Confusion, Uncertainty, and a Bit of Fear

Many of us, including myself, have predicted that organizations will begin to adopt online screening and assessment in a significant way. However, while I see some websites starting to use screening questions, very few websites are incorporating much in the way of assessment. Those that are using assessment tools, companies like Chili’s and Enterprise Car Rental, report great success. Yet most recruiters are swamped with resumes, and the constant lament at recruiting conferences is about the huge volume of resumes organizations are receiving, mostly from poorly qualified candidates. Given this scenario, why don’t recruiters aggressively go after the tools that could quickly make that volume go down? There are three big factors at play. The first is simply confusion. Very few recruiters have an industrial psychology background or any understanding of the tools and methodologies available for screening and assessment. And it is very confusing. Here is a “short” list of the types of assessment tools available:

  • Perceptual ability tests
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  • Personality scales
  • Job knowledge tests
  • Mental ability tests
  • Simulations

Many of the writers and contributors to ERE, including Charles Handler and Steve Hunt, have tried to clarify and explain these tools in their columns, but it is a complex area and requires a significant investment of time, and thought, to understand. Most of us are just too busy. However, things worth doing are often complex, and simply because assessment is confusing and difficult does not mean recruiters should not consider it. It does give organizations a distinct advantage: it provides them with candidates who are closer to being qualified and competent with less work than any other method. What is does mean is they will need to become better educated and embrace and use the experts in the field to help them. Choosing the right assessment process is not something most of us can do without expert assistance. Vendors and technology are helping, as well. More ATS vendors are offering some sort of candidate screening capability, and a few are forging relationships with assessment firms to provide their clients with these tools. The technology is getting better as well. Many of the tests that used to be given by paper and pencil are now available in enhanced and shorter online versions. The time to take a test is going down as the psychologists refine and improve their testing questions and methods. And the use of artificial intelligence algorithms and other sophisticated software behind the scenes to interpret results leads to better and shorter tests. The second reason for slow adoption is uncertainty about how candidates will react to the tools. I have talked to many recruiting directors at the organizations that have adopted assessment tests. They are unanimously positive about the experience. Candidate completion rates are good and the quality of candidates is above average. Candidates often give feedback via email to the organizations and it is positive. Candidates like the opportunity to show that they have capability or skill in an objective way. No matter what we think about interviews, interviews are subjective experiences. People are never certain how they did or how the recruiter perceived them. Tests, when well done and appropriate in length, are seen as much fairer and are much more likely to become popular with candidates. Many organizations have had a positive experience using assessment for years with hourly personnel. The Internet and our highly competitive business environment are putting the focus on the while collar worker. The results will most likely be very similar. Finally, we are all afraid of the legal aspects of screening and assessment. Many of us are convinced that any screening or testing opens us to lawsuits and the possibility of being sued for discrimination or unfair recruiting practices. Most of these fears are unfounded, but we would be negligent if we said there is no risk. Of course, any method of assessing people can be looked upon in a negative way. The courts have defined over the years what is fair and what is not, and the vendors of tests and tools are well aware of what is required to produce a legal and fair instrument. They know how to test and implement them in a legal way. While we must be careful how the tests are created, implemented and used; these fears should not be overwhelming. Note: As a response to these issues, my firm, along with three industrial psychologists ó Charles Handler, Steve Hunt and Tom Janz ó is producing a guide for recruiters to help them understand the types of screening and assessment tools that exists, why they are used, when they should be used and how to implement them on your web site. This forthcoming book will also list all the various vendors of these tools and describe what tools they offer. (If you are interested in receiving more information about this report or if you are a vendor of assessment tools and would like to be included, please send an email to

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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