How To Navigate The Confusing World Of Candidate Assessment 

What Are Psychometric Tests

What is the difference between all the different candidates assessment tests on the market?  Do you need special training to administer them?  Is it really worth it? Or, will it just add to the recruiting admin burden?  We’ve got the answers to all this, and more …

Whether you’re an established business launching a new division, or a start up business taking off at rocket speed, hiring the right people will be absolutely central to your continued success.  And, like many employers who’ve hired the occasional ‘rotten egg’, bitter experience may well have taught you that the ideal hiring process needs more rigour and reliability than an interview alone can offer.  But, for the uninitiated, the world of candidate assessment can feel like such a Pandora’s Box that it is hard to know where on earth to start.

If you’ve dipped your toe in the water via an internet search, you’ve probably come away with more questions than answers.  We’ve seen some of the websites out there and they seem designed to baffle and over complicate things.  No wonder, then, that most people beat a hasty retreat back to what they know best; the interview and reference process, flawed as it may be.

Here’s the truth. The world of candidate assessment is complicated. It is a science. It is based on personality theories (the psychology bit), first-rate technology (the techie bit) and a ton of statistical analysis (the geeky bit).  But that’s only if you’re in the business of designing and selling assessment tools.  That’s our world, our job, and our passion, but, unlike many of our competitors, we don’t feel compelled to over inform our clients. Instead, we believe in cutting through all of the ‘white noise’ that makes the world of assessment so darn baffling to the end user, and providing you with the ‘straight up, no nonsense, definitive guide to candidate assessment’.  The focus being on telling you exactly what you need to know to enable you to make the right choice for your business, versus what we think will make us sound like Sigmund Freud crossed with Alan Turing.  Nothing more, nothing less.  On we go then …

What’s The Point?

We don’t mean in a deep philosophical kind of way.  We’re not sure about that.  But what we are sure of is the value of assessment in supporting and underpinning not just hiring decisions, but also as a tool for employee development, succession planning and resource planning.  Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Since they are linked directly to specific skills, competencies and desired behaviours, they’re directly job relevant.
  • They’re objective, consistent and fair, which makes them legally defensible.  Every candidate undergoes the same process, and the results are auto generated with no risk of human bias.
  • They significantly reduce the admin burden, especially at the initial sifting stage.  They’re designed to identify the most suitably matched candidates, meaning you can spend more time focussing on the cream of the crop.
  • The rigorous testing process that goes into designing them means that they’re reliable and valid.  ‘Reliable’ means consistent; if the same person re-sat the test numerous times, the outcome would be broadly the same.  ‘Valid’ means that the test is measuring what it is supposed to measure.
  • For that reason, they’re highly predictive.  Over decades, research has proven that assessment tests are the best single predictor of job performance.  Better than interviews, better than references, and better than educational qualifications.  And when you pair them up with a well structured interview, you’ve got a highly predictive window into the skills and attributes that make up the whole person, on a typical day, doing the job you’re hiring them to do.  In other words, a higher probability that you’re hiring the right person for the job, based on skills, capability and ‘fit’.

Choosing The Right Test

Let’s back it up a bit.  Because choosing the right test starts with knowing what issue(s) you’re trying to address in the first place.  Something about your existing process isn’t cutting the mustard, and we’re guessing that’s evident in bad hires or high staff turnover (probably both). Without a doubt it’ll be putting the brakes on your organisation’s potential.

So what’s the recurring problem?  Is it about personality fit? Or job specific skills and capability? Is it about matching the candidates’ expectations with the reality of the job?  Is it about bringing in people whose values and ethics are aligned with the company’s? Or is it simply that you are deluged with applications and struggling to efficiently sift the wheat from the chaff?  Knowing the answer to these sorts of questions will point you some way towards the right solution.

In the meantime, here is a ‘plain English’ breakdown of what sorts of tests make up the wonderful world of candidate assessment, and, more importantly, what they’re for.

