Creating an Effective RFP for Online Staffing Assessments

Believe it or not, one of the most challenging parts of ramping up an online staffing assessment is choosing the right vendor. Some reasons for this include:

  • The market is flooded with vendors. It is very easy to be faced with information overload when trying to build a list of vendors to consider. Most vendors have “fluffy” marketing messages that make it seem like all you have to do is hire them and all your problems will magically disappear.
  • Matching your needs with a vendor’s products can be difficult. Vendors will often attempt to shove a square peg in a round hole by trying to convince you that they have the right product for your needs.
  • Understanding the ins and outs of online staffing assessments can be very difficult. Many times even a vendor’s sales force doesn’t have a complete grasp of some of the more complex issues.
  • There is no one “best vendor.” Each vendor has specific strengths and weaknesses that make them a good match for some situations and a less than optimal match for others. Also, it can be hard to differentiate between the products and services provided by various vendors.

Choosing the right vendor one of the most challenging parts of using online staffing assessments, but it is also the most important way to ensure the success of your online staffing system. One of the best ways to make sure you are being thorough in your vendor selection process is to create an RFP (request for proposal) process. This process provides vendors with some specific information about your needs and gives them a chance to present a proposal detailing their plans for helping you meet these needs. An RFP will allow you to cut through the marketing mumbo-jumbo and force vendors to actually demonstrate what they can do to help you and why their solutions will work. It’s important to understand that the ability of an RFP process to accomplish its goals is directly related to the quality of the questions it contains. The complexity of online staffing assessments makes ensuring your RFP asks the right questions a difficult challenge. While a full discussion of all the issues that must be considered when creating an online staffing assessment RFP is beyond the scope of this article; I have outlined six tips below that help to identify some of the major issues that should be addressed by an assessment RFP. Tip #1: Begin the process by building a team that includes representatives from all departments involved in implementing and using the staffing assessment system. Creating an effective RFP for online staffing assessments involves collecting information about the needs of everyone who will be impacted by the process. The RFP should take into account key issues and requirements from IT, legal, staffing, and the business owners and hiring managers who are going to be using the assessment. A good RFP should also include the input of someone who knows about the technical aspects of assessment. The end result of increased communication and input at the front end will be a balanced RFP that provides the vendor with a chance to address the concerns of all parties involved in the selection and use of the assessment. Tip #2: Do some research to be sure you have identified the right vendors to contact. The marketplace is teeming with vendors, and all of them claim to offer the best tool for your needs. Furthermore, no two vendors are alike. Each one has a slightly different range of products and a different philosophy about what type of assessments are the most effective. It is important that you do some upfront research to try and identify the companies that seem best suited for your specific needs before you send out the RFP. This process may take some work, but the investment will pay off in the long run, because sending your RFP to a select group of vendors who are a good match for your needs will help you avoid information overload. A thorough research process will also help to ensure that you do not overlook any vendors who may have a solution that is perfect for you. Unfortunately, there is no one place where you can learn about all of the online staffing assessment vendors and compare the products and services they have to offer so identifying vendors can take a good bit of legwork. (This need led to my company’s decision to create one of the first reference sources for this type of information. You can visit for more information.) Tip #3: Be sure that your RFP clearly identifies the job or jobs for which the staffing assessment tool will be used and provides detailed information about what is required to perform these jobs effectively. It is important to make sure you let vendors know what jobs you are interested in using their assessments to fill. Without such information, it will be very difficult for vendors to accurately describe the assessment which they plan to use and explain why it will be effective. While general information such as that provided by a job description will help vendors get a good idea of what is required by the jobs included in the RFP, I recommend providing vendors with detailed, specific information about job requirements for every job for which the assessment tool will be used. This information should include:

  • The results of any job analysis studies that have been conducted
  • A competency model
  • A list of organization specific values
  • The clear identification of any other knowledges, skills, and abilities required for job performance

