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Carl Jones

Technically Compatible

Founder and Managing Director

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Tailored recruitment testing – how to make it better


As many have unfortunately experienced, making the wrong hiring decision can carry a significant financial penalty. Industry estimations  put the costs  at up to 15 times annual salary which is why recruiters and HR professionals  alike have looked to mitigate the risk of making a bad hire through the adoption of recruitment testing. The practice is far from new; skills and ability tests, work style assessments, personality measures and other predictors of performance and ‘fit’ have been with us for years.

In the time since we began to objectively assess candidates, the means by which we evaluate our own performance in the recruitment process has evolved. Indeed, the concept of recruitment KPIs is now well established. However, there is a danger that lies in evaluating our own performance: if we are not vigilant, what we take to be a ‘successful hire’ may be unduly influenced by market conditions.

The UK’s present chronic skills shortages have been widely acknowledged. The tech sector in particular has seen significant pressures on recruiters to respond to acute talent shortages. According to Talent 42, tech pros receive an average of 20+ unsolicited InMails (LinkedIn) alone every week. Demand continues to grow and McKinsey’s war for talent applies to more businesses than ever before, meaning that those tasked with recruiting are under the gun to identify and engage candidates as quickly as possible or face losing out to the competition. With this pressure comes a temptation to shortcut the recruitment process and place too much emphasis on short-term Time and Cost based KPIs. Yet, by optimising the recruitment process for each role and selecting the right assessment tools to use at the right time, we can in fact speed up the recruitment process without jeopardising that perhaps a more valuable of set of KPIs associated with Quality of Hire.

When, what, how and who

As recruitment assessment vendors move to the cloud many of the cost and volume restrictions previously faced by employers are substantially reduced, giving rise to new opportunities for value creation by testing early and often.

If you’re not already doing so, then consider first using assessments with existing employees to understand the skills and competency landscape within your business ahead of any hiring activity. From a technical recruitment perspective, creating a picture of the existing range and depth of core skills within the business can help establish realistic benchmarks and validate any assumptions about what skills are truly ‘essential’ to the role (and to what degree of expertise) and which are ‘desirables’ or ‘nice to haves’.

Of course, it is not uncommon when used wisely for an exercise of this nature to uncover opportunities for internal promotion too. With external hires costing an average of 18% more than internal hires, alongside the pre-established cultural and performance fit, it’s an approach that could pay dividends.

Coupled with performance management data, and in consultation with the Hiring Manager, using testing tools at such an early stage can profoundly inform your selection criteria as well as the very nature of the recruitment process itself. The key in deciding when and where to use any of the myriad of assessment tools available is to identify what insights are most valuable to you as well as where both the risks and the time & resource-heavy activities lie in your process. Whether they are used at the early stages of recruitment as an initial sift (perhaps before even setting eyes on a CV or an application form) or at the latter stages to provide additional insight between a shortlisted group of candidates, every tool must earn its keep. Look to supplement time and cost based KPIs with metrics centred around the successful completion of notice periods as well as data relating to the performance of new hires over time.

The candidate view

This all sounds great – potentially reduce time to hire whilst improving quality, but how do candidates feel about testing? For most people, being subject to any form of recruitment test can be a daunting affair regardless of any existing familiarity with the practice. Figures suggest that 77% of candidates have completed an ability test before employment as part of the selection process. For tech roles, some form of technical skills testing is generally anticipated at the very least but regardless of profession, if an employer fails to get the assessment experience right then they risk alienating applicants and even losing the best (and most in demand) talent from their pipeline.

Employers need to consider – in the eyes of the candidate – their choice of testing reflects the type and nature of the work that the successful candidate will be undertaking. Every effort should be made to ensure the recruitment testing experience is as engaging and relevant as possible. If you can also make the candidate experience congruent with your employer brand and consistent with the recruitment process as a whole then all the better. Candidates are, after all, drawing their own conclusions about you too, so what you choose to include or omit from your recruitment & selection process can speak volumes.

One Response

  1. Thanks Carl for sharing this
    Thanks Carl for sharing this interesting article! As you have rightly concluded, leveraging the employer brand in the recruitment process is very crucial. As candidates start building perceptions about a company right from the hiring process, their positive opinions can support the organization’s employee referral program subsequently. Candidates often tend to decide about joining a company on the basis of their overall experience at the time of recruitment and selection process.

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Carl Jones

Founder and Managing Director

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