Pre-Employment Assessment Reports: Then and Now

No facet of assessment has experienced as much change over the past decade as has the reporting of candidates’ results. Those of us who worked with assessment back in the dark ages can attest to the frustration experienced with the reporting of assessment results.

In those days the following were the norm:

  • One would simply overlay a scoring key, enter in numbers into a worksheet, make some calculations, and arrive at a score for each applicant and perhaps a percentile rank based on an ancient set of norms.
  • In some cases one could fax off an answer sheet and receive back a narrative report summarizing an individual’s performance.
  • Examining aggregate data for more than one applicant required creating an Excel file or similar table by hand. These often had embedded formulas to help provide the information needed to make decisions about an applicant relative to other applicants and/or some set of job standards.

The commonality in the above activities was that no matter how it was done, reporting assessment results was a time-consuming process that yielded little insight about an applicant beyond a set of simple parameters that required users to do some extrapolating.

If one wanted to compare applicants head to head, creating a system for doing so was relatively complex and often yielded results that did not always inspire confidence in one’s decisions. Collecting aggregate data that spanned multiple steps in the hiring process to facilitate decision-making was pretty much out of the question.

Then again, back then someone in Peoria couldn’t instantly access home movies shot by someone in Mongolia either. Luckily for all of us, times have changed.

Reporting has become one of the strongest points of the assessment process and now provides users of with a set of powerful tools that add a tremendous amount of value to everyone involved in the hiring process. How does reporting add value? A quick look at the standards for modern assessment reporting broken down into several key areas should provide a clear answer to this question.

Area 1: Candidate Management Functionality

Those readers familiar with using an applicant tracking system have already had experience with candidate management. By candidate management I mean the basic information required to manage data from applicants for multiple requisitions. This may include a range of things such as assigning applicants to a job opening, sending out links to allow candidates to take an assessment, tracking those applicants through the stages of the application process, communicating with applicants, and pushing applicant information out to others involved in the hiring process.

The level of candidate management functionality provided varies quite a bit across assessment vendors. As the ATS and assessment worlds have continued to converge, the level of candidate management functionality has increased. This is especially true in products that have been designed for the mid-market where consumers may purchase one system that is intended to cover all the bases.

Most of the more evolved assessment providers offer some level of candidate management, and even the smaller ones are now starting to catch up in this area. This functionality is not always needed however, as many enterprise users rely on their ATS for this kind of thing. In these cases it is more common for assessment providers to pipe a few key pieces of data into the ATS system or in some cases to simply use both the ATS and the candidate management system in parallel.

Area 2: Dashboard Reporting

Dashboard reporting is a concept that is much bigger than HR applications. The concept is pretty simple: use a Web-based interface to pull in all of the data that is relevant for accomplishing a certain set of tasks.

Dashboard reporting has been the most significant change in the manner in which assessment is used. To be sure, the line between this type of reporting and candidate management is often blurred as both share some of the same key functionalities. The major difference is that the dashboard provides the ability to access much richer data about the applicant than does the candidate management system.

One of the biggest benefits of the dashboard is the ability to present information in layers that allow the user to focus only on relevant information. Below are the layers that are most commonly provided as part of dashboard reporting:

Level 1: Stack Ranked Comparisons

This usually takes the form of a screen that provides a stack ranked list of all applicants for a given requisition. Within this screen, the following data is usually provided for each applicant:

  • Basic info such as name, date applied, contact info.
  • Scores on each component of the selection process along with a pass-fail indicator, usually red, yellow, or green.
  • An overall pass-fail indicator.
  • Basic indicators of score on competencies critical to the job.

Level 2: Individual Competency Feedback and High Level Narrative Feedback

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When one clicks on a piece of information on the Level 1 display, they are able to access more detailed information about each candidate. For instance, one may be able to view graphic representations of a candidate’s score for each critical competency associated with the job. This information may also contain some narrative to help decision-makers understand the ramifications of these competency scores in terms of key job requirements.

The goal of this level of information is to provide decision makers with extra data that can help them read in-between the lines when making decisions. This type of data is often displayed graphically using a format that displays an individual’s level of a given trait relative to normative standards or colors that demonstrate where an applicant stands on a certain trait relative to what is required for the job.

Level 3: In-Depth Information

Information at this level is usually accessed from the Level 2 display; however, there are often pathways in Level 1 that allow direct access to this information. This level of information usually contains the following elements:

  • Detailed narrative. This involves very detailed narrative information about what assessment results may mean in terms of specific work behaviors. For instance narrative for someone who has displayed high level of teamwork based on assessment results narrative may read “Joe Candidate can be relied upon to defer to the needs of the team over his own personal wishes.” This type of narrative can get pretty in-depth as there are many positive and negative behaviors and tendencies associated with each of the competencies measured by an assessment process. This information can often get somewhat tedious and is not always going to be correct, since each person is an individual who may act differently in different situations. Over-reliance on this type of information is a common problem for those making hiring decisions.

In my opinion, the other types of level 3 information are of greater utility to decision makers. These include:

  • Coaching recommendations. Based on the same type of data as are detailed narratives, coaching recommendations take things one step further by suggesting ways to help deal with the negative side of certain competencies. These type of recommendations are best suited to helping use assessment results for onboarding. I believe this is a very important way to help gain extra value from the assessment process.
  • Structured interview questions. The generation of structured interview questions that are based on areas where more information is needed about where a candidate stands on a certain trait has become a market standard for assessment reporting. This type of function is an excellent way to gather more data about areas where assessment results do not provide the level of clarity needed for decision-making.

Area 3: Aggregate Data Reports

This includes any number of different reports that can be generated based on the raw data collected during the application process. The most common example are reports required by the EEOC, OFCCP, and other government agencies.

While many assessment vendors do have the bases covered when it comes to these major, mandatory reports, many also work with clients to create customized reports. These include things such as applicant flow, source of hire, and any other key metrics that are related to the hiring process.

Applicant tracking systems often cover some of these things, but there is an increasing need to use data from all parts of the hiring process, including assessment, to feed business intelligence. In many cases, vendors work with clients to set up customized reporting that will allow them insight into any number of important aspects of the hiring process.

Area 4: Flat Paper Reports

Of course, not every online hiring system actually offers all of the hi-tech reporting summarized in this article. In many cases the high-tech systems offer the ability to print an old-fashioned paper report that contains all of the same data summarized in the system. In many cases this type of report is very useful and is consistent with what hiring personnel have been using for years.

The type of reporting needed depends on a variety of variables. When looking at using an assessment vendor, your reporting needs are a key thing to consider.

Understanding what your hiring personnel need to get the job done as well as the key junctures in your hiring process will help provide some understanding about exactly what type of reporting you will need. Reporting is a usability issue and as such, end users of the reports should have some input when it comes to making decisions about reporting needs.

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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