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The Pros and Cons of Workplace Assessments in the Hiring Process


There are a lot of different theories surrounding good hiring, but there is definitely consensus around one thing: hiring can be frustrating and overwhelming. Increasingly, employers are turning to various kinds of assessments in order to help with this process.

But workplace assessments, which is an umbrella term encompassing things like skill testing, intelligence and reasoning tests, physical tests, and personality testing, have their pros and cons.

The Benefits of Scientific Hiring - free guide download

Here are some things to think about if you’re considering adding pre-employment assessments to your hiring process.

How assessments can help:

  • Assessments can take some of the subjectivity out of hiring. Often we hire people because we like them. But liking and suitability are not the same things. We can like people who are disorganized, passive, or unskilled, just as we can dislike people who are competent and who offer an important diversity of perspective. Assessments can help neutralize this natural tendency of ours.
  • Assessments can help clarify the role to applicants. Sometimes people will say in good faith that they have Excel skills, but when you ask them to create a pivot table, they understand that you meant more than using it for tracking business travel expenses each month. Or they’ll apply for a role requiring excellent communication skills, only to realize they were thinking about writing when asked to give a 10 minute presentation in front of a group.
  • Assessments provide you with data. Sweet, sweet data, the Holy Grail of managers everywhere. If you’re a very small business with low turnover, you might not ever do enough hiring for this to become a major perk. But if you do a fair bit of hiring (especially for the same role), assessments can provide you with insight into the people who end up flourishing in your workplace versus those who flounder.
  • Assessments can save you time. Because many assessments can be completed outside of the interview process, it can help you get the information you need without spending so much time in interviews. Assessments can also weed out unsuitable candidates before they get to the interview stage.

How assessments can hurt:

  • Assessments vary in quality. Some can give you valuable insights into a candidate’s skills, personality, and suitability for the role. Others tell you little more than the fact that the candidate might do well taking the SATs again, or that they’re good at saying exactly what you want to hear.
  • Assessments don’t always align perfectly with the job. This is especially true of third-party assessments that can’t be customized for the particular business or role. A writing test based on grammatically perfect English might be useful when searching for a legal secretary, but a social media manager would benefit more from being able to write naturally and colloquially. Using the same test for everyone whose job involves “writing” might mean losing out on top-quality candidates.
  • Testing might not be the best way to get the information you need. Asking a web designer to sketch out a better design for your current site without sitting down with you to discuss your current analytics and goals first won’t tell you as much as simply looking at their portfolio of past work. The same goes for any kind of task that typically goes through consultations, revisions, and editing.
  • Long or involved testing can turn off picky candidates. The best applicants are often employed already or have other companies interested in them. Expecting candidates to spend an hour or more completing an assessment before moving on to the interview stage says to them “I don’t value your time.” It’s often enough to make a competitive candidate think “You know what? I’m not going to bother with this.”

These cons don’t necessarily mean you should avoid assessments.

Similarly, these pros don’t necessarily mean you should use them at all times and under all conditions. But it’s a reminder that the right tests for the right roles, used in the right way, can be powerful, while the wrong ones can make hiring even more hazardous than it normally is.

Curious about how assessments can be used to effectively determine job suitability? Check out The Benefits of Scientific Hiring, our quick guide.

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