3 Fears About Assessments and How to Get Over Your Fright

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Aug 2, 2018

In the eyes of many in talent acquisition, there seems to be a perception that talent assessment presents the following obstacles:

  • Candidate experience — Ensuring your hiring process provides a positive and meaningful experience for applicants. Fear that assessments will limit the hiring flow in tight labor markets, fear that candidates will run for the hills when they hit an assessment, or fear that assessments are a painful enough experience to leave applicants with scars that lead to ill will.
  • Fairness/inclusivity — Ensuring that your hiring process promotes diversity and lacks biasFear that assessments are counter to diversity initiatives and will be unfair to protected classes — creating imbalance in the workforce, compliance nightmares, and bad press.
  • Business impact — Demonstrating that your hiring process delivers multiples on the investment you have sunk into it. Fear that assessments are too costly, too time consuming to set up, are not effective, or somehow do not support business strategy.  

There may be some grounds for these fears. But when done correctly, talent assessment is actually completely aligned to the demands faced by every talent acquisition leader. To understand how talent assessment can support these demands, one must look at the supply side of the equation. Those building and selling talent assessment solutions pay attention to market demands too. Here is a look at how the current state of talent assessment market actually supports talent acquisition agendas.

Candidate experience: While no one likes taking tests, the idea that candidates hate assessments and will immediately ditch when they hit yours is a myth. Most online assessments average completion rates in the 90 percent range. Here’s why:

  • Suppliers are creating shorter, more engaging assessments that include realistic job previews, videos, and job relevant content
  • Candidates love to know that employers are serious and are being choosy about who they hire. Successful candidate experience with assessments is all about selling the value of the assessment to the candidate.   
  • And for those who do drop out of your hiring process … do you really want to hire someone who is not willing to follow through with the basics of the application process? They may be a quitter!

The sellers of assessments have created tools that can actually increase the candidate experience. There are plenty of opportunities to choose assessments that are engaging and job relevant.

Diversity and inclusion: When it comes to diversity and inclusion, all legitimate suppliers of assessments come to the table with a proven track record and a solid game plan. As long as the proper foundation has been created, fear that assessments will create compliance issues is unjustified. Assessments can actually help foster diversity and do not automatically place a target on your back. For instance:

  • A testing program that is built on a job analysis and has been thoroughly validated will actually offer you more compliance support than using nothing at all, even if the test has adverse impact.  
  • While adverse impact is to be avoided, it is not actually illegal as long as the test can be shown to be job related (i.e., via a proper test validation process). Suppliers of assessments have made great strides in reducing adverse impact while maintaining validity via the creation of assessments such as mobile cognitive games. These are powerful predictors of performance that offer greatly improved fairness for minority candidates.
  • Using a test does not mean that you are hiring a homogeneous workforce. A test is just a signal, one piece of info that should be looked as part of the big picture. It is actually possible to use tests to help identify applicants that can provide your workforce with a fresh perspective or to support talent transformations.   
  • Look at the big picture when it comes to your talent acquisition process. Don’t blame all your diversity problems on assessments. Compliance with government regulations starts with your sourcing strategy. Are you sourcing for diversity in the first place? If not, don’t look at your assessment as the problem.

Business impact: While it is common to hear that assessment programs just didn’t work, it is actually more common to hear details about how they have saved companies time and money. There are over 50 years’ worth of results proving that talent assessment provides significant ROI. Most of the firms selling assessment have a nice library of success stories they would love to share.

So, why are there disbelievers?  

  • When it comes to assessments, there is no free lunch. Success with talent assessment starts with choosing the right assessment for the situation. A misalignment between test and job is doomed from the start. In many cases the investment in a customized assessment provides a much better return on investment than a cheaper, more generic test.  
  • Success requires a commitment to time-intensive processes such as job analysis and test validation. Failure to invest in the steps required to configure an assessment will end up limiting the value it returns.
  • Assessments also create value by giving time back to talent acquisition teams.  Assessments can help provide quick insight into candidates, allowing for a smoother and more efficient hiring process.  
  • The argument that assessments create chokepoints in a tight labor market is also unfounded.  An assessment program is only as good as the sourcing and branding that comes before it. Tight labor market or not, hiring those with the right stuff should still be the primary driver for talent acquisition. Lowering the bar may work in the short run, but in the long run it will be costly.

Aligning assessments with talent acquisition demands: Talent assessments can actually supply the tools needed to meet their most important demands. There are assessments for almost any job under the sun. For those where there are not, a good I/O testing firm can create one for you.   

While it is great that there are so many options for meeting your priorities, success still requires a great deal of due diligence, planning, and commitment and demands that one:

  • Look at the big picture for your entire talent acquisition process and understand how talent assessment fits with your primary goals.
  • Understand your needs before you go shopping. Don’t start the conversation by throwing a test at your problems. Take the time to understand the situation first.
  • Work with a qualified I/O psychologist to help you understand the right combo of assessment tools for your needs.
  • Don’t be afraid to innovate. Meet challenging demands with smart ideas and the courage to innovate.
  • Collect data to prove success. Use data as a tool to show the value add assessment provides relative to your key drivers.  

The path to saying “yes” to talent assessments lies in understanding how it’s aligned with your agenda and doing the legwork required to choose and implement the right solution for the job.


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