It’s Time to Test Your Application Process

I won’t be talking about usability, time needed to complete the application, or many other very important topics.  Today I want to focus on a specific test.  A test I think that should be done routinely and regularly.

Either a recruiter from a different area, the Recruiting Manager, or even someone in HR should ask for the resumes of some of top performers that work in the area that is hiring and apply on their behalf.  Use a pseudonym and a different phone number and email address.  You don’t want to make it too obvious.  I would also include resumes of the average (but solid) performers you want to keep.  If this is a replacement position, I may include the resume of the person being replaced.

Basically, the test would be to see if the people the hiring manager already has on staff (that he or she really wants to keep) would make it to the interview.  Because if the people the hiring manager already has on staff (and thinks they are great) can’t make it to an interview…what is the likelihood of increasing the staff with more great people?  Obviously these people should be called for an interview.

If they don’t make it to the interview stage, this would show a failure in the requirements, pre-screening questions, or other element of the application process.

Also, this would show (if passed with flying colors) that there is a correlation between what is being asked for in the application process and the top performers and/or solid employees on staff.

I see this as something that will become more important in the future…scientific-like repeatability and being able to show a correlation between what we do in recruiting and how it does in fact bring in top performers and solid employees.

The way to move towards this is to test and audit what we do in recruiting more frequently (or start, if you don’t test currently).

We can start with simply the application process, but we could test and audit the entire hiring process.  Do the interview questions we ask really select better talent and therefore screen out low-performers?

If we have employment tests for potential hires, the government wants to know if they are valid tests (accurately gauging better talent) that are not accidentally screening out or pushing away women, minorities, older workers, etc.  I have read many, many articles over the years of how many employment tests are not valid and open companies up to discrimination law suits or government audit of employment practices.

By extension, the questions we ask interviewees should be valid and not discriminate.  There are even questions the government specifically says are not legal to ask.  And yet, we still do not do much to test for validity of those questions to screen out all but the best talent.

We hear in articles that hiring practices and typical interview questions are no better than a coin-toss.  Why?  Because we do not test it.

One way to test your interview questions is to ask top performers and solid employees in that function the questions.  How do the answers compare with applicants for the job?  Maybe do a blind test and have the employee do the phone screen with the recruiter and then debrief the recruiter on what they thought and why.

I am trying to take my original point through all the hiring steps.  If the currently employed top performers can’t make it through the process, how valid is the process?  How could you hire other top performers if the current top performers would be screened out?

I think more testing and auditing needs to happen in recruiting (on ourselves and by ourselves), because we really don’t know what works and why it works.  We don’t bother to test it and determine the factors.  We have very little in terms of feedback loops to tell us what is working (and how well it is working) and what is not working.

Is it any wonder why research keeps saying what we are doing is a shot in the dark, no better than a coin toss, or other analogy?  To make recruiting systematic requires not only processes, but processes with feedback loops (for quality) and processes that should be tested (for validity, for improvement, etc.).  Otherwise, it is just a shot in the dark…a coin toss.


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Eric Putkonen is a public speaker / presenter and he is passionate about recruiting / talent acquisition & retention, culture & employment brand, engagement, and leadership (which affects all of the prior). 

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