How to Use Prehire Assessments to Land the Best Recruits

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Published on: November 2018

Written by: Sandra Hartog

A single bad hire can cost a company upwards of 150 percent of the employee’s starting salary. For mid-level employees, the price tag can easily exceed $100,000. And yet, even with such staggering costs, nearly 75 percent of employers admit to hiring the wrong candidate for a job.

Bad hiring decisions can damage companies’ bottom lines, employee morale, and workplace cultures. They can even impede long-term growth. To avoid hiring the wrong person, many HR professionals are turning to prehire assessments.

Prehire assessments are a growing trend: Ninety-three percent of companies report using them as a component of their hiring processes. This is good news for recruiters, as these tests help to reduce turnover, raise company productivity, and simplify the screening process so that only the best-fitting candidates make the cut.

The value of prehire assessments

How can proper assessments help you catch ill-fitting candidates and, more importantly, select the perfect person for a role?

Prehire assessments are often job-specific tests designed to evaluate problem-solving, decision-making, and leadership potential. These assessments help hiring managers analyze candidates on the basis of high-impact behaviors that help your company select for fit.

Strong performance on the assessment should help the company feel confident about a candidate’s future job performance. The candidate’s performance on the assessment should speak for itself, creating less need for guessing about how the candidate might operate day to day. These assessments also help minimize the impact of unconscious biases on the hiring process.

Additionally, prehire assessments help candidates themselves. When the assessment reflects the company and the role, it gives the candidate a realistic job preview that can help align the new hire’s expectations for the job and company culture with reality, ultimately leading to a stronger onboarding experience.

Assess your assessments

A prehire assessment is only valuable if it is measuring the right candidate traits and skills. To ensure they are screening for the right factors and utilizing assessments properly, recruiters and HR pros can take the following steps:

  1. Define what great leadership looks like
    I can’t guess what leadership style would work best for your organization any more than I can guess what you had for breakfast this morning. That’s because good leadership is a contextual skill.

    It is important to know which leadership skills will fit with your company. Discuss previous business challenges that company leaders have navigated successfully. What was it about the leaders’ performance that helped them achieve positive results? Which behaviors had negative consequences in the face of the challenge?

    Ask these questions, and be honest about what is important to your company. Make a list of behaviors and skills that would make candidates successful in the role. This will be important in the next step.

  2. Develop a job profile or capabilities model and a playbook. Develop a job profile that clearly defines quality leadership as it pertains to your organization. Then, collect observations of times that relevant behaviors have occurred — both concrete and anecdotal — into a living document. Clearly differentiate between examples of great behaviors and examples of not-yet-great behaviors. This leadership playbook can contain all the experiential wisdom and time-tested strategies that normally take years of on-the-job study to uncover.

    Your playbook will eventually serve as the barometer by which you judge candidates’ responses in an assessment. How close did they get to the playbook? What characteristics do they bring to the table that are represented in the playbook?

  3. Create an Effective, Positive Experience
    In creating an assessment, you’ll want a test that would give you a glimpse into both the behaviors from the playbook and the soft skills a candidate will need for the role. Try to identify common on-the-job scenarios that would require these behaviors and skills, and use those scenarios in the assessment.

    Before submitting new candidates to an untested system, have existing employees take some mock tests. This creates a safe environment where you can receive direct feedback on the clarity and efficacy of your test without harming a real candidate’s chances. If your most valuable or highest-performing employees struggle with the assessment, there’s likely a flaw or two that needs addressing.

    One of the most important aspects of your prehire assessment is how candidates feel upon completing it. A bad candidate experience can weaken your brand and drive away top talent, while a quality experience can get candidates excited about the company and the job.

There is no force greater in shaping an organization’s success than the caliber of its team members. By properly vetting candidates before they join the company, you can give your organization its best shot at success.