HIRE THE BEST & IGNORE THE REST!
How Using Tests & Assessments Can Make the Difference
By: Norm Bobay – President of hireMAX April 30th, 2009
In today’s hiring market with so many companies putting the hiring of new employees on hold
until the economy improves, it may seem odd to speak about hiring. But the current situation
has actually presented some unique problems and opportunities for Human Resource
Departments. Let’s review a couple of prevalent ones and see how tests and assessments may
be of benefit to you or your organization.
Problems & Opportunities
Problem: We are laying-off employees not hiring!
Opportunity: If you are not placing ads and conducting interviews, what are you doing with your
time? A proactive organization would be using this time to develop more training for current
employees as well as implementing other retention strategies. They would also be improving
their hiring processes so that when the economy improves they will be ready for the onslaught of
applications. And it will pick back up with a vengeance! The baby boomers are still retiring which
will create an applicant pool void larger than we have ever seen. You could be developing Job
Descriptions, reviewing and installing an Applicant Tracking Program, Benchmarking Job Positions
so as to identify key success factors for screening out future applicants, etc.
Problem: We have some open positions but are inundated by applications!
Opportunity: Through no fault of their own, there are some great applicants available! But
finding them can be like looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”.
Solution – Tests and Assessments
Often times when I first mention tests and assessments as one of the solutions to better hiring
practices, I get some misguided hesitancy from HR on their willingness to consider using them.
Either they have tried one or more in the past and had a bad experience, or they mistakenly see
lawsuits abounding in their future. In truth, tests and assessments, used properly, strengthen
your hiring practices and can help protect you from discrimination lawsuits. And you may not
know it, but according to the EEOC – all employers use “tests” of some sort. For their definition
of a test is anything used to screen out candidates for hire which includes: advertisements,
applications, interviews, etc. (It should be noted here, that the EEOC is “not” against tests and
assessments, only the misuse of them. (For a free copy of EEOC “Fact Sheet on
Employment Tests and Selection Procedures” click here). Let’s look at some benefits to
Why Use Tests and Assessments?
• Objectivity (24/7) – The good thing about most tests and assessments available today
is they ask the same questions the same way for all candidates. And they do not know
how old you are, what color is your skin, etc. Especially if they are Internet based. So
what is not to like about them when it comes to the EEOC!
• Benchmarking (Job Fit) – One Wikapedia definition of a benchmark is: “a point of
reference for a measurement”. Benchmarking a job is defining what are the “key” success
factors for any given position such as skills, attitude, personality type, motivators, etc. and
considering their implications as only one piece in your hiring process. A starting place for
reviewing a candidate’s “fit” to the position. Tests and assessments allow you to
accurately measure these areas in candidates instead of just taking their word for it on
their resume or in the interview.
• Screening (Time to Hire) – Some tests and assessments have benchmarks already built
into them or yours can be added. This allows an organization to quickly screen out the low
potential candidates so that time is not wasted on interviewing them or worse yet, hiring
• Interviewing (Remove the Mask) – Most interviewers will tell that they are never fully
comfortable interviewing candidates. There is always a nagging feeling after turning
someone down that perhaps your “gut instinct” was wrong. Tests and assessments often
provide an objective confirmation that you were right. And considering that much of the
common interviewing techniques are only considered 14-18% effective, tests and
assessments can provide much needed specific questions for better interviews and
• Talent Management (Improved Production) – Most new hires do not fit the job
perfectly and tests and assessments can provide a wealth of information for effectively “on
boarding” them. Tests and assessments can also help management in communicating to
the needs of the employee as well team placement where each participant’s strengths
beneficial to the teams needs. It is sure to improve production when an employee is
“energized” by their “job fit” rather than de-energized.
• Leadership Development (Training & Retention) – A lot of good employees have
been lost by advancing them to a leadership role and not giving them the new skills they
will need to succeed, such as people and organizational skills. Tests and assessments
provide a career path of training and development that is tailored to the individual and
their specific needs.
