While assessment can be beneficial in most situations, it is better suited for some scenarios. I’m going to highlight a few situations for which I feel assessment really is a good fit.
There are all kinds of assessments (anything used to evaluate an applicant and make decisions using the results of this evaluation is considered an assessment by the U.S. EEOC) and my purpose is not to make specific prescriptions; rather it is to present some food for thought. So, if your answer to any of the questions below is “yes,” consider using some form of assessment.
Do you hire almost exclusively based on unstructured interviews? Interviews provide a great opportunity to communicate directly with candidates. However, interviews that do not use some form of structure to ensure that questions are job-related and that all applicants are evaluated using a common set of parameters are not very effective. If the cornerstone of your hiring process is an unstructured interview, think about making some changes. These include adding a structured interview or at least supplementing your existing interview with an assessment that can provide you with standardized, job-related information about each applicant.
Do you have high turnover at one or many key positions? Turnover cannot be completely eliminated. But even a slight reduction in turnover can equate to significant savings. Assessment has proven to be an excellent way to reduce turnover, especially when one has some clues as to the reasons why turnover has become an issue.
Do you have a high volume of applicants? Almost everyone is experiencing very high applicant volume. While this is often looked at as a negative because of the extra time and effort required to evaluate so many applicants, it can allow you to be very choosy. Assessments provide you with a tool to help you do two things. First of all, a good assessment can help you eliminate the bottom 20% of applicants: those who would end up being miserable failures. At the same time, assessment can help you to identify the cream of the crop. It can be automated so that recruiters and hiring personnel are able to focus their attention on a slate of applicants who have the best chance of success.
Do you hire for potential and then train/develop? Assessments are excellent indicators of raw ability. Many folks in the assessment world will tell you that the smartest person almost always does better on the job (I don’t always agree, but that is another discussion). It often makes a lot of sense to hire based on the raw material that someone brings to the table and use post-hire training and development to figure out how to best apply what each hire brings to the table. Assessment is an excellent part of this plan because it provides a relative measure of raw abilities.
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Are you worried about the legality of your hiring process? No one is going to answer “no” to this question. But posing it is a good way to make the point that those organizations who do not use assessments at all are actually putting themselves in more potential legal jeopardy then those who use a well-thought-out assessment strategy that follows best practices. If your hiring process is audited, every part of it is going to be considered a test. So, the use of unstructured methods that are not based on a job analysis and other forms of due diligence are not going to hold water. By choosing a valid, relevant assessment and by treating all forms of evaluation as a test that evaluates all applicants consistently, you are helping to ensure the legal defensibility of your hiring process. By doing the things that provide legal defensibility, you are also helping to ensure that your assessment system provides value because it is evaluating things that are essential for job performance.
Do you have a unified competency model that cuts across the employee lifecycle? If your organization has invested heavily in a competency model that espouses your values and the various things that equate to success within the organization, then pre-employment assessment may be a good idea. Think about it: if you are looking for a stable set of characteristics that allow you to evaluate the contributions made by employees, then it makes sense to hire based on these same characteristics. These things may vary a bit from job to job, but looking for indicators that an applicant has the “right stuff” as your company defines it makes sense.
Does good job performance boil down to one or two really simple things? Entry-level positions in which a few basic things can make all the difference in the world are great candidates for assessment. For instance, at many hourly jobs the ability to provide good customer service, be honest, and show up for work when scheduled can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Most assessment providers have collected enough data to allow the creation of measures that do an excellent job of predicting these types of work outcomes. Simple assessments can make a big difference when it comes to helping companies to hire workers who can get the job done.
The purpose of the questions I have posed here is not to offer any specific prescription in terms of what type of assessments to use or how to use them. Rather, I hope to stimulate some thought about some of the ways that assessment can add value for your organizations. The choice of what assessment is best for a given situation and the strategy for employing assessment is something that requires careful thought, planning, and expertise. Those of us who help companies develop well-thought-out assessment strategies can attest to the fact that it’s worth the effort.