Series 1.6: Talent Assessment Implementation

After completing the design of the core interview framework the organization moves into the implementation phase where careful attention is paid to change management, communications, and training.   This critical phase determines the success of the project, the ROI to the organization and the perceived value of the talent assessment team.  Adequate human resources and leadership champions from the business are essential to a successful implementation.

The goal in defining the interview process is to create an effective and impressive experience while mitigating costs.  Continuing with Series 1.5, we'll focus on the implementation of the Sales/Account Management assessment modules.  The Sales team is geographically dispersed and their travel schedules are considerable so it is important that the initial screening process can be effectively conducted remotely.   To accomplish this, the company partnered with a new vendor for secure video conferencing that recruiters, interviewers and candidates can easily use on their laptop computers and other portable devices.  The company also partnered with it's preferred airline to establish reduced rates and utilize company account mileage to upgrade executive level candidates to business/first class.  Contracts had already been negotiated with local hotels, car service providers, and relocation specialists.

Phase 1 - Screening

  • Recruiter screen provides the hiring manager with details around career history and chronology of their experience and accomplishments in relationship management and sales delivery; the degree to which they possess critical and preferred skills and competencies; motivations and drivers; and logistical elements such as ability to travel and attending events outside of normal work hours.  The recruiter produces a candidate brief for the hiring manager that provides a summary of this information and recommendation in a standard format used by the recruiting team.
  • Hiring Manager screen uses the Relevant Demonstrated Experience assessment module to provide insight into the candidate's performance and accomplishments most relevant to the Sales/Account Management role.   Unlike behavioral interviewing, which provides very limited insight to predict candidate performance, this assessment is driven by one question, all focused on the most complex and challenging project, assignment or initiative that the candidate highlights as their greatest accomplishments.  In this case, the hiring manager from the Sales team poses the question: "Describe the most challenging, complex and competitive sale you led and closed that had a successful outcome?"  The hiring manager will then ask a series of questions to fully understand scope, the candidate's role, the environment, team, stakeholders, and the required deliverables.  

Once the stage is set, this interview then fully assesses what and how the candidate accomplished throughout the project: issues they faced, decisions they made, relationships they managed, mistakes they overcame, and resources they used.  These and other data points are examined in detail to understand the full scope of the project all the way through completion, outcomes, and recognition.  The interviewer not only gains a detailed picture of candidate performance and can gauge the degree of relevance to the role they are being assessed against but, by design, this assessment gives you a view into what represents the candidate's most complex and challenging work.  The hiring manager or recruiter can later verify the content of this assessment through a 360 degree professional reference.     

For executive level and other complex roles, this assessment would be conducted by 2-3 interviewers and used cover multiple examples of the candidate's relevant experiences over the course of their recent career.  For example, an executive may be requested to provide an example of how they changed company culture, how they expanded a business across borders, and how they turned around a failing ancillary but pivotal business unit.  Complex roles that require the candidate to not only develop technology solutions but also to train and manage large teams through the implementation would require distinct projects for the candidate to describe separately.  Having the candidate provide project examples in chronological order of their different roles/employers gives perspective to trends in their performance. 

Candidate who pass this assessment would be invited in for an in-person interview at the corporate offices where the executive team resides and the company can make the best impression and provide the optimal candidate experience.  

Phase 2 - Interview Day

The office visit is the organization's opportunity to create a competitive advantage to successfully recruit the best talent from the market who are typically being pursued by multiple competitors.  Communications, logistics, facilities, interviewer team, assessment, culture, facilities, and high touch point personal touches are all being observed and assessed by your candidate.  However well a company executes on these components, the most important element is the quality of the people who deliver the candidate experience that matter most, further proving the importance of not only hiring the best talent, but to only involve your A-players in the interview process.  Anything less is selling your investment short.  

Arrival: In our example, the talent assessment team created distinct processes for executive and non-executive level candidates.  Some of these were logistical elements that included business class compared to coach and car service compared to taxi service.  The company selected two hotels that would provide the best level of service where they could also benefit from reduced rates and loyalty points for repeat business.  Since the candidates were typically arriving the evening before, the room was prepared with a snack platter and a card from the company to welcome them.  At check-in a special welcome was given to by the front desk and the concierge with recommendations of nearby restaurants, and a welcome packet that contained special content developed by the recruiting and marketing team, a complimentary prix fixe breakfast menu, and another copy of the interview agenda and bios of who they would be meeting with the next day.   

For executive candidates, the VP of Sales (hiring manager) and the business unit executive would the candidate would support take the candidate out for dinner.  Observing executives in a less formal setting for the initial meeting is relevant as this can often time be the venue the executive will meet a new client.  Careful attention is paid to how the candidate balances formality and professionalism with personality, character and style to assess overall fit with the desired corporate image.  Articulation and communication style, body language, line of questions and topics they choose to discuss are all observed closely.

The interview day is conducted at the company's meeting facility floor in one of the professionally designed interview rooms that provide an impressive, comfortable and functional setting.  Reception area, high definition video conferencing and audio/visual equipment, white board, conference table, lounge chairs, refreshments, and branded collateral and [company product] gifts are all part of the candidate experience.

