With talent at a premium, hiring managers should look for any and every advantage to attract the right people. Yet, according to an Inc. Magazine article by Kay McFadden, most executives are not great at hiring:

The research is conclusive, according to all the human resources specialists we interviewed. The people most confident in their abilities to predict and measure who will be successful at a given company or role actually tend to be the least good at it. There’s an over-confidence with a direct correlation to lack of success, whether the business is big or small.

It is not surprising that going with a “gut feel” on hiring is not a reliable approach. The article goes on to discuss the use of pre-hire assessments to help.

So a test furnishes perspective, balance and fairness. The data is unequivocal, if you use a consistent, well-validated approach versus a gut decision, you will make better hires over the long run. This is beyond dispute.

But which tools and assessments should an organization use? There are several to choose from, including this list from a Workforce.com article:

  • Qualification screens
  • Structured interviews
  • Job simulations
  • Knowledge and skills tests
  • Talent measures
  • Culture fit and values inventories
  • Background investigations
  • Integrity tests
  • Drug screens
  • Physical abilities tests

The article also says that, to be effective, assessment tools must meet three key conditions:

  1. They must be chosen on the basis of a clear definition of performance for the job in question.
  2. They must effectively measure the key candidate characteristics that influence job performance.
  3. They must be deployed in a standardized, consistent fashion that ensures that all candidates are assessed in the same way.

For an alternative perspective, Lou Adler suggests that personality assessments should not be used for screening candidates. Instead, Adler prescribes using a performance-based hiring interview for controlling interviewing based mistakes. The pre-screen personality assessment mistakes Adler describes include false positives (hiring weak candidates) and false negatives (excluding strong candidates).

What’s the right answer? Are assessment tools and great hiring mutually exclusive?

For help to figure out the best approach, I enlisted the services of Dr. Nancy Rowell, Founder of Insight Into Talent. Dr. Rowell provides comprehensive assessment services to organizations for hiring, coaching, team building and leadership development.

“At Insight into Talent we assess and predict your candidate’s fit while minimizing costs of a new hire. Using both objective data and an open-ended interview process, we give you a lens into a candidate’s talent and potential for success”

Dr. Rowell recommended that, in order to help me understand the value and use of assessments in hiring and developing talent, I should take a few myself. So, in full guinea pig mode, I took these three online assessments:

16 Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 PF) measures personality and predicts emotional resilience, relationship and communication skills, work approach, and leadership influence.

Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) measures critical thinking ability and predicts decision making and problem solving ability.

The Holland Assessment for determining career interests.

The assessments were straightforward, and I completed them in a reasonable amount of time. Dr. Rowell then provided results in a report format that included an executive summary and additional detail. The reports were very accurate in describing my strengths, areas for improvement and what that meant for various roles (my sample test results available upon request). Even though I knew in advance how well the tools can work, Dr. Rowell’s additional insights based on our meetings (interviews) provided customized information that helped me understand their power in making a decision for hiring. Dr. Rowell pointed out that these results provide another data point in the hiring process but should not be used as a yes or no indicator.

According to Dr. Rowell, finding talent starts with a strong resume and good personal impressions, typically developed through interviews. But research shows that typical job interviews alone have only a 20% chance at predicting hiring success. Assessments take you a step further by providing insights into who people are, what they do and how they fit with a company’s competencies and values. And that significantly raises the probability of selecting and retaining the right talent.

For help in improving hiring results in your organization, please contact us.


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