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HUMAN RESOURCES

Selecting and Assessing Job Applicants

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The Internet-enabled recruiting market has brought with it more reach for employers and, in general, a higher volume of applicants for jobs. Hence, employers need a wider range of screening and selection tools to manage the flow and choose the best applicants for jobs than ever before. While the interview remains a key component, employers need more and better instruments to help them choose candidates.

Online screening technologies to separate clearly unqualified candidates from qualified candidates have cut recruiting costs dramatically -- by 50% to 95% in some instances. With minimal effort, the time and cost associated with the classic separation of applicants into two piles, one for those who should not be considered and another for those that require further screening, can be accomplished instantly with automated filtering tools.

Creating Competency Profiles

Beyond the straightforward elimination of applicants who don't meet clear criteria, though, assessment is a complex practice requiring significant effort. To effectively assess candidates, positions for which you are hiring must be examined and success criteria defined. What skills, experience, knowledge, competencies, work values/preferences and personality traits are important and necessary for success in the position? Employers must create a competency profile for each position and use it to help screen potential new hires.

Once you've determined the competency profile of the position, formulate screening questions that will draw from candidates' information that can be fairly evaluated against your selection criteria. For example, if a position has been determined to need a person with strong consensus-building skills, a solid question might be, "During negotiations, are you inclined to compromise, or do you focus on achieving agreements that give you or your client the clear advantage?" Note that the candidate cannot guess at what constitutes a correct answer. For some positions, a compromising personality might be better; for others, an adversarial approach may be desirable.

Additionally, screening software can help you compare candidates against the criteria and each other objectively, transparently, and fairly. This can happen if an organization undertakes a comprehensive job analysis and/or selects a qualified test/assessment vendor that has done so for similar positions. It can't happen if recruiters and hiring managers are allowed to make up ad hoc screening criteria for each position. Applicants should be required to answer the same questions and be matched against the same criteria. If some candidates apply online and are subject to automated screening, while others apply by mail and fax and are put through a process involving manual screening, matching against the same criteria becomes more difficult.

Psychometric Testing

Done correctly, testing and assessment has been proven a more effective instrument in selection than more common and accepted tools, such as interviewing. This also is true for psychometric testing, despite the suspicion and negativity it frequently receives in the media.

No selection tool is perfect. Employers, guidance councillors, governments and others have abused personality tests famously for decades. Despite this, their use is increasing as a means to match workers with jobs and organizations. Like other assessment instruments, psychometric testing can be successful when employers choose their tools and/or vendors carefully. If your candidate evaluations efforts take you down the path of testing, there are a few things to consider when choosing an assessment vendor:

  • Require the test supplier to provide published proof that the test has a high level of predictive validity across the industry and, where possible, for the job which the test is being given. Find out how the test was developed and where it was standardized and tested. Beware of providers that give reasons why they cannot/will not do this.
  • Require the supplier to provide reference customers that have used the test for as long a period of time as possible.
  • After choosing a valid test, continue to benchmark it internally, gather evidence to determine whether the test is a valid predictor of success on the job.
  • Ensure that the test measures qualities that will be used on the job and are critical to success. Nurses in the operating room may need to be more adept at processing information visually, with shapes, for example than those in the ICU. Sales people should be tested for attributes and personality that test interpersonal skills and determine motivation.
  • If you have doubts about using a psychometric test to screen applicants, gain familiarity and experience with it first as a means to determine training needs. If the test proves effective in determining employees' training needs, it will probably be equally adept in exposing candidates' weaknesses.

Employers owe it to themselves and candidates to use all of the tools at their disposal to match people to work more effectively. Traditional assessment, with its over reliance on the interview, has proven largely inadequate. Skills and psychometric tests add an extra dimension, providing insight into candidate/job fit that even the best interviewer cannot.


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