5 Ways to Realize Value From Pre-employment Assessment During a Labor Shortage

Oct 1, 2008

It’s easy to demonstrate the impact of pre-employment assessments when there are a large number of candidates available. In such situations, there is a strong need to use some sort of filter to help quickly eliminate unqualified applicants (screening out) and to collect more in-depth information about those who are qualified (screening in). Assessment is the perfect way to help support automated screening and to equip hiring personnel with the information they need to support decision-making.

But many folks predict that it’ll be increasingly harder to find qualified applicants to fill job openings, especially when it comes to white collar, managerial, and professional-level jobs. We have all dealt with numerous situations where the age-old “mirror test” (hiring anyone who is breathing and thus has the ability to fog a mirror) is the only thing required to fill a position. In such cases, it’s harder to make an argument for using something that will actually serve to further reduce the number of applicants to be considered.

Assessment can have value even when one has few applicants to chose from or even when there is a shortage of qualified applicants. Below are five good reasons why it still makes sense to use assessment, no matter what the labor market looks like.

Reason 1: Assessment can be part of a good sourcing and branding strategy

Assessment has begun to occupy new places within the hiring process. Over the past five years we have seen it begin to be folded into the job searching and matching process. Assessment is a great way to help match job seekers to openings that are a good fit for their background, skills, and values. Even in a tight labor market, job seekers can still benefit from some direction to help them make important decisions about what jobs and organizations are right for them.

Compelling employment branding is the first part of the equation here. Much employment branding seems to be a regurgitation of the same old song and dance. What company doesn’t value diversity? What company doesn’t care about the environment? Assessment can help us to get past the fluffy, generic employment branding stuff and get right to the heart of the matter: matching people with the right employment situation.

Recently, assessment has become a key ingredient in “values matching,” a branding and sourcing strategy that can really make a difference. Values matching will continue to be a hot area because job applicants wants to ensure they “fit” with the culture and value of the organization. Assessment is an excellent way to provide a index of “fit” that can be used to help applicants to understand how well what they may fit with an organization, or even with a specific role, job, or workgroup within that organization.

Organizations that fill their hiring funnel with applicants who possess congruent values and have some degree of fit will find it easier to be sure they hire persons who have a good chance of sticking around longer and being more productive. Values matching can be used as part of an initial sourcing strategy by including it as a key element in the creation of job profiles used to match applicants with openings or as part of the search process on corporate web sites. Even if there is only one applicant for a position, if that applicant is a good fit, hiring them represents a good decision for all parties involved.

Reason 2: Assessment can still provide insight needed to support good decision-making

Suppose there are only two applicants for one open position. Whomever is making the hire still must make a decision between the two applicants. The decision-maker can still benefit from having some data to better understand each of the applicants from which they have to choose. Most employment decisions are made using resumes and unstructured interviews. These are the two most common tools available to hiring personnel. While both of these tools do have some value, they function best when used in conjunction with information that can help those doing the hiring to read between the lines. Assessment is a perfect tool to help those making hiring decisions to better understand each candidate. Informed decision-makers are more likely to make accurate decisions than those who must make decisions in the absence of good data.

The results of even a basic assessment can provide decision-makers with additional data points to help them make a more accurate decision. The number of applicants one has to choose from does not alter the idea that informed decision-making is the way to go. So, even in a tight labor market where one is lucky to have even a few applicants, it’s still valuable to provide decision-makers with tools to help them better interpret subjective information such as resumes and unstructured interviews.

Reason 3: Assessment can help you hire for potential

One common strategy in tight labor markets is to shift focus from hiring for a specific set of skills, abilities, knowledges, etc. needed to do a specific job toward hiring for potential. In such cases a few key abilities or characteristics are identified and applicants are evaluated based on their ability to bring this valued “raw material” to the table.

This change in focus allows the organization to hire those who may not have had the exact experience needed to do the job for which they are applying, but who have what it takes to learn the job. Such a strategy requires a strong focus on training and development. Still, such a program allows organizations to take a broader focus when looking to fill open positions. College recruitment and hiring programs are an excellent example of this. Hiring individuals straight out of college allows companies to fish in a bigger pond. Assessment is an excellent way to assess potential. Basic cognitive ability and problem-solving assessments provide an easy way to identify individuals who have a basic set of tools that will allow them to be an asset to the organization. Setting up such a program can often be less complicated than developing an assessment program that is tied to a specific job. There are tons of good quality, off-the-shelf assessments that have been created with the specific goal of measuring general constructs. These can be plugged right in, with less up front work than may be required to create a job specific test battery.

The idea of hire-for-potential, train-for-success is an attractive proposition in a tight labor market.

Reason 4: Assessment can support onboarding and development

Assessment is also a valuable tool because it can provide a good initial picture of an applicant’s developmental needs.

Most assessment providers have the ability to create an initial development report based on the results of an applicant’s pre-employment assessment. Even if there are few applicants for a specific job, using an assessment as part of the hiring process helps the new hire hit the ground running. Assessment data can help with onboarding by allowing the new hire’s manager to have a good idea of developmental needs on day one. This information can be used to create an initial development plan and to provide a baseline for future performance management and development activities. Such a strategy can also have a positive impact on things such as commitment, satisfaction, and turnover. Research has demonstrated that good experiences during the onboarding period can have a positive impact on each of these important outcomes.

Reason 5: Assessment can help the organization to better understand itself

You can’t expect strong results from the use of assessment without a clear understanding of what needs to be assessed, and why. Usually, this involves spending some time to take a look at both personal and organizational factors that must be addressed using assessment. More sophisticated implementations involve the ongoing use and development of an organizational competency model. Such a model allows the organization to define the key elements required for success across all jobs as well as for each specific job.

While this is not always easy, taking the time to break jobs down into the components required for success provides the organization with important insights about what is required for success. This information is valuable for hiring, but it also has value for other important processes such as development, training, and succession planning. Going through the effort required to anchor a good assessment program has value because it helps the organization learn about itself. This learning extends beyond the ability to identify key determinants of success. Using assessment properly requires a good bit of learning and experience. Why shy away from assessment during a time that can provide valuable hands-on experience? By choosing to use assessment in good times and bad, companies can gain experience that will benefit them in the long run.

No matter how many applicants there are for a given position, hiring the right one should be the result of an informed decision making process. The information used to support this process should be directly related to the various things required for success at the job and the organization. This is a universal truth. Those organizations that begin to cultivate this mindset will realize a significant long-term advantage that extends past the value of good hiring, into the realm of developing, managing, and retaining talent.

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