Defining Commonly Used Web-Based Staffing Technology Terms

I often receive useful feedback and opinions about my articles for ERE and I try my best to address and learn from this feedback whenever possible. This article is in response to feedback I received on an article my associate Dr. Steve Hunt and I wrote for ERE last month. The topic of this article was what we referred to as “pre-screening.” While the topic itself was worthy of discussion, I also received some useful feedback about the appropriateness of the term pre-screening. It was suggested that pre-screening may not be the best way to describe the process of evaluating high-level candidate information in order to determine which candidates meet the minimum qualifications for a given job. Since the evaluation of this type of information is usually the first level of screening when evaluating a candidate, it is technically not possible to screen someone before this step. Thus, the term pre-screening is a bit of a misnomer. While this particular confusion is not a serious problem in and of itself, it is indicative of a broader issue that faces all of us ó namely, the lack of standardization in the terms we use to describe the products, tools, and activities that make up the recruiting and staffing process. The purpose of this article is to begin standardizing some of these definitions, in order to ensure that all of us are on the same page when it comes to the language we use to describe the online staffing process. I want to get the ball rolling by responding to the feedback on my last article with the suggestion that the term pre-screening be dropped in favor of the term “qualifications screening.” I define “qualifications screening” as “the evaluation of candidate qualifications early on in the staffing process. Pre-screening is typically used to remove applicants who are clearly unqualified from the applicant pool early on in the hiring process. This frees up resources to be focused on gathering more in-depth information from qualified applicants.” The remainder of this article contains more definitions of terms commonly used by those of us in the technology-based staffing business. These definitions were taken from the glossary of my Rocket-Hire Buyer’s Guide to Web?Based Screening and Staffing Assessment Systems. Access channel/candidate access channel: Any means by which a candidate can gain access to online recruiting functions or online staffing assessment tools. These may include job boards, corporate employment portals, kiosks, wireless handheld computers, hyperlinks that are embedded in emails, or URLs that are advertised using conventional channels such as billboards or newspaper ads. Applicant tracking system (ATS): An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application designed to help an enterprise manage its staffing process more efficiently. Applicant tracking systems are sometimes referred to as candidate management systems, although in reality the two are slightly different, since a true ATS functions at an enterprise level while a candidate management system is suitable for smaller-scale applications. An ATS can be used to post job openings on a corporate website or job board, screen resumes, and generate interview requests to potential candidates by email. Other features may include individual applicant tracking, requisition tracking, automated resume ranking, customized input forms, pre-screening questions and response tracking, and multilingual capabilities. It is estimated that roughly 50% of all mid-sized companies and almost all large corporations use some type of applicant tracking system. Most applicant tracking systems represent enterprise-level technology and require a reasonable amount of time and effort to be configured to map onto an individual organization’s staffing process. Assessment administration systems: An electronic (online) system that allows staffing professionals to configure and administer online staffing assessments. These systems allow users to accomplish tasks such as scheduling candidates for assessments, attaching links to online assessments to job postings, and tracking a candidate’s progress in the selection process. Assessment delivery systems: The system used to deliver assessment content to a candidate. Assessment delivery systems are usually web based; however, assessments can also be delivered via paper, phone (IVR), in person, kiosks, or wireless devices. Candidate management system (see also “Applicant Tracking System”): An application that allows staffing professionals to manage information obtained from job applicants and to use this information for administrative purposes. While these systems perform many of the same functions as applicant tracking systems, they are usually associated with functionality that is included with many online assessment platforms. This is in contrast to an ATS, which is usually a standalone system that functions at an enterprise level. A common difference between candidate management systems and applicant tracking systems is whether or not they are set up to transfer data to an organization’s HRIS. Applicant tracking systems almost always provide this functionality, while many candidate management systems do not. Candidate profiles: Information that summarizes an individual’s suitability for a job relative to specific job requirements. Candidate profiles represent the output of many online staffing assessment systems. Typically, candidate profiles contain a graphical representation of a candidate’s traits compared to the ideal range of these traits in terms of effective job performance. Many candidate profiles also contain detailed narrative information about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses relative to job performance requirements. Competency/competency model: The term “competency” is often used in a variety of different ways. However, the most common definition defines a competency as a set of behaviors that influence organizational performance. For example, interpersonal savvy or relationship-building are common competencies. Competency models contain sets of competencies that identify key behaviors employees need to display in order to succeed in their roles. Competency-based assessments: Assessments designed around the behaviors found in a competency model instead of around more “psychological” attributes, such as personality traits or abilities. Competency-based assessments often integrate multiple types of assessment methodologies in order to predict the various behaviors defined by a competency. Competency-based reports: Much like a “candidate profile,” these are reports that describe a candidate’s suitability for a specific job based on the likelihood that they will display the competencies that influence performance for that job. Corporate careers portal: The careers section of a corporation’s website. It is estimated that over 90% of organizations that have a website have some form of a corporate careers portal. However, there are a wide range of functions and services associated with these portals. Many larger corporations rely on their corporate careers portal to establish their employment brand. Such extensive portals often include detailed information about a company’s values as well as profiles of employees, games, and the opportunity to search and apply for jobs. Many of the larger online assessment vendors offer their customers pre-made, private label career sites that can be installed on a company’s website with little effort. Dashboard