Talent Assessments: Hire the Right Person for the Job

Key Issues.BLOGThere was a time when a candidate interviewing for a job only needed a current résumé, references, and solid answers to interview questions. Not anymore. The selection process has expanded beyond the résumé and interview to include other types of talent assessments, such as tests, simulations, and demonstrations.

Assessing more factors can provide greater insight into a candidate’s potential fit. Employers can get an edge in hiring workers who best fit job requirements and who are likely to perform well by using assessments to evaluate personality, reasoning skills, problem-solving, and cultural fit, as well as competency.

Studies show that talent assessments can positively impact hiring decisions, performance, and retention. Assessments also allow you to verify what candidates self-report about their knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics.  

Talent assessment tools to consider:

Personality tests measure behavioral styles or preferences that relate to job requirements or to the organization’s work environment. Employers use the test results to predict how candidates will respond to work-related situations. For example, candidates for customer-service positions who enjoy interacting with people, solving problems, and dealing with difficult situations are more likely to succeed on the job than candidates who lack these behavioral preferences. 

Cognitive/aptitude tests measure a candidate’s ability to solve problems. These may test for analytical, verbal, and numerical reasoning in processing information, thinking analytically, drawing conclusions, and making decisions. For example, in roles where analytical and problem-solving abilities are critical, candidates may be tested on their reasoning capacity.    

Physical ability and motor skills tests measure manual dexterity and physical abilities such as strength, agility, and endurance. These tests are commonly used for physically challenging jobs.

Simulations or work sample tests recreate job-based scenarios and problems that approximate the work experience to evaluate how candidates handle the situation and resolve the problem. Candidates develop a response that employers assess for appropriateness and effectiveness. A simulation can take the form of a case study, role-playing, or an actual work situation that the candidate must evaluate and respond to. For example, candidates may be asked to listen to a pre-recorded, difficult customer call. The candidates are given four possible responses to the call and asked to select the best response. The candidates are then asked to outline their thought process and basis for decision-making.

Demonstrations require candidates to illustrate how they would complete a certain task. Demonstrations allow an employer to assess the candidate’s ability to understand a topic, formulate a response, and present a solution. Simple demonstrations consist of an explanation or demonstration of how a task, function, or procedure is performed. Complex demonstrations may require candidates to research a topic or problem and then develop and present a business case or business plan on how they would address it. For example, a candidate may be asked to develop and present a business case to address an emerging market opportunity.

When considering talent assessments, keep these factors in mind: 

Validity and reliability – The words “testing,” “data,” and “analysis” suggest objectivity; however, that can be misleading. In order to be effective and legally defensible, tests must be both valid and reliable. The MSEC website has reference materials regarding talent assessments (see FYIs, Laws, and Links; Hiring; FYI: Testing – Overview and FYI: Testing – Pre-employment Testing) that provide an explanation of these elements. 

Testing limitations – Given the complexity of humans and the limitations of testing, not all performance factors can be assessed by way of a test. There are no perfect tests, and test takers respond differently to testing situations that can impact their scores, so testing alone is incomplete. The process still requires human judgment on the part of the employer. Employers will want to draw on a broad variety of input sources. The more puzzle pieces the employer has, the clearer the candidate picture becomes.

Legal defensibility – Employers need to ensure that their talent selection process is nondiscriminatory, job-related, and consistent with business necessity. Talent assessments that disqualify a disproportionate number of candidates that fall into protected categories could pose legal risk.

An organization is only as effective as the people who work for it. Talent assessments can help organizations be more effective in differentiating between candidates, identifying the best fit, and in hiring more effectively to improve performance, engagement, and retention.  

MSEC has industrial/organizational psychologists on staff who can help employers identify appropriate and validated talent assessment tools for a given job. Our attorneys can also help you assess legal risks associated with talent assessments.