• Turnover Costs (Save $$$) – Bottom line – turnover is very expensive! Some surveys
show turnover costs to be 500-700 times a positions hourly wage which can easily amount
to a $7000 to $10,000 expense even for entry level positions. When we look at Executive
level positions, turnover is commonly thought to cost approximately one year’s annual
salary. A little cost in testing up front and doing due diligence in fitting the individual to
the job can go a long way in saving a lot of money for any organization.
Test vs. Assessment – What is the difference?
TESTS (Hard Skills / Abilities)
For hiring purposes, it can be defined as “any” instrument or process that is used to “screen out”
candidates. Some examples would be:
· Ads placed in public media (Newspapers, Monster.com, local on-line Job Boards, etc.). To
say in an ad: “We are looking for people to work weekends” is to screen out people who
cannot or will not work weekends. The EEOC considers this a test (see Part I of this
· Application To require a High School graduate or a degreed individual in a particular field is
to “screen out” those who aren’t High School graduates or don’t have the degree.
· Interviews Since questions are being asked to better define an applicants “fit” for the job
position and organization’s culture, it means that those who do not “fit” are being screened out.
· Skills Measuring Instruments Examples: Math, Verbal Comprehension, etc.
· Assessments Yes, assessments can be considered tests when used to screen out applicants
for hire. See following sections for further discussion on assessments.
* For a FREE copy of what the EEOC considers a test, see Part I of this article or e-mail me at:
* All tests, including the ones above, can be misused and put your organization at risk for
lawsuits. For further discussion on this concern see the section of this article entitled: “Tests
& Assessments – Proper Use”
ASSESSMENTS (Soft Skills / Type of Person)
An instrument used to measure what is commonly referred to as the “Soft Skills” of an individual.
Some examples would be:
· Personality Generally refers to such behavioral instruments as DISC based assessments,
Myers-Briggs, etc. Calling these instruments Personality Assessments is actually a
misnomer. An individuals personality is really a combination of factors such as a person’s
intellect, beliefs, behavioral preferences, attitude and more. But the market commonly is
referring only to a person’s behavioral preferences (people focus, task focus, introverted,
extroverted, etc.) when mentioning personality type.
· Competencies (Talents) Referring to such skill based areas as: Goal Setting. Planning,
Vision, Leadership, etc.
· Motivators Describe what an individual becomes passionate about or interested in enough
to take action
· Attitudes Used to measure a persons willingness to act or not act, participate in or not
participate in certain activities, etc. Examples: work ethics, long-term employment, tardiness,
drugs, theft, Supervision, customer service, etc.
Assessments are commonly used for development purposes and for team placement. For hiring
purposes assessments are considered tests when used to “screen out” candidates. When used in
this format, they need to meet the same criteria of fairness and the “required” needs for
effectively completing the job as that of tests. See next section.
Tests & Assessments – Proper Use
In order for tests and assessments to be effective and legal, they must meet certain criteria as
LEGAL AND FAIR
· No adverse impact
· Non-biased questions or processes
· Non-prejudicial administration
VALID AND RELIABLE
· Valid = Predicts successful job performance
· Reliable = Predicts success consistently
· Measures essential characteristics for successful job completion
When using tests and assessments in the hiring process, I recommend that a good benchmark be
used to determine the requirements of the job and how they relate to the criteria mentioned
above. To see a sampling of instruments that match the criteria above, visit our web site at:
www.hiremax.com/hiring.cfm or contact me at: email@example.com
· It is not my attention to provide “legal” advice nor do I claim to be a legal advisor in
any way. In regards to legal matters brought up in these articles, I suggest you consult
a good Human Resource attorney. By “good”, I mean an attorney who knows the
value of and proper use of tests and assessments in the hiring process.
Tests and assessments can greatly enhance your hiring and development processes. By doing a
little due diligence up front, it can pay off “big time” in dollars, job satisfaction and retention. If I
can assist you in any way, contact me. I also conduct presentations related to this topic that can
be formatted for a luncheon or longer as needed. Some of my topics include:
· How To Hire and Keep Highly Motivated Employees – How to stop the turnover
cycle, save money and increase production
· Removing the Mask – How to effectively communicate even with jerks!
· Benchmarking Top Producers – How to Clone the people who will make you the most