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By Kathryn Ullrich and members of the recruiting team blog about executive recruiting topics such as career advice, Silicon Valley technology trends, career development tips, and career articles on how to get to the top of your career. Bookmark the recruiting blog of Kathryn Ullrich Associates, Inc. and check back often for insightful career articles and tips on how to land a quality job, and move up in your career.

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Sep 15

Written by: Kathryn Ullrich
9/15/2008 2:27 PM 

We all know the cost of hiring the wrong candidate for a role and how painful and costly that can be for an organization. So how do you make sure a candidate is the right one for the role? From a process perspective, you can put in place many rounds of interviews, starting with a recruiter, screening interview, and interview rounds with the hiring manager and team, executive team, even board of directors. You can also use candidate assessment tests as an extra set of eyes and ears on the candidate in the evaluation process.

 Why test?
Assessment instruments can be used for job-related hiring, coaching, training and succession planning. Candidates for a specific position can be compared against a star profile for that position to see how they measure. For example, a CFO role that requires hands-on involvement managing an accounting staff, may have an assessment test looking for high attention to detail and strong team leadership.
Assessment tests can point out areas for additional probing during the interview process to see how tendencies have played out in prior performance to see if they are relevant to the job and team dynamics. Take for instance an assessment test indicating a candidate has low patience. Probing may shed light on when the candidate is impatient to determine if this is a good trait for motivating action or a bad trait that would make the person unable to lead a team of diverse personalities.
Employee testing results also pin-point areas for career development or training. In addition, assessments can provide guidance for better functioning teams with an eye for succession planning in a company. The overall result is better performing employees for specific jobs.
What to test?
Employee assessment tools can provide insight on knowledge/skills, cognitive aptitude, behavioral traits, and interests all related to the specific job.
Knowledge and Skills
Each role may have specific knowledge or skills required from computer skills for engineers to typing speed for an administrative assistant. There are a myriad of testing tools available.
Cognitive testing
For professional roles, cognitive testing may measure numerical ability and reasoning, verbal ability and reasoning, problem solving, idea formulation, decision making, learning style, or visual speed and accuracy.
Behavioral testing
Behavioral, personality or personal characteristic testing may include habits, preferences, or tendencies on a number of different areas, including the following: achievement drive, accommodation, assertiveness, compatibility, conscientiousness, decisiveness, emotional intensity, empathy, energy, independence, judgment, motivation, optimism, persuasiveness, resiliency, responsiveness, social interaction, structure, trustworthiness, urgency, and work ethic.
What someone is good at may not be what they are interested in doing. Measuring interests may show someone’s desire for the job at hand or the promotion. Interests include broad functional characteristics such as: conceptual, creative, entrepreneurial, financial/administrative, leadership/management, mechanical, people service, service-focused, strategic, and technical.
Which tests are right for your company?
I find value in testing but I will stop short of advocating one assessment vehicle over another. It depends on your situation and what you would like to measure – and may involve multiple tests.
In choosing an assessment vehicle, you need to consider the job: what’s important in the role and what areas you would like to measure? From an economic/investment perspective, it helps to understand how many candidates and how often you are hiring. Some assessment tests measure skills, cognitive, behavioral and interests; others measure one area; while others combine multiple tests in their measurements. Some are offered as site licenses for the entire company, others are per candidate. Some require training within your company and others provide the consulting services of someone evaluating test results.
Thorough training or explanation of assessment results is key. Incomplete knowledge or stereotyping people based on a characteristic may lead to choosing the wrong candidate, passing on the right one, or resulting in a decision beyond the legal boundaries of the assessment’s validation defense.
Make sure that the test is valid for hiring purposes. It must be job-related and unbiased. Does it measure job-related knowledge, aptitude, skills, and personal characteristics? Is the testing standardized and supported by validity studies on accuracy of results by industry and job function? Does the assessment test have accepted designs, clear administration and consistent scoring meeting EEOC requirements? Are the results reliable and objective? And, if a lawsuit should occur, will the vendor back the company using the assessment?
For more information, I can put you in touch with experts in assessment testing.
Candidate assessment test results add insight to the interview process of confirming gut instincts, providing additional areas for probing, and adding perspective on how the candidate will work within the team, in addition to providing guidance on how to manage the prospective employee. I caution that assessment testing is just a tool and should not be the final decision on hiring. You never know when your star profile can be surpassed by a new definition of star, the way Michael Phelps smashed swimming records.
For candidates taking assessment tests, you should answer truthfully so that you can find an opportunity that is the right fit for you. When joining one of the blue chip companies I was recruited to, everyone had to take an assessment test. The banter at new hire training in the room of talented executives was that many had ‘failed’ the assessment test but were hired anyway.
I am currently using candidate assessment tools for hiring into our firm. Give me a call and I will share the results – or you may be talking with the person who ‘passed’ the test.

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