Just the other day, I was at a networking event. As usual, I introduced myself as an employment testing expert and a human resources consultant. At the break, a couple of small company C.E.O.s both asked me the same question "When hiring, what knowledge do employers look for?" I was surprised at the question. I would have assumed that as C.E.O.s they would be well versed at summing up candidates quickly and efficiently. But, then again, if that were totally true, I'd be out of business!
Since then, I've been thinking about just what knowledge we should look for. Some of it is so obvious but other knowledge points are harder to identify. For the most part, as employers, we're really looking for three factors when we hire someone for our organizations.
We want people who:
Can do the job (the candidate has the skills and education to mentally do the job
Will do the job (the candidate wants to do the work)
Will fit the culture (the candidate will fit the company culture)
For employees to be top performers, we need all three factors to come into alignment for a successful hire. For years, we've discussed and espoused the virtues of behavior based interviewing. In behavior based interviewing, we use past performance to predict future behavior. With that little bit of knowledge, a skilled interviewer can probe a candidate until they have evidence of how a person has handled situations in the past and we can extrapolate that it is probably a good indicator of how they will handle similar situation in the future.
Unfortunately, most interviewers are ill prepared to conduct a thorough behavior based interview. Most hiring managers fail to read the resume, think about the job competencies, and create the behavioral questions that will uncover the desired traits necessary to do the job. In sharp contrast to the interviewer's ill preparedness, many candidates are prepared. They are prepared with rehearsed behavior based answers that will lead the interviewer down a primrose path to the hiring decision-only to find out two weeks after the new employee starts that they've made a terrible mistake.
So what is the answer? Clearly there has got to be a better way to get to the information that will lead to our desired trifecta. In my experience, the assessment is the missing link. Using a basic candidate assessment is the key to getting at what lies beneath the iceberg. And sometimes, it's not pretty.
A solid assessment should evaluate the candidate's thinking style, behavioral traits, and occupational interests. Assessments can take the form of a "job fit" analysis-that is, a benchmark against your top performers-or it can be in the form of a benchmark against standard competencies for a specific type of position-i.e., customer service or sales.
Why is it so many organizations are resistant to implementing employment testing? The U.S. Department of Labor has actually come out in favor of assessment testing and has gone so far as to issue guidelines for employers to use. The tests are well validated and have solid reliability. I think that often, organizations don't want to implement testing because they think that they are already skilled interviewers.
Some other common objections include cost-they feel that employment tests are too expensive. In my experience, a typical robust assessment can be administered for less than $199.00 per applicant. Far less than the typical 2 or 3 times salary that most studies show it costs us to replace someone. Another common objection is that assessments cause applicants to drop out of the process. I recommend that the assessment come at the end of the process...when you've narrowed down the field to your top candidates. By then, they generally want to work for you and will generally be happy to take the assessment. You can let them know that the information from the assessment is used to help make sure that they will have a positive work experience. I think the final most common objection is that inexperienced HR professionals feel that candidates can fake the assessments to achieve a "passing" score. In reality, we do want to make sure that we clearly state our expectations that they complete the assessment without help and that, in the end, if they do get help it will be apparent on the first day that they start work. In addition, well constructed assessments have some type of scale to detect faking or socially desirable responding.
How do you get employment testing implemented in your organization? First, senior leadership must support the initiative and bring human resources on-board. The business case is so obvious-candidates who "fit" ultimately do a better job, stay longer, and motivate those around them. Secondly, you need to find a flexible tool that will allow you to assess multiple jobs not just one specific position. Think about the long term impact of your assessments in terms of competency modeling, job fit analysis, and coaching. A good assessment tool will allow you to measure both external candidates and coach internal ones. Finally, use a tool that will make your job easier. The assessment should create the interview guide for your external candidates and a coaching guide if you use the assessment internally. By creating guides for your hiring managers, you've solved the "ill prepared" problem. That alone is a huge accomplishment.
When hiring, what knowledge do employers look for? All you have to do is take a look around...what is it about your top performers that make them top performers. I'm guessing it is the fact that they can do the job, will do the job, and will fit the culture-ah! The trifecta.
Jay is a leading talent management consultant based in Boston, Massachusetts. He provides business leaders with the tools and resources to bring in top talent -- whether they want to do it themselves or they want Talent Insight Group to do it for them. TIG utilizes their strategic partnership with Profiles International, an international provider of leading edge assessment tools, to provide practical consulting and training in strategic initiatives including: interviewing, hiring, and leadership development.
With over 15 years of experience in employee development, Jay has worked with over 200 global companies including General Electric, Time Warner, and ExxonMobil. In addition, Jay has brought consulting services to smaller regional organizations, helping them meet their strategic objectives.
Visit Talent Insight Group and learn more about the services Jay's company offers and download our free whitepaper 6 Steps To Managing Talent in a Tight Labor Market.
For more insight into the world of Human Resources Management, read Jay's Blog HRCleanUp! http://www.talentinsightgroup.com