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How to Use Assessments to Hire People

Q. I have been having a difficult time hiring good people. They look good on paper and they interview well, but their performance doesn’t meet expectations. Can and should I use assessments to help me hire?

Hiring the right people is challenging for many small businesses. No one will get it right every time, but we have helped many companies improve their hiring results.

The short answer to “can I use assessments” is, yes. You can use assessments to help you determine who to hire. As usual with employment practices, there are a few caveats we need to mention. First, if you are going to use assessments make sure they are scientifically “reliable” and “validated.”

This is necessary to ensure that the assessment meet the requirements set forth by the Department of Labor as well as the EEOC, ADA, etc. If you are not sure about a particular assessment, ask the person supplying the product or seek out a knowledgeable employment attorney or human resources practitioner. Second, you should never choose or eliminate a candidate based solely on the results of an assessment. Rather, the assessment should provide one piece of the puzzle.

The more interesting question is “should I use assessments.” We are fans of several assessments and believe employers can use them in a variety of ways to enhance everything from hiring to employee development and team building. You can use assessments to help you to determine how individuals think and solve problems, their behavioral preferences, values, ethics and what natural aptitudes they possess. However, your question was about hiring, so let’s take a quick look at some do’s and don’ts of using assessments in the employment process: 1. Determine the type of assessment. As mentioned above, there are a tremendous number of assessments available. Some measure behavioral style while others measure one’s ability to deal with stress and change. First, determine what you want to measure. Don’t use an assessment just because it is well known or it is pops up first on the internet. A bit of research may help you to find a great product for your particular situation. 2. Carefully read the assessment descriptions. For instance, extroversion as defined by the Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) reads, “Getting your energy from active involvement in events and a lot of outside activity and people.” This is different from extroversion as defined in the Big 5 assessment, “Characterized by sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and excitability.” Make sure you understand what the assessment measures and how they define the terms they use. 3. Know what you need. You must know what you are looking for in the perfect candidate. For instance, you might want to measure outgoingness. However, depending on whether you want a salesperson who will spend most his or her time interacting with others or an analyst who will spend much of his or her time working independently, the ideal hire will look very different. A behavioral assessment is only helpful if you understand what behaviors would be successful in that particular job. Do your homework and develop a profile for the job you are trying to fill. 4. Determine patterns. If you have employees currently in this position, have them take the assessment to see if there are any patterns. Do people who are successful in the position score high on certain dimensions, while those who struggle in the job do not? This can be helpful in determining if the assessment gives you results that make sense. Your ability to garner meaningful information from an assessment will improve as you continue to use it in your business. Assessments can provide decision makers with another source of data during the all-important hiring process. Yes, we would encourage you to use assessments. However, make sure you use a legal product, that measures what you want to measure and that you do your homework. If you do, assessments can be a valuable tool.

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