Success With Pre-hire Assessment Starts With Using the Right Tool at the Right Time

Nov 28, 2012

While there are many possible ways to use pre-hire assessments, there are some general truths associated with getting the most out of these tools. A good hiring process is a coordinated effort in which the right tool is selected for use at the right time in the process. In many cases talent acquisition professionals (including many of us I/O psychologists) are guilty of being myopic, choosing to focus on the ins and outs of one specific test. Be thorough when it comes to tests, but an effective hiring process requires a focus not only on the individual pieces, but also on the way these pieces work together.

“The funnel” provides the most tried-and-true analogy for configuring components to create a hiring process. Although the funnel may look vastly different in different situations, (for instance more emphasis on screening in high-volume situations), the overall goal is to evaluate people who are unknown to the organization in order to thin the herd while finding those who have what it takes.

While a winning hiring process should include tests, simply chucking a test in the hopper will not get the job done. Despite the many variations possible when constructing a funnel-based hiring process, there are some universal truths regarding what tools are generally most effective at various stages of the process.

Let’s take a look at a quick summary of the ideal components of a holistic and cohesive hiring process, as well as a generally accepted rough order in which they should be used.

Sourcing: Increasing the Odds Outside the Funnel

A good hiring process starts outside the funnel and includes the efforts required to find and attract talent that fits your blueprint for success. Being strategic and selective in filling your funnel will provide a significant value to your efforts because, by doing so you are increasing the odds that your process will be effective.

Sourcing Tools

Employment branding — branding’s all about how companies communicate who they are, how they are different, and a value proposition to potential applicants. This enables a company to differentiate itself and compel people with specific values and characteristics to apply for a job opening. Adding a socially based game to one’s online branding strategy is becoming more common and is something that can go along way as a strategic sourcing tool.

Matching — Matching tools are based on the collection of pieces of information from job candidates, including skills, experience, and certifications, as well as simple assessment tools focused on understanding what a candidate values in his or her work environment. There are a good deal of matching tools currently in development that use scientific assessments and technology to help reduce the noise associated with finding a job online.

Top of the Funnel: “Differentiation” via Screening Out the Bad and Screening in the Good

Most hiring processes start with very basic screening tools that are designed to be a coarse filter to help remove unqualified applicants. Adding a scientifically based screen can also provide the ability to screen out those who do not meet the basic blueprint, while screening in those who show the most promise. So, a good screen is really valuable because it can do double duty.

Top-of-the-funnel tools:

Qualifications screens — Qualification screens are a way to ask candidates questions to determine if they possess specific characteristics needed to perform a job. Qualification screens can also be used to collect basic job application information such as a candidate’s address, phone number, and names of previous employers.

Biodata — Biographical history data, or biodata, is an assessment technique of asking questions about an individual’s life or past job performance and supports the basic premise that the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

Fit measures — (Can also be used in middle of funnel) … These assessments are used to determine how well an applicant will fit into or enjoy a particular work environment or organization. They are usually designed to predict tenure and organizational commitment as opposed to superior job performance.

Realistic Job Previews — These explore both the positive and the challenging aspects of a job relatively early on in the application process. Those who did not realize the less glamorous aspects of the job can remove themselves from the process. (These are also found outside the funnel as part of branding activities.)

Resume review — Although slowly being replaced by dynamic online profiles maintained on social networking sites, resumes are a good source of high-level information about a candidate, and provide great supporting data.

Middle of the Funnel: Supporting Informed Decision-making

As the applicant pool is narrowed, the dialogue between remaining candidates and the organization deepens, and each party becomes more invested in learning more about one another. For the organization this provides justification for committing more resources to the conversation. This stage is where one finds the most options for which components to use and the order in which to use them.

Middle-of-the-funnel tools:

Personality — Personality measures are designed to predict an applicant’s natural behavioral tendencies, work habits, and interpersonal style. Personality measures are usually un-timed, and ask a series of self-descriptive questions about a candidate’s likes, preferences, behaviors, and past experiences.

Cognitive — Cognitive ability tests are designed to predict an applicant’s ability to process and manage different types of information, solve problems, and figure out or learn new concepts and ideas. They are typically timed and have clear right and wrong answers.

Integrity — These are a specific type of measure designed to predict whether an applicant will engage in highly counterproductive activities such as theft, drug use, violence, or unsafe behavior.

Knowledge/skills — These tests assess knowledge and skills with regard to specific subject areas. The content of these tests usually appears fairly straightforward and closely mimics information or tasks people actually work with or do on the job.

Situation Job Tests — These assessments present applicants with a set of job-related scenarios and require them to choose the best, and sometimes the worst, possible response given the specific situation. These assessments function to help identify the individual’s ability to understand a situation and choose the most effective course of action.

Simulations — Simulations predict job performance by evaluating how candidates respond to situations replicating actual job tasks. Simulations vary from simple text descriptions of different job scenarios to highly realistic, multimedia scenarios integrating video and audio to recreate the work environment.

Structured interview — In most cases interviews consist of a simple non-standardized set of questions determined by the individuals who are conducting them. This is unfortunate as the addition of structure and behavioral-based questions is a great way to increase the effectiveness of the interview. Interviews can occur at multiple times in the hiring process including HR interviews, hiring manager interviews, and technical interviews.

Bottom of the Funnel: Final Due Diligence (Post-Offer)          

Once finalists have been identified (and often offers made), many firms conduct checks to make sure they are taking precautions to avoid a catastrophic hire.

Bottom of the funnel tools:

Reference checks — Reference checking is often done informally by calling on references provided by the candidate.

Background checks — These investigations gather information about a candidate from sources other than the candidate and include employment verification, criminal record checks and reference interviews.

In most situations, you won’t need all of the tools summarized here. Setting up a process should involve an understanding of the job, the organization, and key characteristics of the applicant pool such as volume and general experience level. If you are interested in the end of your process resulting in the best hire possible, take the time to understand the situation and map out a process that will provide the insight needed to make good decisions at the right time during the process.

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