reporting: In an online staffing assessment system, this is a set of screens that provide users with comprehensive information about multiple applicants relative to the requirements of the job for which they are applying. Most dashboard systems utilize layered reporting in which high-level information is presented in initial screens but more detailed information can be accessed via clicking through various pieces of information about each candidate. This type of reporting is usually provided by more technologically advanced staffing assessment systems. Electronic recruiting agents: Web-based applications that allow users to automatically search the web to find resumes of candidates who are qualified for a specific position. These are used by recruiters to identify and retrieve information that they can use to make contact with viable job applicants. Employment brand: The message an organization sends to candidates regarding what the company is like as an employer. The employment brand permeates recruitment messages sent by the organization, including their web-based recruitment process. Staffing assessment tools also affect a company’s employer brand. If candidates perceive assessments as unpleasant or non-job relevant, they are likely to be less favorably disposed toward the company as a potential employer. Full-service assessment system: System that supports a wide range of assessment tools and candidate management features. Hiring recommendations: A specific recommendation to help staffing personnel make decisions based on the match between a candidate’s assessment results and job performance requirements. These systems express hiring recommendations in very simple terms such as percentage values or red, yellow, and green lights. Human Resource Information System (HRIS): Enterprise-level software systems designed to support management of human resource data (e.g. payroll, job title, candidate contact information). Some of the larger HRIS platforms include SAP and Peoplesoft. IVR (interactive voice recognition) assessment: Assessment system that collects information from candidates using an automated telephone system. Candidates typically access these systems using a 1-800 number. Candidates answer questions either by using the telephone keypad or by speaking to a computer designed to recognize specific voice responses. Job board: A website or part of a website that allows job seekers to view available jobs posted by a variety of organizations. Once applicants have identified a job that they are interested in applying for, the job board provides them with a way to send critical job-related information (such as a resume) to the employer. Many job boards have a variety of additional services to help job seekers manage their careers and their ongoing job search processes. Knockout questions: Specific questions on an assessment instrument that are used as independent criteria for qualifying or removing candidates for consideration for a position during the pre-screening or qualifications screening phase of the hiring process. For example, a question asking candidates if they can provide eligibility of their right to work in the United States might be used as a knockout question. A company might decided that if a candidate does not answer “yes” to this question, he or she will no longer be considered for the position regardless of how the candidate performed on the rest of the assessment. Knockout questions should be used very conservatively and only to assess very clearly defined, highly objective qualifications. Niche job board: A job board that serves a specific industry or occupation. For instance, is a niche job board that caters to sales professionals. Off-the-shelf assessments: Assessment tools that can be purchased and implemented with little or no customization. These are typically less expensive than tailored assessments and can be quickly deployed. Off-the-shelf assessments may not be as valid or efficient as tailored assessments because they are designed to predict general aspects of performance rather than focusing on the specific behaviors that drive success in a particular job. Personnel selection: The process used to determine whether to make a job offer to a candidate. Realistic job preview (RJP): A selection measure or step in a selection system that provides an applicant with realistic and accurate information about some of the more difficult aspects of the job. It is hoped that this realistic information will cause applicants who are not comfortable with the more difficult parts of a job to remove themselves from the selection process. Studies have shown that RJPs are an excellent way to help reduce turnover. Red-flag response: A specific response to a single item on an assessment instrument that is felt to be highly indicative of a potential candidate weakness. For example, a candidate who marked “yes” in response to a pre-screening question asking if they had ever been fired from a job might be marked as a red-flag response. Reporting tools: Tools that allow clients to interpret and use the data collected via an assessment system. Information typically provided by reporting tools includes summaries of applicant scores on different assessments tools, number of applicants completing different assessments, passing rates broken down by different applicant characteristics, or EEOC statistics. Resume capture: A functionality that allows a candidate’s resume to be uploaded into a resume database maintained by a job board or corporate careers site. Resume evaluation software: Software that uses artificial intelligence to parse (dissect) a resume and infer meaning from its contents. These systems are seen by some as an efficient way to reduce the amount of resources required to evaluate resumes in situations with large numbers of applicants. Sourcing: The act of finding candidates to apply for a job opening. Sourcing can be active or passive. In active sourcing, recruiters search databases and job boards to try and locate qualified candidates. Passive sourcing involves using resources such as print advertisements, careers pages, or job boards to help applicants find out about available job openings and compel them to apply. Staffing: The process of acquiring, deploying and retaining a workforce of sufficient quantity and quality to create positive impacts on the organization’s effectiveness. The process used to hire new employees into an organization. Staffing assessment: Any tool or system that collects information from job candidates for the purpose of aiding hiring decisions. Standalone assessment platform: An assessment system that is designed to function on its own, without being integrated with other technology platforms. Static reporting: Reporting in which the results of staffing assessments are delivered via a PDF file or in an email. Static reports do not allow users access to varying levels of information about a candidate. Technology platform: The technology system used to deliver, score, and manage online staffing assessments. Technology platforms range from simple systems in which tests are e-mailed to applicants to extremely complex systems that incorporate a variety of advanced scoring and candidate management features. I hope these definitions have been helpful and I encourage readers to provide me with their opinions regarding their appropriateness.

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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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