Candidate assessment tools have been used for many years by recruiting firms and hiring companies alike to – in theory – introduce some scientific validation to the otherwise subjective process of determining whether someone would be a good fit for the job and the company. Their promise is an enticing one, to be sure. What hiring manager wouldn’t want a crystal ball, of sorts, to take away the guesswork, and tell them whether a prospective hire will ‘gel’ with the rest of the team, whether they have a leadership style that will fit well into the organisation, and whether they’re likely to be a long-term high-performer?
So, are they worth it? My answer is: ‘maybe, it depends’. I’ll explain what I mean below.
As with any product or service, there are good assessment tools and bad, and some are better for some situations than others. I will say that the science behind these assessments has greatly evolved over the years, and the tools available now are far more robust than those available even a decade ago. If you do plan to incorporate them into your hiring process, there are a lot to choose from, and it makes sense to shop around and ensure that the product you select is the best for your specific circumstances.
The other question – and an equally important one, in my experience – is how a company puts these products to use.
No assessment tool can, or should, ever replace human decision making in the hiring process. No software algorithm can reliably predict an uncertain future. Aren’t people liable to make mistakes, though? Sure, of course we are. But so is technology. A software program is no more or less fallible than people using solid interview techniques, plus good judgement and reasoning skills. Putting those elements to work together, though, can be highly effective.
People are most likely to make errors resulting from subjectivity. Simply put, we tend to want to hire people that we like. If someone is friendly and engaging, and builds rapport quickly, it can lead us to exaggerate points in favour of their candidacy, and overlook things we shouldn’t. A good evaluation process mitigates this by using well-designed questioning techniques, applied consistently, to get as close as possible to comparing ‘apples to apples’ when shortlisting and selecting final candidates.
This is where assessment tools have their greatest value. When employed in the later stages of the hiring process, these programs can unearth useful, objective, and data-driven insights that may not have surfaced in the interviews. Once again, I stress that these insights shouldn’t be interpreted for the purpose of ruling out candidates. Instead, they should point towards additional probing questions that can be asked in final interviews: questions that are unique to each candidate, and whose answers can help hiring decision-makers make better – and still human – decisions.
(As a side note, I’ll acknowledge that in an increasingly litigious labour law environment, it can be helpful in some cases to have the objectivity that these assessments provide, in order to defend hiring decisions when necessary. I still maintain that the assessments should complement, rather than replace, the decision-making of the people involved.)
Finally, really intelligent organisations use these assessments long after the day an employee first starts working with them. The insights and information the best of these programs provide can help you align your new hire with the right team, the appropriate supports, and the kind of leadership that will result in the highest level of performance and job satisfaction possible.
Algorithms will never take the human touch out of human resources. Whether you already use a tool to assess candidates, or are thinking about starting, we’re happy to work with you to ensure that a well-structured hiring process complements – and makes the most of – the insights and information you receive.