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Choosing the right methods and tools for assessing candidates

Candidate assessment is an inevitable stage in the recruitment process. During the assessment phase, how can you maximise your chances of succeeding in hiring your ideal candidate? What constitutes a good assessment? It’s not always easy to navigate all the tools, techniques, and methods out there to help you. What is certain is that the right strategic choice will mainly depend on your company’s specific needs and challenges.

How do candidate assessments work?

Assessing means measuring the compatibility between:

  • A company (with a vacancy to fill, a company culture, a work environment) and
  • A candidate (with skills, knowledge and capabilities).

The aim is therefore to be able to objectively determine the chances of both parties being a good match for each other in the long run.

What are the prerequisites for a successful candidate assessment?

In order for the assessment to be meaningful, it needs to build on a set of objective criteria. The difference between a good assessment and a bad one is the methodology used.

The first thing you must do is identify a specific need as your starting point. What’s the position you need to fill? What’s the work environment like? How is the team organised? This leads to the question: what skills and behaviours does the position require in order for the new employee to thrive in their role? These criteria form the basis of a good assessment and must:

  • Apply to all candidates
  • Provide scope for measuring and analysis
  • Be objective and bias-free

Candidate assessments aim to predict how well a person will perform in a given position. Assessments are conducted at different stages of the recruiting process, in a variety of formats (remotely, in-person, on a deferred basis), and in the presence of varying interested parties (recruiters, hiring managers, CEOs).

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Types of recruitment assessments

The assessment types outlined here can by all means supplement each other to cater to relevant needs and the nature of the positions to be filled.

Job interviews

Job interviews are the most conventional form of assessment in recruiting processes. Whether structured or semi-structured, one-on-one or group-based, interviews fulfil a number of objectives.

  • Informational interviews act as an icebreaker, providing interested parties with an opportunity to get to know each other and discuss the key aspects of the job and determine whether both the candidate and the company would like to proceed further.
  • A functional interview may also be conducted in order to verify the candidate’s specific skills against the expectations for the position.
  • A cultural fit interview can help confirm that the candidate is a good match against the company culture.
  • At the end of the process, a closing interview may be conducted to run through some last questions regarding the upcoming collaboration (salary, start date, etc.).

Structured interviews are especially popular within the recruiting community because they provide a concrete and effective solution for responding to methodology and objectivity requirements in the assessment process.

Pre-recorded video interviews

Pre-recorded video interviews can sometimes replace face-to-face interviews, but they are especially valuable during the candidate screening phase.

These interviews are becoming increasingly popular as a result of:

  • The advent of remote working and remote communication practices
  • Automation and digitalisation of recruiting processes to save time

As the health crisis forced recruiters and companies to adapt their processes, it turned out that assessing candidates without physically meeting them was possible. And when meeting a candidate directly for an interview isn’t possible, at least it saves time for everyone and limits the scope for biased assessments. Pre-recorded video interviews open the door to greater objectivity.

To help candidates record their video interview, recruiters need to communicate assessment criteria in advance, asking targeted and relevant questions.

Pre-recorded video interviews also allow for asynchronous application processing and therefore make recruiters’ lives easier in that they no longer depend on the schedule of the managers or candidates involved in the process. They can review the interview videos when it suits them best. Equally, candidates may also record their video interview at a moment that fits in with their timetable.

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Supplementing interviews with tests

There are as many types of tests and options as there are criteria to assess. Here are a few examples of tests you can leverage:

  • Personality tests
  • Written knowledge tests
  • Proficiency tests with case studies
  • In-situation tests

Choosing the right assessment technique

To guarantee as much precision as possible in your assessment, you’ll need to limit bias and aim for objectivity. How do you do that? If you focus your attention on assessing the skills and behaviours required for the position and set out in established criteria, you’re already off to a good start.

It’s about finding a match between the company and the candidate – if the hiring manager fails to refine their needs and break them down into a list of assessment criteria, the remainder of the process won’t move on as it should.

This carries a number of risks:

  • Assessing the wrong criteria
  • Introducing bias
  • Recruiting based on an impression
  • Choosing the wrong candidate
  • Being unable to provide post-interview feedback

It is worth noting that when the assessment process follows a given methodology, it becomes easier to provide constructive feedback to the candidate. And in turn, the experience you offer candidates also improves.

Motivation is no longer necessarily a prime variable

Motivation is a subject of debate. If the goal of an assessment is to predict performance, can signs of motivation during an interview foretell future performance? Not necessarily. A good candidate won’t always be a good employee.

This is why assessing a candidate’s motivation (prior research on the career site, knowledge of the company’s values, etc.) is questionable. Plus, candidates are increasingly demanding and also expect motivation on the part of the companies they seek to join (shorter recruiting processes, seamless and transparent communication, feedback, etc.). So motivation can work in both directions, and recruiters must be aware of that.

Remote assessments are becoming the norm

How do you verify a candidate’s skills, potential and values without meeting them in person? A situation which thousands of recruiters were faced with during the pandemic. But even before Covid-19, some companies had already digitised their recruiting process.

Recruiters always set off from the same starting point, i.e. a recruiting requirement which, once fine-tuned, delivers a list of skills and behaviours associated with the position to be filled. This list will then serve to define assessment criteria. So in the end, the interview format (remote or deferred), doesn’t make a huge difference.

Diversity and inclusion also influence candidate assessments

There was a time when the rule was to avoid discrimination during interviews in order to dodge sanctions. Nowadays, inclusion and diversity issues are no longer perceived from a punitive standpoint but as drivers of performance. Companies are increasingly willing to expand their recruiting criteria to include, for example, re-training candidates, less-qualified candidates, candidates who don’t have all the required technical skills, etc.

So, does the question of inclusion and diversity affect candidate assessment processes? If you’ve set out your methodology and objective criteria, diversity and inclusion shouldn’t trigger change. However, if you’re looking to practice more inclusion and diversity in your recruiting processes, then expect changes in the way you assess candidates.

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