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This Is Not a Test — It’s the Future! Talent Assessment Trends for 2014

by Jan 28, 2014, 12:29 am ET

“Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon … everything’s different.”  – Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes (by Bill Watterson)

This quote from a cartoon hero who uses his overactive imagination to both entertain us and teach us valuable lessons about life represents a perfect summary of my thoughts about the future of the talent assessment industry.

To see the future, we have to be willing to take a good long look at what is happening in the talent acquisition world within the context of bigger picture trends. The mega trends that are shaping the future of how people do things on a global basis (i.e., empowerment via access to information, exponential growth in connectivity, ability to crunch and interpret staggering amounts of data, using collective intelligence to find truth) are all quietly at work setting the stage for major change in our industry. 

2014 will provide tangible evidence of the emergence of “Handler’s Law” which states that:

“As time goes on, advances in science and technology will allow talent assessments to become increasingly more effective, and the more effective talent assessments become, the less anyone will notice them.”

The days of lengthy test forms with obtuse and redundant questions are coming to a close.

As 2014 unfolds, the following trends will continuing to our progress toward Handler’s Law becoming reality.

Trend #1: Power to the People

This year we will continue to see evidence of a tangible shift in how assessments look and feel.  This is a critical evolutionary step as the dinosaurs of employment testing slowly begin to be replaced by more evolved tools. The pressure driving this evolution will be applied by candidates who expect that applying for a job should be a two-way conversation that is engaging and informative from start to finish.

Browsing the content on ERE.net from the past 12 months provides evidence that a major shift toward the empowerment of job applicants is underway. The common themes emerging center around the fact that people have access to unprecedented amounts of information, and information is power. Job applicants are people too and they are now deeply connected both to each other and to unprecedented amounts of information. Candidates will increasingly be empowered to believe that collectively their voice can force change. This empowerment is creating the following pressures on employers (and thus test providers):

  • Assessment must be accessible — If applicants can’t take your assessment on a mobile device, they are going to look elsewhere for a job.
  • Assessments must be engaging and be job related — Tomorrow’s (and to some extent today’s) applicants have a short attention span and like to fill it with things that entertain. If your assessment is short, looks like a game, and gives a realistic preview of the job, you will meet candidate expectations. If not, your company is going to be perceived as stuck in the Stone Age.
  • Assessments must support brand identity and promises — Candidates will increasingly demand to know your brand and what it means to them and to others with whom they share connections. As time goes on, no one is going to continue seeking jobs that require a leap of faith based only on contact with one recruiter and a hiring manager. Job seekers will have the increasing ability to be directly in touch with what those in their network have to say about you as an employer and even about the people they will be working with/for if they take your job.
  • Feedback will be required — We are finally entering an era where feedback about the hiring process and related assessments will become a critical part of the process. We have a ways to go, but it is coming.

There are a number of companies offering fresh and engaging products that are redefining the assessment marketplace in 2014.

#2 Assessment Is Finding a New Home “Above the Funnel”

Job boards as we know them are on the way out. Soon almost all matching of job seekers to job openings will begin outside the formal hiring process and will be based on membership in communities where verifiable personal information will be housed. Resumes are not dead; instead, they are being redefined as dynamic, living profiles that will support matching based on verifiable information such as credentials and accomplishments.

Assessment data will be a part of this picture. The insight it provides about an individual’s traits and competencies, when combined with other more objective information about an individual, will help “direct traffic” above the funnel.  Better routing of people to jobs will require both quality psychological measurement (via assessment) and artificial intelligence. The result of the combination of these two elements will be good matching at the sourcing level, increasing both the efficiency and effectiveness of the hiring process. Better sourcing supports the ability to make better hires. It’s as simple as understanding the laws of basic probability.

If you don’t believe that the way people find jobs is undergoing a fundamental change and that assessment will be a key part of it, just take a look at emerging communities being built by companies such as eHarmony, Good.co, Brave New Talent, and Youscience. The venues these companies are creating will all use assessment data as a key cog in matching people to opportunities that are meaningful and relevant.

These venues will mark the emergence of a trend I call “long tail recruiting,” which simply describes a process by which individuals and organizations engage in a more ongoing and dynamic dialogue as a result of their ability to connect to one another within or even across communities. Long tail recruiting happens as a natural part of engagement within social communities. As information and communication flows, employers and job seekers get to know one another based on common interests. Eventually, when there is alignment between the career goals of a member and the business need of a company, a transaction (i.e., hire) will occur. Such transactions are only one benefit of belonging to the community and may occur multiple times over the course of an individual’s career path and/or a company’s growth.

