It’s Time to Audit Your ASP

A little while ago I was talking with someone heading the research department of a large recruiting ASP. As I asked a few questions about the methodology they used, this person told me, “This is a pre-screening tool, Wendell, not an assessment.” Well, that comment stopped me cold! You see, “assessment” is just a fancy word for measurement. And, any system that separates one candidate from another constitutes assessment whether it occurs in the pre-screening phase or in the final hiring phase. More to the point, this major product developer had never stopped to realize that pre-screening is assessment! This can be a BIG problem for employers. If you are in involved in web-based applicant screening, if you sell applicant screening systems or if you even ask a single applicant a single question about his or her job qualifications, there is no question about whether or not you are in the assessment business — the only question is, “Is your hiring ASP delivering on promises or is it getting you into trouble?” Why the Big Deal? There is good news and bad news about using an achey-breaky assessment system. The good news is that when you get sued, hiring managers get personal feedback about poor hiring practices, attorneys help the economy by purchasing new Mercedes’, and the comptroller practices hand-eye coordination exercises by writing checks with lots of zeros. But, the bad news is if you don’t get sued, you’ll never know how many potentially good employees prematurely quit your hiring process and how many bad employees passed through undiscovered. Think about the last time you were involved in a job search. Each time you were asked to fill out a form or answer a question, didn’t you wonder, “What does this question/test/form/application have to do with my ability to do the job?” or, “When are they going to ask me about my specific job skills?” We all have. Yet, many ASP developers suffer selective amnesia when they develop high-powered systems that collect worthless, excessive or irrelevant information. What Does This Have to do With Me? Recruiting-based ASPs seem to be all over the block when it comes to understanding what business they are in. This, however, is not their problem. ASP developers are probably well intentioned and try to design the best systems they can. But they often don’t know what they don’t know. And in the hiring business, an ignorance of best hiring practices costs employer’s money! Why? For one thing, the employer has the formal responsibility for test usage (yes, web-based application forms are “tests”). For another, employers must live with the consequences of hiring decisions. As a quick check, examine your ASP closely as follows:

  • Is it just a resume submission and key word search? Anyone who has ever submitted or reviewed a resume knows they are highly inaccurate. Good applicants can look very bad and bad candidates can look very good. After blatantly unqualified applicants are eliminated from consideration, the whole resume-review thing is just a non-scientific way to reduce the size of the applicant pile. Resume reviews and keyword searches are yesterday’s technology: ineffective and inefficient. Garbage in. Garbage out. You need structured application formats and structured job requirements to do a good search.
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  • Do they have too many questions that could turn off a good applicant? Web-users have a reputation for short attention spans. Presenting applicants with irrelevant or superfluous questions can be a real turnoff. A better way is to closely examine your current jobholders to determine which questions relate to high and low job performance. Put these questions in the app and skip the rest until later. How do you get these questions? Study job performance in depth.
  • Do they “overwork” Web technology? Web-technology is a slick communication and data collection system. But, no matter how pretty the frame, it will never replace the value of human contact. Face it, when you have the choice, do you prefer to plod through a keypad menu (e.g., press “12” if you have a problem installing Windows 2000 on your Commodore 64), or have you learned to quickly press “0” to speak with a human? If you need people more than people need you, you cannot rely totally on a machine interface. A web application that ignores the value of human interface is shortsighted and will soon be obsolete.
  • Does the ASP help you stay out of trouble with the EEOC? (Non-US users don’t have to worry about this, but surprisingly, EEOC guidelines are best practices. Go figure!) Best practices include starting with a clear idea of what competencies are required for performance in a specific job. This is just good sense, but does your ASP help you figure it out or do they just pile on the questions? If they give you a list of recommended competencies, do you know whether the list is any good or just a generic one-size-fits-all model? There will never be a “Great Big Book of Competencies.” You can only discover the right ones through investigation. You are probably already doing piles of EEOC reports, but did you know the EEOC also wants you to track minority pass/fail ratios at each decision step, examining them for adverse impact and searching for alternate methods that have less adverse impact? So….. does your ASP provide a tracking system that helps you measure whether your minority hiring ratios are less than 80% of your majority hiring ratios at each hiring “hurdle” (yes, I know its complicated)? If they don’t measure it, eventually you will.
  • Does your ASP provide ineffective hiring tools? Measuring the whole person means using more than listing a few nice-sounding interview questions. It means offering training in behavioral interview techniques, assisting with test validation, developing job-family profiles for you, clarifying competencies, and helping you discover and measure requirements in all four job performance areas (problem solving, planning, interacting, and attitudes, interests and motivations). Anything less and you leave a lot of information to chance.
  • Does your ASP “rank order” applicants? Rank ordering applicants always seems like a good idea at first, but it seldom delivers on its promises. Why? Ranking methods assume interviewers are accurate (big assumption), that all ranking factors are equal (not!), that someone in “first” place is going to do an incrementally better job than someone in “second” place (sure!), that interviews really predict performance (right!), and that all important skill areas are measured during the hiring process (wanna bet?).

ASP technology can be great time saver and people manager, but if it is built on weak hiring technology, it cannot provide anything more than traffic-control. You can read everyday articles about filling the hiring funnel and building recruiting relationships, but what’s the point if job-qualified applicants either fall out of your hiring process or unqualified applicants breeze through unidentified? More to the point, what is the sense of filling the funnel if all you get are mixed-quality candidates out the other end? Sure, filling the funnel is important, and it is not easy to do, but funnel filling is only the first stage in identifying the “fully-qualified” employee! You really need to know how good your ASP is at doing that! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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