I’ve been tracking trends in the screening and assessment marketplace for over five years now, and I’m pleased to see the progress that is being made in understanding the value of quality-assessment products in the modern hiring process.
Folks are finally starting to get the idea that assessments are but one component of a broader process designed to help hiring professionals make systematic predictions that result in good hiring decisions.
There’s much to be gained from this process-oriented approach, so it has been great to see assessments being used to help at various phases of the hiring process.
Despite the continued integration of assessment, there’s one area in which assessment has been underused. This area is the use of assessment tools during the job-searching process. Specifically, the integration of assessment tools into the searching/matching component of career portals.
Traditional methods available to users of career portals for locating jobs are extremely crude, consisting mostly of keyword searches or matching based on simplistic profile elements.
The fact that this basic process has endured as the standard for almost a decade now clearly reflects the quantity-over-quality focus that has reflected the marketing-centric attitude of many job boards since day one.
Blocking Out the Noise
This crude matching process results in excess noise. For applicants, noise means they’re presented with, and encouraged to apply for, a ton of jobs for which they’re not qualified. For hiring professionals, noise means no mechanism to assist them in making an initial high-level determination of applicant quality.
Noise makes it difficult to make good hiring decisions because it greatly increases the chance to make systematic errors.
The good news is that I am starting to see a shift in focus that will go a long way toward a reduction in noise and an increase in the ability to differentiate candidates based on various quality factors.
This shift involves the use of assessment tools as an integral part of the services provided by career portals. The use of assessment to help fill the hiring funnel with applicants who have the attributes required for success has numerous advantages, all of which are explained by simple probability theory.
Think about it: the more qualified the individuals in your applicant pool, the better chance you have of hiring someone who has what it takes. Over the past few years, I have learned of an increasing number of companies who are seeking to change things by integrating assessment into the matching process.
The basic aspects of this include the following:
- Seekers create profiles. This part of the matching process works as part of a registration process, before a job seeker has even expressed interest in a specific position. Along with other information collected during this process, the job seeker creates a profile based on a short assessment of basic qualities such as work attitudes, personality measures, etc.
- Corporate users define high-level requirements. This part of the matching process requires hiring personnel to create a template of the basic things it takes to do the job well. This often includes standard things such as skills and experience but also includes qualities often measured by assessments (personality factors, dimensions of fit, work values, etc).
- Noise is squelched. When a job seeker searches for a job using the profile he/she has created, results include jobs for which they are suited based on the compatibility between their profiles and those of available jobs.
There are many twists on this formula but the basic idea is the same: deliver an applicant pool that has less noise and makes the recruiter’s job easier. This is the start to ensuring quality hires because it’s sure hard to hire superstars if they aren’t even in your applicant pool to begin with.
Admittedly, my description of this process is overly simplistic. In job matching, just as with making hiring decisions, assessment data should serve as one of many data points that are used to identify the best candidate for the job. Truly effective matching systems will use parameters that include other key determinants of success such as experience, knowledge, and skills.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Overall, the use of assessment in the matching process offers the following five advantages:
Article Continues Below
Guide: Practical Tips for Remote Hiring
- Reduces noise. Allows filtering based on actual job-related parameters.
- Helps determine corporate fit. This process is a good way to find and hire applicants who fit a company culture.
- Increases quality. Allows insight into applicant’s ability to deliver what it takes for success.
- Educates job seekers. Allows applicants some insight about themselves and how suited they are for a particular job or career.
- Results in branding. Can be a good applicant experience leading to support for employment brands.
Of course, there are potential drawbacks to the use of assessment as part of the matching process. These include the following five issues:
- Learning curve. Users must learn to understand how to define jobs in terms of relative importance of the parameters used for matching.
- Accuracy. It is critical to match the templates against which applicants are matched to accurate reflections of the job.
- Uncertainty. Predicting performance is a difficult task, to say the least. Assessment-assisted matching is not a panacea and does not eliminate possibility that mistakes will happen.
- Quality control. To be effective, assessments must be created using the proper methodology; substandard assessment products will produce substandard results.
- Legality. While the use of assessments in matching is not illegal, it does require awareness of some potential legal ramifications (see below for more discussion on this issue).
Five years ago, I believed that the use of any pre-employment assessments as a matching tool was not a good idea. Since then, some things have happened to make me change this stance.
One of the most important of these is the work that is being done in determining exactly when one is considered an applicant. Without getting too deep into this complex subject, individuals who have not yet expressed interest in a job, but rather are browsing for options, are not technically considered applicants.
Thus, any assessments they may complete prior to expressing interest aren’t subject to evaluation for legal correctness.
This doesn’t mean that the basic litmus test of legal defensibility (i.e., the job relatedness of an assessment tool) is any less important for the matching process. Also, the softening of my initial stance does not mean that the use of these tools has no potential legal ramifications. The job-relatedness of an assessment tool is still critical in terms of ensuring its effectiveness and thus should not be ignored.
Perhaps the biggest potential legal pitfall of using assessments for matching is how the assessment results are used after the matching step has occurred. The results of the assessment used to create the match still have value within the hiring process because they provide information about the applicant relative to the job in question.
However, these results cannot be used to make hiring decisions unless such data has been captured for all applicants. Since applicants are most often sourced from a range of different places using a range of different methods, you can get in a situation where some applicants took an assessment and some did not.
In such cases, steps must be taken to ensure that one of two things occurs. Either all applicants who did not apply via a portal using the matching assessment must be given the chance to take the assessment, or assessment results captured as part of the matching process should not be used for any decision-making once the job seeker has fulfilled all requirements needed for them to be labeled an applicant.
Of course, the concept of assessment-based matching will continue to evolve and many issues will have to be resolved in the process.
Despite this, within the next five years I expect to see career portals offering an increasing amount of value by beginning to change the focus from quantity to quality, with assessments as one of the core elements of this switch.
I think all stakeholders involved in the hiring process, including applicants, stand to benefit from this trend.