#3: Assessment Will Continue to Gain Traction as a Valuable Business Asset

Beyond the momentum created by the above trends, there are two key reasons why talent assessment’s star is rising fast:

  • Data is the new superstar of the HR world and it is essential for showing the value assessment can provide as a legitimate business tool.

The continued evolution of analytics and big data will provide ongoing proof of the value of assessments. While “big data” may seem like a fad, we are really just getting started understanding the truths that data can provide. The care and grooming of data is becoming a business priority. I am talking to an increasing number of companies building out internal data and analytics centers within their HR functions. When it comes to assessment, this trend is a godsend because it will provide raw material that is foundational to linkages between people and business outcomes. The more the connection between assessments and business data becomes a given amongst HR and business leaders, the more popular assessment will become.

  • Assessment is becoming commoditized, resulting in increasingly lower price points.

2014 will continue to see traditional pricing models for assessment being turned on their ear. The days of per-test pricing models are fading fast as testing increasingly becomes sold similarly to software. Marketplace consolidation will continue to see large and diversified companies offering assessments at a very low price point, or even as a free value-add to other enterprise software. Additionally, intense competition in the marketplace will continue to drive down prices. As time goes on, assessment companies will need to prove themselves as business partners in order to support their abilities to charge above market rates.

In conclusion, the assessment market is ripe for disruption, and as 2014 unfolds, expect to see more direct signs of a changing of the guard. The pressure to provide value to both business leaders and job seekers will force assessment providers to adapt or die.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Martin Snyder

    Solid item Charles, I always enjoy your stuff. I think team /video based assessment/simulation is the new frontier, and I especially think third-party recruiters are going to be expected to provide more value-add on their submissions going forward (e.g. some level of pre assessment) The days of free bets may be going away…. as always, innovators will be able to maintain margin, as will those who build brands which inspire on an emotional level.

  • http://salesgenomix.com John Hoskins

    Charles love your article as usual. Would add that you pretty much described our model but we still have improvements to make that will be shaped by your thinking on the future. Thanks again.

    John Hoskins
    http://www.Salesgenomix.com

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Dr. Handler. Within a broad range, how much do assessment tests cost- either on a fixed price or a per/head basis?

    Keith

  • Gareth Cooper

    Charles assessments are definitely a weak area in the hiring process and the points you make address a real path forward. Cost is the big discussion point. I think there are many HR leaders who will see value in your arguments but the real battle is to convince senior management to invest. I have had real success with pilot projects to show performance value add from psychometric assessments but the prices have to come down before there is wider product adoption in the marketplace.

  • http://www.talemetry.com Praj Patel

    Very interesting article Charles. Some of the points you mentioned on the intertwining of assessments with sourcing in #2 is something we’re seeing more and more as organizations want to have access to “pre-qualified” or “pre-assessed” talent that meets certain criteria. As regards #3, the ability to apply data-driven analytics more broadly (due to changes in the business models of assessment companies)will drive significant change in the selection process.

  • charles handler

    Re Price of assessments- It is unfortunate that there is not a better connection in the minds of the users of assessments that the price is secondary to the ROI provided by the use of a good tool. Investing in doing it right will always return the original investment made, usually many many times over. So, dont get hung up on price, focus on value!

  • http://salesgenomix.com John Hoskins

    Gareth, to Charles’ point, in using assessments for sales folk its an easy ROI calculation on the backend value. The reduced turnover, increased productivity yields, faster ramp times, and reduction in time to hire add up to big dollars fast. And when you add the idea of testing first before the ritual of screening resumes, setting up and conducting phone screens then hitting reject rates in the 90% range, you add tremendous productivity increases in recruiting time. When your staff spends their time talking to talented people as opposed to vetting the unqualified ones their job satisfaction increases and the candidates’s experience is enhanced by getting prompt feedback and useful data on their skills.

  • http://salesgenomix.com John Hoskins

    Keith – the range is enormous but so is the quality. There is an site http://www.pantesting.com/ where you can find tons of assessments. Charles might know better but across the board but in the sales world you can pay $25 to $300 per assessment. Most will offer an annual unlimited use rights license too. Hope that helps.

  • Gareth Cooper

    Absolutely Value trumps price in my mind. I have seen great value from using psychometric testing. It is very unfortunate indeed but it is a very real constraint. I do believe however that over time more money will go towards investing in the science of assessment than any other stage in the hiring process.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks. Dr. Handler and John. Much appreciated. We use a Sa sales assessment tool for a couple of types of positions, I should find out how much it costs us.

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  • http://www.righthire.com Sunil Kosuri

    $25 – $50 per job applicant for a job-fit assessment is a good range!