If assessments are to be used for a family or series of jobs, this information should also highlight the key differences in requirements between all relevant jobs. Tip #4: Be sure to clearly identify your preference for an off the shelf assessment or a customized assessment or information about both. Many vendors offer off-the-shelf assessments that they recommend for popular positions such as retail sales or sales management jobs. While there is nothing wrong with these assessments, they often may fail to take into account the values of a specific organization. An assessment for generic retail sales positions, for instance, may not tap into organization-specific values. For this reason, it is important to specify that any assessment used be able to assess the extent to which candidates possess these values. This may require that some customization be made to an assessment. Some companies are better equipped to provide this type of customization than others. It is also important to understand that this customization may require extra time and resources. It is important that you understand these tradeoffs and collect the information needed to help you account for them when evaluating responses to the RFP. This is best accomplished by ensuring that the RFP asks vendors to disclose the extent to which they have off-the-shelf tools available for the job in question and the extent to which these tools can be customized to fit specific aspects of your company’s environment. Tip #5: Ask vendors to be specific about the type of assessment tools they are recommending. There are a wide variety of assessment tools available on the market. Assessment processes recommended by vendors may use one or many types of assessments. Some vendors offer complete systems that include high-level screening, trait based assessments such as personality and ability inventories, and structured interviews. Others have only one specific product that they use for all situations. It is important to ask vendors to clearly identify what type of assessment or assessments they recommend for your situation and to provide you with some rationale as to why each component has value in helping you hire the best applicants. Tip #6: Provide vendors with specific requirements for the validation evidence you wish them to provide. There are several types of validation evidence that can be used to demonstrate the effectiveness and legal defensibility of an assessment test. Each of these types of evidence is quite different and each is an important element for the evaluation of the ability of the assessment to meet a specific set of needs. The major types of validation evidence include: 1. Content-related validation evidence. There are two types of content validation evidence, including:

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  • Evidence related to the manner in which the test was constructed. This includes documentation that details the theory on which the test is based and provides step-by-step procedures for the construction of the items and scales on the test. There are a number of critical steps that must be followed in order to demonstrate that a test has been constructed in a manner that allows it to be certified as content valid.
  • Evidence that clearly links test content to the dimensions of job performance identified via a job analysis. This type of content validation evidence requires the demonstration that the constructs measured by the assessment can be shown to measure key aspects of job performance. This is usually done by having a team of experts provide a document that demonstrates these relationships. It is important to ask the vendor to discuss the process they will use to establish this relationship.

2. Criterion-related validation evidence. There are two types of criterion related validation evidence, including:

  • Evidence to support “transportation of validity.” This involves evidence from past criterion-related validation studies that is used to demonstrate the relevance of the test for similar situations (i.e. transportation of validity). This involves requesting that vendors provide the results of past validation studies demonstrating that the assessments they recommend have predicted performance in similar situations. The more evidence of this type a vendor can supply, the more likely it will be that the recommended assessment will provide an effective tool for selecting new employees in your environment. It is also important to understand that there may be key differences between your environment and those for which validation evidence exists. It is important to ask vendors how they plan to account for this if they suggest using a transportation of validity strategy.
  • Ongoing criterion-related validation evidence. This involves working with the vendor to conduct a criterion-related validation study as part of the implementation of the assessment tool. A criterion-related validation study involves the investigation of the statistical relationship between scores on the assessment test and measures of job performance. This is the most direct and practical way to demonstrate the value added by an assessment measure. This type of study can be conducted before the assessment is rolled out, after the assessment has been in use for a specific period of time (usually six months), or on an ongoing basis (every six months).

Ideally, vendors responding to the RFP should be able to provide evidence of each of these specific types of validity or provide a plan to demonstrating the process they will use to collect them. Conclusion There is certainly a lot more to creating an effective online staffing assessment RFP than has been covered in this article. Still, the information I have provided should help you to obtain the information you need to help you separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to finding a vendor that meets you needs. Asking the right questions will save you time in the long run, and the good vendors will actually appreciate a thorough RFP because it will allow them to understand exactly what you are looking for and respond accordingly.

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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