Keepin’ it Real: Assessment’s Value Prop for Recruiters and Hiring Managers

Mar 29, 2011

I just returned from the ERE Expo in San Diego. What a fun time. Recruiters really are a fun bunch of folks. Despite all the time I spent socializing, I still managed to walk away with some great ideas about assessment’s role in the game of making good hires. Here’s what was going through my head on the plane ride home (besides wondering what ever happened to the free pillows).

When it comes to helping clients understand and use pre-employment assessment, my goal is to keep it real. By this I mean taking a practical, no-nonsense approach that views assessment for what it is: just another of the many pieces of data used to support informed decision-making (hiring) by experts (recruiters and hiring managers). My time at the latest ERE Expo fully supported this viewpoint and explains both why assessment is valuable and why it is often overlooked as a viable component in the hiring process.

To be honest, my overall take is that most folks in the hiring game really don’t care about assessment and don’t trust that it works. There are so many other things to attend to: branding, sourcing and managing candidates, candidate engagement and communication, and compliance, just to name a few. Why add another thing, especially when using it seems to involve a lot of hocus-pocus and can be a pain in the you know what? I don’t think I am being overly negative when I present the following observations:

Assessment is rarely included as a strategic part of the hiring process. It is most often used tactically — to fight fires, not to support bigger-picture business strategy. In most companies recruitment does not even give us assessment folks a seat at the table, leading to a lack of integration and focus within the hiring process.

Assessment is not viewed as a quality source of useful information. Many don’t fully understand what assessment is and how it works, leading to skepticism that results are not effective in helping them make good decisions.

Assessment is viewed as more trouble then it is worth. Many feel that assessment information just makes their job more complicated and can present extra expense while increasing legal risks.

Information provided by assessments is hard to understand and can be misleading. Many view assessment reports as tedious and not really in line with the language used by the business.

Assessment is not used to help with employment branding or candidate engagement. Assessment is not seen as a tool to help increase interactivity or provide differentiation for the company via a strong recruitment brand.

Assessment vendors are not well represented within the recruitment vendor community. There are a ton of other products and services that are required to support a hiring process and thus are more mainstream than assessment, (you can’t make hires if you can’t find any candidates).

I fully understand and respect these viewpoints. ERE Expos continually raise my awareness that hiring is no easy task and managing a recruiting function can be a real bear, but I’m here to tell you why the above observations are not always true, why you should care about assessment, and why the act of caring is easier than it has ever been.

Information is power. No, adding assessment will not allow you to be 100% effective in your decision-making. Anyone who claims it can work with even 50 or 60% levels of accuracy is full of it. BUT, assessment can add tremendous value to the decision-making process and can, when combined with other data and the judgment of experienced experts, help ensure consistent quality hiring decisions. Get over it: assessment is just one more tool in the toolbox (but it’s a power tool!). The good news is that we have 50 years of evidence supporting the fact that good assessment tools do work when used properly!

Technology is making it easier than ever. Yes, assessment is getting easier and easier to use, thanks to advances in technology and measurement science amongst the vendor community. This includes implementation and reporting. Both of these factors were once barriers to the use of assessment, as expensive and time-consuming local validation studies were required and reports were confusing. Most vendors now have unprecedented levels of flexibility for aligning content in painless fashion and have reams of data to support the effectiveness of these products. It’s a whole new ballgame these days when it comes to selection science and technology.

Strategy wins the day. Yes, using assessment strategically is a best practice that can help differentiate companies via their ability to hire applicants who fit with their company culture and who possess the traits required to fulfill strategic objectives. Of course tactical use has value, too, but those companies that are breaking down walls between functions can really begin to see the long term value it can provide.

Interactivity and assessment can be friends. Yes, assessment is an excellent way to help anchor branded experiences that are part of the application process, providing job seekers with a level of feedback that is beyond that of the current process. Brand gaming, realistic job previews, and other interactive tools for job seekers are the new frontier, helping the value of assessments take a quantum leap forward. While these things can be costly, they are a great way to break down walls between recruiting and other HR functions (see above).

Sleep well at night. No, assessment does not increase your risk of legal problems provided you use a good tool that has been implemented following best practices (such as those found in the Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures). In fact, not using assessment at all places you at much greater risk due to increases in subjectivity of decisions and a lack of ability to link hiring process to job performance requirements.

There’s room on the tradeshow floor. Assessment vendors have a hard row to hoe, proving their value and helping potential clients to understand how their products work. There is tremendous value in what they have to offer and vendors need to step up and continue to invest in promoting awareness and creating exposure. There are lots of dollars to be had, despite the recent downturn. Those of us who do this for a living know that the scenario of many applicants for few slots is where assessment returns the most value because it allows users to be choosy.

I totally understand why assessment is not the hot topic or the belle of the ball when it comes to recruitment shows. There’s a lot to compete with and I am in no way advocating that shows like ERE focus solely on assessment. But I do feel there is room for assessment to move out from the shadowy fringe and into the light a bit more. My message to the powers that be in recruitment is, “Hey, give us a chance to help you keep it real! You’ll be glad you did!”

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