And if that wasn’t enough, provides fake references as well. They even go as far as claiming:

“If you’re calling us from London, Sydney or even Texas, we’ll assign a voice actor with the appropriate accent to “Fit” that [anywhere in] the World!”

How to combat lying candidates

If their nose isn’t growing and their pants aren’t on fire, it may be hard to identify when someone is lying in an interview. Here’s a few ways you can spot lying candidates:

1. Take your time – ask for the same information in different ways

If a candidate makes claims that seem to good to be true, ask for more details and then ask again a different way. Don’t be afraid to be surprised at an answer. Ask “Did you really do all that?” or “What other help did you have with the project that you haven’t mentioned yet?” Asking about information in multiple ways will help you find flaws in their stories if they’re lying.

2. Use Brad Smart’s “TORC – Threat of Reference Check”

Tell the candidate as the interview starts that you will be confirming all the information you gather in the interview with the candidate’s references. It will make a candidate think twice before lying to you.

3. Ask questions only qualified people would know on your job application

If your candidate is truly qualified for the job, he/she should be able to answer some basic questions about the line of work they’ll be doing. You can even weed them out even before they step in your office by asking job knowledge questions on the job application. For example, if you’re hiring a baker, you may ask:

1. What in chocolate cake makes the cake rise? 

a. Baking soda
b. Yeast
c. Chocolate
d. Flour

If they answer “b. Yeast,” you probably don’t want them cooking in your kitchen. It’s best to put their application in the “NO” pile.

4. Conduct skills testing – make sure they can actually do the job

If they do answer the questions correctly in the application, conduct skills tests to make sure they can actually fulfill the basic job functions. For example, if you’re hiring an accountant, they should be pretty familiar with spreadsheets. Test them on their Excel skills or conduct other skills tests to make sure they can actually do the job, and not just claim that they can.

5. Background checks – a few bucks up front can save you thousands later

We’ve had plenty of candidates tell us that they have nothing on their record, but their background checks say otherwise. It’s better to spend the few bucks up front and find out if they have a history of theft before they start stealing from you.

Always verify candidate information

A bad hire can cost you thousands of dollars (not to mention lots of headaches), so it’s best to do it right the first time. Always conduct background checks and tests on your candidates, and trust your gut if you suspect they’re lying and verify their information.


(2) Resume Inflation: Two Wrongs May Mean No Rights, by Barbara Kat Repa,, 2001

While personality assessments are reliable, at NewHire we often start by talking about work behaviors and attitudes. It is not complicated to identify specific work behaviors that lead to success in a particular job. It can be much more time consuming to try to figure out which type of personality will be successful on the job.

work behaviors and attitudes mean more than other indivators

We like to start with work behaviors because we can screen for applicants with desirable work behaviors during the application process and save the costly personality assessments for the finalists.

Here’s an example:

A promotional products company is hiring a fulfillment specialist. This person will be responsible for receiving product details from account managers, contacting vendors with the specs and managing the fulfillment and on-time delivery. Knowledge of vendors, products, production and delivery times is a must. The owner explains that the most successful employees in this position are gregarious, hard working and detail oriented.

Gregarious, hard working and detail oriented are personality traits. But which work behaviors are actually key factors for success in this position?

Start by matching up personality traits to work behaviors. Here are some specific work behaviors that relate to these perceived personality traits:




Stays in touch with the vendor and builds relationships

Hard working

Enjoys a fast paced work environment with a variety of duties

Detail oriented

Has a system for tracking details and follow-up schedules

How do you find out what their work behaviors are?

Create screening questions to help you determine what their work behaviors are. Here are a couple examples of effective screening questions that can help identify people with these specific work behaviors. Notice that the applicant can’t just search the internet to find the right answer.

1. To ensure on-time order fulfillment from third party vendors it is best to…

a. Establish your authority with the vendor
b. Build a relationship with the vendor based on mutual understanding of benefits and obligations
c. Follow-up just before the delivery date to ensure the order is correct
d. Change vendors often

2. What type of work environment do you prefer? I prefer a work environment…

a. with a regular set of daily duties in which I can learn to excel
b. with a fast pace and a wide variety of duties and people to work with
c. where I can juggle a few on-going projects that each require time and attention
d. where I get to solve problems

Use these types of questions during an interview, or better yet, use them in a pre-employment application when candidates first apply for your job. This helps streamline your recruiting process so you only speak to candidates who meet these key criteria for employment.

Recent question from a client that I thought might be of general interest: Do you have a format that you typically use for reference checking? What do you typically look for and what is the role of the reference checking in your view? What should not be expected of reference checking?

There are various perspectives on the value of reference checking. Brad Smart, of Topgrading fame, thinks it’s the most important part of the recruiting process. For his perspective you can get “The Smart Interviewer” at Amazon for about $20. Perhaps the most useful tidbit Smart provides is the concept of “TORC” or “Threat Of Reference Check.” Smart argues persuasively that informing candidates at the beginning of the interview that the interviewer will be checking the candidates’ answers with references ensures more truthful responses.

I think it’s important and necessary to check references but not particularly helpful. Mostly we use them in a negative context. We assume that just about any one can find 2 people to say something really nice about them. If references seem hesitant or unsure we may take this as a negative sign. We had a recent case where a client, doing their own reference checks, reported a false reference right at the end of the recruiting process. He checked 4 references for a sales job. Having a hard time reaching the 4th person he asked the candidate for help. The candidate immediately made available her boyfriend using a false name. Needless to say, the candidate didn’t get the job.

So, as a process, I think it’s helpful. You must keep expectations relatively low and you must listen to glowing references with a skeptical ear. If you have a particular concern about a candidate’s suitability for a position it is helpful to question references specifically about that concern in as much detail as possible.

If you do check references make sure you stick to a script that helps you avoided questions that could lead to negligent hiring claims, such as age, race, gender, and disability issues. Almost more than candidates themselves, references may be sensitive to these issues and report back to the candidate.

Here’s a link to the Reference Check Template that we use a NewHire. Feel free to make use of it. And don’t hesitate to ask me for help, if you need it.

The Fake Reference

Chuck Smith —  September 22, 2009 — 1 Comment

On the verge of offering the candidate a job, our client checked one last reference. Unable to reach the named “previous manager,” our client called the candidate. In turn, the candidate produced the reference in minutes.

Only problem was that the caller ID for the manager was the SAME one the candidate had called from!  You got it… the boyfriend impersonated the manager.

fake references can be avoided by checking references


When our client asked about the name on the caller ID, the boyfriend stammered, stalled and hung up.

Needless to say, when our client called the candidate to offer some “good news,” the candidate never called back, ever.

Lesson: check references and be wary!