The recruiters greets and meets with the candidate first to get introduced, go over the day and answer any questions before the first interview. 

The interviews:

1-  Innovation assessment conducted by Marketing (1hr assessment; 15min Q&A)

2-  Leadership assessment conducted by Human Resources (1hr assessment; 15min Q&A)

3-  Relevant Demonstrated Performance assessments (1hr assessment; 15min Q&A) -

4-  The practice-developed Case Study and Presentation (2hr assessment) are conducted in separate interviews and conducted by different members of the Sales/Account Management team.  Panel interviews could be utilized.  The Presentation is conducted last and would include everyone on the interview team as the audience for the presentation. 

4-  Peer interview (1hr interview) - The candidate meets with a peer to get a transparent view of the company, role, assignments, environment and culture.  This meeting enhances the candidate experience by establishing a peer relationship giving an important connection to the company/brand and gives the candidate the opportunity to get answers to important questions from someone who is living the role.  

5-  Closing (30-45min interview) - Depending on the candidate [level], the closing interview is designed to debrief on the day, gather the candidate's overall feedback, address any questions or concerns, gauge continued interest and describe next steps. 

Executives would typically have additional interviews with senior executives in other divisions or in the C-suite for the purpose of gauging overall fit on core competencies, address any concerns surfaced during the interview process and to help close the candidate on the opportunity.

Now that the talent assessment framework is designed, the interview process can be built along with interviewer training.  Training should be produced with learning and education professionals to develop the right content and learning delivery platform.  In our example, the organization chose a combination of classroom and on-line delivery with practical exercises via mock interviews and observations.  During the first couple of live interviews, new trainees first shadow other interviewers as an observer and are then observed to ensure that the assessment and candidate experience is being delivered effectively.   An extensive company-wide training is created for the core assessment methodologies.  Each business must also host training for their specific assessments (i.e. case studies) to educate others in the business who will conduct these assessments.

Lastly, technology is customized to support processes, compliance and data management.  In this example, the company developed an enterprise application that automated the interview process with custom communications and electronic evaluation forms for each assessment, giving interviewers easy access to candidate information including notes summaries and prior evaluations.

Before the roll-out, the CEO and COO sent out a communication to the company about the initiative, the new framework and its importance to the business, and next steps.  The next day, business unit leaders sent an email to their selected interview teams to invite them to the upcoming meetings and trainings to begin rolling out the program.

HAS YOUR ORGANIZATION BRANDED THE CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE?

Many organizations will acknowledge they do not have an effective structured assessment methodology let alone building the interview process around the candidate experience.  The recruiting cycle and talent assessment are an integral part of employer branding.   Those organizations who are not mindful to creating a distinctive, brand-defining candidate experience not only run the risk of losing top talent to the competition, but actually diminishing the perception of their brand image.  This is especially true for organizations whose candidates are also [target] customers.  It's ironic how companies spend millions of dollars on consumer marketing but have not invested in an adequate campaign to attract their most valuable asset.  Companies like Google, Siemens, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Apple, and Johnson & Johnson (to name just a few) have been recognized for their employer brand and are reaping the multifaceted return on this requisite investment.

Candidate experience starts when desired talent become a prospect, meaning, when they begin investigating the job market on their own or when the recruiting team makes initial contact with them.  Communication and branding, presentation, timing and responsiveness, engagement and follow-through, process and logistics, assessment, feedback, closing, and on-boarding all must be carefully designed and coordinated to achieve the results and benefits desired for both the candidate and the organization.  Some questions to consider when designing a world-class candidate experience:

  • Do you know what the candidate market thinks of your employer brand including your career website, job/position descriptions and other communications, and recruiting process?  This goes beyond those you engage but the total market to better understand lost opportunities.  Communications must tell a multi-dimensional story designed not only to attract talent but tell a story that imbues an emotional attachment to the mission, culture, and values of the organization. 
  • How do you benchmark against your top competitors?  Without this vital baseline information you are likely missing, or not placing enough emphasis on, key elements to make your brand distinctive and memorable.
  • What service level agreement does your recruiting and talent management organization provide to candidates from the first conversation through the first year after joining?  A consistent and transparent recruiting process that dovetails into a well-orchestrated on-boarding, training, and talent management program will not only improve your company's employer brand through the  praises of new employees but will also have significant impact on employee performance,  engagement, and retention.  
  • Has your recruiting process been designed to assess and impress?  In each stage of the process, is  assessment balanced with elements that provide incremental connections to the brand that include highlights of the company, it's products, the work/projects, professional development, and rewards along with people, values, and culture including diversity, social responsibility and community service? 
  • Did you select only your top performers from the business as interviewers who are qualified and trained to not just assess but to effectively sell and close candidates?    

Implementing a talent assessment program involves a number of major initiatives outside the assessment itself.   Companies who think comprehensively, innovate and invest in marketing/employer branding, technology, training, facilities and logistics are poised set the bar above their competition and reap the rewards of a world-class talent attraction and selection program.

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