  • Ability tests help organisations understand if a potential new hire has the capability to reason with verbal and numerical information associated with the tasks required of them in the role. Answers are either right or wrong, hence the use of the word ‘test’.
  • Unlike ability tests, personality questionnaires do not have a right or wrong outcome; after all, every personality is unique. The core purpose of a personality questionnaire is to identify an individual’s preferences for certain types of behaviour, such as communicating and interacting with others. The candidate is required to indicate the accuracy with which they believe specific statements describe their personality, and the resulting output is a report which describes the candidate’s likely working style, interpersonal approach and preferences overall. Reports are usually provided in dual format; one for the employer and one for the candidate. Employers can use this data to determine the ‘best fit’ candidate for the role based on behavioural preferences, and they would typically use such questionnaires as a follow up to a structured interview.
  • Candidate sifting tools are invaluable for employers hiring into roles that attract a large volume of applicants.  They provide a practical method of sifting large numbers of candidates early in the process. The questionnaires are very quick to complete, typically used early in the recruitment process (prior to an interview stage) and focus on personality traits that are likely to relate to success in the role in question.  A good example would be a sales role, for which an employer may use traits such as assertiveness, conscientiousness, resilience and achievement as indicators of likely success.   The reports not only help to inform the shortlisting decision (so that you are inviting the ‘best fit’ candidates to interview) but also provide some useful data on which to ‘zone in’ your interview questions.
  • It isn’t always about hiring. 360 assessment has its place in the assessment toolkit for your existing employees and managers, in order to identify any gaps in the team or in individual development plans.  360 assessment is a means by which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback on their skills and their working styles, from the people who work around them. This typically includes the employee’s manager, peers, and direct reports.  It can provide invaluable insight both for employee and employer, and can form the basis for insightful and solution led development discussions.
  • Motivation and values driven questionnaires – in many cases the recruitment process is focused on ensuring that the individual has the skills, ability, competencies and behaviours required to perform “the task” required in post. All of which is perfectly sensible. However, great recruitment decisions ensure that there is a fit between what is important to the individual and the environment the organisation offers. Typically used at the final stage of the recruitment process (where you have a number of candidates who are all capable of completing “the tasks” required of them) such questionnaires help to identify those most likely be engaged working within your organisation. For example, if your organisation typically demands longer hours than the standard working week, understanding that a candidate particularly values work life balance is a very useful part of the final interview stage. Equally, recruiting an individual who feels that that learning and development opportunities are critical into an environment where this is not well supported will potentially result in disengagement or resignation.
  • Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs) are measurement methods that present applicants with realistic, hypothetical scenarios and ask the individual to identify the most appropriate response or to rank the responses in the order they feel is most effective.  These should clearly resonate very closely with the type of scenarios relevant to the job in hand, and the responses presented by the candidates will tell an insightful story to the employer about their likely approach to similar situations, if hired.  As with other questionnaires, both employer and individual reports are generated which help to inform the hiring decision (alongside the interview) and can go on to be used as the basis for a development plan for the successful applicant.
  •  ‘In Tray’ exercises – designed with very specific job related tasks in mind, these sorts of exercises are a great way of getting candidates to put their money where their mouth is.  So, the candidate who purports to be an Excel whizz can be put to the test with a spreadsheet exercise. Likewise, if planning complex staff rotas forms part of the role, it stands to reason that you might wish to test their abilities with a simulated exercise before making a hiring decision.

How Will I Fit This In?

Ah! Yet another area in which there is a tendency for over complication.  There’s no doubt that there is a vast array of awesome products out there matching the description of all of the above types of tests.  But the very second the supplier in question requires you to attend compulsory training, gain accredited status, or take on an administrative behemoth in order to use them (all at considerable cost to your budget) … back away!  It just isn’t necessary.

You see, introducing additional rigour to your assessment process shouldn’t have to go hand in hand with time consuming admin and training.  Quite the contrary.

At great{with}talent, we’ve got a fantastic range of assessment tools, and you can set up an account online in seconds, purchase credits and off you go.  No sales patter, no pointless training or compulsory accreditation, and no need to do anything, in fact, other than provide us (via an online portal) with the names and contact details of the individuals you wish to include in your test process.  That’s it!  We do all the rest, from sending out the relevant tests and questionnaires direct to employees via email or SMS, to chasing completion and compiling reports & analysis.  Of course, we love a chat, and especially a chat about all things employee engagement.  So we’re here on the end of the phone, or for a meeting, if you need us.  But above all, we’re here to help you hire and develop the right people in the right way.   We’re here to reduce the burden, reduce the risk and optimise your business performance.  We’re about flexing to fit; our products, our service and our approach.

We love what we do.  That’s why we do it well.  And before we built our business, we cut our teeth learning the tools of the trade within some of the biggest brands on the market. We’re confident in what we do, and we’re confident that if you try us out you won’t look back.  But most importantly, we’re confident that our assessment tools will save your business money by reducing employee turnover and increasing employee engagement.




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