Assessments are Dead! Long Live Assessments!

Many companies rely on one or more behavioral, cognitive, personality, intelligence and hard skills assessments in order to predict potential job fit, improve performance, and reduce turnover. Most of these are deeply rooted in 1950s-era organizational psychology that has changed little in the ensuing 60-plus years which renders them less effective in today’s employment climate. Furthermore, many of these assessments were designed with a highly collaborative work environment in mind – one where workers are largely dependent on each other to perform effectively and deliver results. However, some jobs, like many of those in customer service, are more reliant on the ability of an employee to interact well with people outside the organization rather than his or her peers to deliver the desired business results.

Applicants for hourly jobs, such as those in call centers, retail, restaurants, and hospitality sectors are less likely to subject themselves to an assessment protocol that consumes much of their time, given the potential reward. Yet, some companies still require applicants to complete several, time-consuming stages of assessments as part of their recruitment. At some point, this becomes a “survival of the fittest” exercise in which some of the best-qualified applicants simply bail out because the process is too burdensome and the employer is left with those who are merely willing to endure the process. Not many candidates will spend 60 minutes or more on assessments in order to win a job that pays only $10 to $12 per hour.

Candidates have also become more adept at trying to “outsmart” assessments by responding with what they hope the employer wants to hear. This skews the outcomes and often results in the wrong people getting hired. And then companies wonder why turnover and performance hasn’t improved – “the candidate scored well on the assessment, but was terrible once hired.” The ideal assessment approach is one that is transparent to the candidate, offers no opportunity for the applicant to try to game the test, and reliably identifies candidates who will deliver the right business results without costly and time-consuming recalibration.

Recent organizational research indicates that a candidate’s emotional intelligence can be a forward-looking indicator of performance, tenure potential, and engagement. These emotional cues can be detected from natural-language voice interviews – a common step in most companies’ recruitment processes – unbeknownst to the candidate, which yields valid, “game-proof” results. With recent advances in machine learning, predictive analytics applications have been developed that map business outcomes against pre-hire assessments to recommend candidates who will meet the company’s business goals. Furthermore, this approach is self-improving over time, thereby ensuring that subsequent candidates meet a higher standard.

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