Want Success With Talent Assessment? Read On

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Oct 22, 2015

As HR and talent acquisition practices mature, savvy leaders of companies both large and small are finally realizing the value of talent assessment to their bottom line. Be it part of a comprehensive integrated talent management program or a stand alone point solution, talent assessment is an essential ingredient in the recipe for business success.

But making talent assessment work for you can be tricky.   Many have started their assessment journey with the best intentions, only to see their efforts crash and burn. When it comes to success with assessments, there is simply no free lunch. The path to success requires the discipline and planning to navigate through mission-critical questions such as:

  • How do I tell the difference between vendors? The market for talent assessment tools is hot; data-based predictive decision making tools have never been more available. Each vendor takes a different approach, but they all look the same to the untrained eye. Taking the time to find the right vendor is essential to your success.
  • Where should I put it? Assessments are can be hard to integrate cleanly into an existing hiring workflow and assessment integration is rarely properly planned. Ignoring assessments and putting off the development of an assessment strategy until after ATS implementation is a recipe for disaster.
  • How do I make it fun? Assessments can endanger your employment brand. No one likes to take tests — especially long ones. The market still leads with incredibly old-fashioned tests that frustrate today’s talent.
  • Isn’t this stuff dangerous? Testing brings with it an inherent fear of legal compliance issues. Navigating compliance requires a clear understanding of your risk tolerance and a solid game plan.
  • How can you tell it is actually working? Predicting how humans will behave is hard, and even the best systems can only provide a small increase in overall predictive accuracy. This combined with a general lack of understanding about the value of assessments creates skepticism that can hinder success.

Answering these questions can be difficult to be sure. But following a coordinated and dedicated effort that is based on five simple concepts will ensure that you gain solid footing on the path to success.

Don’t Let a Vendor Lead the Conversation

The old adage — “If you are selling hammers, every problem is a nail,” definitely applies to the talent assessment market. Every vendor is going to tell you their solution is exactly what you need, but all solutions are not created equal. Aligning with the right vendor and an optimal solution can yield millions in incremental value, so outline your needs before you go shopping.

Before speaking to any outside parties it pays to undertake a thorough internal discovery process that yields a clearly defined picture of what is needed for success. This typically includes information such as:

  • the business need that has led you to consider assessment-based solutions
  • the characteristics required for success at the job(s) in question (i.e., skills, abilities, competencies, experience, etc.)
  • the pain points in the existing hiring workflow and how they impact your talent-acquisition staff
  • changes in your industry or business strategy that will drive future workforce planning needs
  • the strategic value of the job in question to your company- and how to measure it in hard data
  • the stakeholders who will be involved and how they will define the success of the assessment initiative

Understand the Big Picture

Expecting one test to magically solve your talent issues is just plain unrealistic. After all, hiring is a process with many interconnected steps and systems. For assessments to have value, they must be in harmony with their surroundings. The best way to ensure assessment compliments your hiring workflow is to cultivate a true business partner mentality — ensuring that key stakeholders such as …

  • Business leaders and HR execs
  • Talent-acquisition professionals
  • Talent-management professionals
  • Operations
  • Technology
  • Marketing/brand management, and
  • Candidates

… are all involved in the development of an assessment charter that clearly outlines goals and expectations. Failure to engage stakeholders in defining success will create gaping holes in your game plan into which your assessment budget will crash and burn.

Keep It Simple

When it comes to assessments, the low-hanging fruit can taste really good! Success is best found via taking baby steps, the first of which is finding a clear business problem that is isolated to one job or job family, and undertaking a proof-of-concept study with agreed-upon success criteria.

Beware of shortcuts such as:

  • One size fits all. Trying to install one assessment for a bunch of jobs at once will result in a watered-down solution that will yield lukewarm results.
  • “Cloning” your high performers — While this seems like an easy and intuitive solution, it has a lot of technical drawbacks and can lead to a lack of diversity.
  • Top secret science — Methods that require you to drink the Kool-Aid and invest in learning to decode genius scientific output rarely yield credible, measurable results.

The best assessment scenario is to invest in a targeted tool that measures a few simple but critical outcomes that can be tied directly to a data focused picture of business success/value. The learnings from this initial investment provide an excellent foundation for broadening your assessment program.


Quality of hire begins with collecting structured and standardized data from Square 1. One of the benefits of a simple assessment approach is that it is easily moved up the funnel so that quality data can be harvested from the very start of the hiring process. Starting the hiring process by collecting reliable insights into important characteristics will set your hiring professionals up for success. Making a good hire is all about collecting enough data to reveal insights and collecting solid data early on in the process.

Evaluate, Rinse, and Repeat!

Failure to properly evaluate an assessment program is the ultimate waste of resources and can spell disaster. Yes, proper evaluation requires dedication to large-scale data collection efforts and continual process improvement. But without a feedback loop to show the value of your investment, you are flying blind.

In today’s business world HR data and analytics functions are making program evaluation much easier, leaving less room for excuses. Evaluation requires a disciplined approach to identifying, collecting, and analyzing the data that is associated with a successful hire. Developing an assessment program without measuring and reporting out on the key business metrics that will be impacted is a textbook case of letting the tail wag the dog.

Talent assessment is your friend. It does not have to be a dark art that provides a negative candidate experience and red ink on your balance sheet. Success with assessment is easy if you take the time to understand your needs first and pay attention to a few simple concepts before you dive in.

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