Every hiring process I’ve experienced over the past few months has utilized testing—in some cases personality and in others skills. In one instance, the test, which was administered online, was the first step in the hiring process, and I later learned it screened out over a third of the candidates. In another example, a friend was entering his second interview when the hiring company discovered that no one had reviewed his test results. They suspended the interview, and after reviewing the results, which indicated he was not a good fit, they terminated the second interview, as well as his candidacy. The increased reliance on assessment tools by firms is staggering.
Firms now contend with Gen Y’s, who view work differently than previous generations, and candidates who are well-schooled in the interview process, knowing the types of questions that will be asked, but more importantly, the most appropriate answers. Privacy laws also compound an organization’s ability to check out a candidate. Even validating educational background can be troublesome, at least without the candidate’s consent. With challenges such as these, companies are resorting to new tactics, ones that will help them to peel back layers and get a true picture of an applicant. Tests, profiles and assessments have become standard tools in the hiring manager’s tool kit. And, with the plethora of firms offering these types of services, espousing their scientifically-based capabilities, it is easy to see why companies embrace these types of solutions.
It’s not the use of these tools that concerns me; it’s the fact that they are so heavily relied upon. I could understand the assessment results corroborating interview responses or resume claims, but they are often used independently and definitively. But in addition to the screening abilities that these tools offer, they also provide organizations with distance and protection from those same candidates. Rather than having to justify their position to an applicant, they can simply point to the assessment tools, saying “It wasn’t us. The tests showed you weren’t fit for our company.”
Rarely do firms share the full results with applicants, the tests used or the firms who provided these assessments—which is equally disturbing. Offering candidates this type of information allows them to better understand themselves, to learn and possibly to improve themselves. Moreover, this level of transparency lends greater credibility to the use of these tools. Unfortunately, that is a double-edged sword, as it would also provide candidates with the information to question these tools and a firm’s use of them.
None of the firms offering assessment services claims 100% accuracy. That would simply be foolish on their part. So, the key question is: what about unintentional errors. If a company relies exclusively on tests as a screening mechanism, false positives and negatives will inevitably occur, and they would have no way to mitigate their effect. However, if assessments are used in conjunction with interviews and background checking (Google is a powerful tool), other tools in a hiring manager’s arsenal, then the picture developed about a candidate will be more rounded and ultimately more accurate. In this soft job market, it is simply a shame when someone is screened out for the wrong reason.
Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)