There’s Enough Talent Out There If You Can Spot It

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Nov 14, 2019
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

I’d like to share an interesting case study from the Netherlands with all of you as well as what we can learn from it. 

The municipality of Rotterdam, our second-largest city, needed a new recruiter. So it decided to try a game-based assessment in the selection process. It used BrainsFirst, a tool based on neuro science that looks at your cognitive abilities based on “shooting games” as I’d like to call them. 

It built a profile of the cognitive traits a good recruiter should have. It added “nice to have” traits. Unlike a tradition assessment that’s usually performed only on the last couple of candidates, every applicant got an invite to play. It had 40 applicants. Two refused to do a game-based assessment, since they didn’t believe in it. Since openness to new ideas was one of the traits you need for this job in this organization, that was self selection. There were no dropouts during the assessment. 

Pre-selection and Selection 

Since game-based assessments were new to the organization, there was some hesitation. So two selection committees were formed. One looked only at the test results. The other looked at both the resume as well as the test results.

Some interesting things happened here. There was one candidate who had a perfect score in the assessment, but only six months of recruiting experience. This was no junior position.

Another candidate had a perfect resume with many years of experience at big companies with strong brands, yet scored only 35 percent on the assessment. Both were invited, along with three other candidates who did well, but not fantastic, on the assessment and had very good, but not amazing, resumes. 

People from both pre-selection committees held interviews. The result was clear. The “perfect resume” candidate was not good enough and the 100 percent but junior candidate aced the interview. He got the job. Six months into his contract, the head of recruitment told me he’s one of the best hires he has ever made. 

So when Dr. Handler says we should not throw away that pre-employment test, I agree.

But it doesn’t have to be boring. There are plenty of excellent, non-questionnaire-based, assessment tools that are enjoyable for the candidate and give as good, or even better, results depending on what you want to measure. 

What I Learned

  • Assessments are the best predictor of talent. You should always apply them before you deselect an applicant. This applicant would not have made the experience threshold. Experience doesn’t have predictive value. 
  • People are willing to spend time on a non-boring assessment. This one took 45 minutes.
  • There is plenty of talent out there; we just need to identify it. A resume is a terrible way to do that. So use an assessment as early as possible in the process.
  • Roughly half percent of all hires fail. But is that because we select the wrong one from the final two or three candidates? Or might this problem originate in the pre-selection phase?
  • There are lots of new tools out there, with great scientific validity, even though the science might not come from the original psychology faculties. 
This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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