Choosing an Assessment Vendor: What to Look for

Recently I provided some tips about what to look for in an assessment product. This article provides complementary information by outlining basic information to help you determine the level of fit between vendors of pre-employment assessments and the specific needs of your organization. This is critical in ensuring the successful use of assessment tools. There are literally hundreds of vendors out there, each with their own specialty focus and unique characteristics. And not all of them are created equal. By taking the time to understand what comprises a good fit for your organization, you can better ensure you will reap the full benefits of pre-employment assessments.

The first section of this article provides an overview of a basic methodology for choosing a vendor. The second part provides some parameters for determining whether a specific vendor is right for you.

A Basic Methodology for Vendor Evaluation

Choosing an assessment vendor is a very personal thing and thus should be done using a solid methodology that focuses squarely on the following basic steps:

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  1. Define your needs: Before approaching any vendors, it is critical to clearly define the objectives driving your hunt for assessment tools (i.e., reducing turnover, providing better quality service, creating a new product, etc.) as well as the operational parameters that will shape your choices and implementation (i.e., budget, timing, types of jobs impacted, technology needs, etc.). Failure to define your needs before approaching a vendor will lead to the vendor defining your needs for you, a situation that does not always provide optimal results.
  2. Research vendors who can meet these needs: Once your needs are defined, conduct research to find the firms that offer relevant products and services. This step can be difficult as the market is quite crowded, and differentiation between vendors can be hard. My advice here is to be careful and thorough, to consult experts when possible, and to ask vendors to provide you with references to firms currently using their products in a similar capacity to the way you plan to use them.
  3. Zoom in on the best matches: As you continue to speak with vendors and collect information about their products and services, you’ll begin to see that some are a better fit than others. At this point don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and to ask for a full set of materials to evaluate. I always ask my clients to take the assessments they are considering. I have found this step has done quite a bit to help them identify a vendor with whom they feel a connection.
  4. Perform due diligence: Once the field is narrowed to a few vendors, it is time to really take a look at each vendor in terms of their ability to deliver for you. This step involves a thorough evaluation of the organization, discussions with key client references, and negotiation of terms of service.
  5. Begin implementation: Once you have chosen a vendor whom you feel can assist you in meeting your objectives, the implementation phase will begin. A description of the in’s and out’s of implementation is beyond the scope of this article. However, the work done in the previous steps should all be oriented toward making sure there are no surprises at this point in the game.

The specific actions involved in executing the above steps can vary based on the rigor and scope of the situation.

What to Look for in an Assessment Vendor

Choosing a vendor often comes down to personal style as well as the relevance of the vendor’s experience. In helping organizations choose the vendor that best fits their needs, I created the following list of items to keep in mind:

  • Established: Look for a vendor with a successful track record in your industry. Make sure the vendor’s products have worked for companies with similar hiring needs to yours. All that the vendor has learned from other companies can really help ensure your project is a success.Customer focused: Be wary of vendors with poor customer service. Assessment is a partnership, and there will be times when you need the vendor to be there for you. Failure to support properly and with the right attitude can seriously undermine your efforts.
  • Metrics-focused: A good vendor should be able to guide you in creating the opportunities required to understand how to translate assessment results into usable business metrics. A vendor who knows your industry should have a good working knowledge of key metrics and should have a plan to ensure you collect the right data and interpret it in a manner that will support your business goals and objectives. This part of the equation should be planned out during implementation, not viewed as an afterthought.
  • Flexible: While off-the-shelf products are often useful and relevant, a good vendor should offer some flexibility with the content of their assessments and the way in which the assessment is used. This is not always mandatory, businesses are all different and sometimes the ability to make small changes can make a big difference in terms of the relevance of an assessment and the results it can provide.
  • Technology centered: In today’s marketplace, a good vendor should clearly understand how to use technology to support products and services. It should be able to provide consumers with a full overview of its IT department and the platforms used to support its products. While each organization’s technology needs are different, it is safe to say that vendors with strong technical competence are often much better at solving implementation problems quickly and effectively. Also, vendors with strong technology can do more with their assessments.
  • Detail oriented: Assessment requires a strong attention to detail. Scoring, record-keeping, and statistical analysis all require great concentration, organization and precision. Your assessment process is likely to have some complex components, and your vendor must be up to the challenge when it comes to providing the highest possible levels of error-free service.
  • Properly staffed: There is a great range in the size of assessment companies. While size is not always linked to success, make sure the company you choose is the right size for your needs. By this I mean that they have the right resources in the right places to support your assessment objectives. If you don’t, timelines and service levels may suffer, which can end up being extremely costly.Sponge-like: Choose partners who are interested in learning from your organization and don’t view assessment as a one-way street. Your organization represents a unique challenge to the vendor, and the vendor should seek to learn from you. This attitude will undoubtedly help fuel long-term success.
  • Value-focused: A good assessment system will return many times its cost. Deciding how much to spend should be done relative to other goals and objectives. The cheapest assessment is not always the best nor is the most expensive. Value from assessment is directly related to the amount of time and effort you want to spend to ensure that the assessments you are using are optimized to predict performance. The bottom line is that while price is important, it should not be the primary driver of the decision when selecting an assessment vendor.

The information provided in this article is really a series of rough guidelines. There are many specific factors that must be carefully evaluated and considered when it comes to assessment vendor selection. However, the points raised in this article should provide a good foundation for getting started. It is highly advisable to enlist the services of a knowledgeable, third party industrial/organizational psychologist to help guide you through the complexities of the vendor-selection process.

Dr. Charles Handler is a thought leader, analyst, and practitioner in the talent assessment and human capital space. Throughout his career Dr. Handler has specialized in developing effective, legally defensible employee selection systems. 

Since 2001 Dr. Handler has served as the president and founder of Rocket-Hire, a vendor neutral consultancy dedicated to creating and driving innovation in talent assessment.  Dr. Handler has helped companies such as Intuit, Wells Fargo, KPMG, Scotia Bank, Hilton Worldwide, and Humana to design, implement, and measure impactful employee selection processes.

Through his prolific writing for media outlets such as, his work as a pre-hire assessment analyst for Bersin by Deloitte, and worldwide public speaking, Dr. Handler is a highly visible futurist and evangelist for the talent assessment space. Throughout his career, Dr. Handler has been on the forefront of innovation in the talent assessment space, applying his sound foundation in psychometrics to helping drive innovation in assessments through the use of gaming, social media, big data, and other advanced technologies.

Dr. Handler holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana State University.







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