Adding Assessments to the Hiring Process

Your hiring process should provide the opportunity to gain a lot of insight about candidates. But if your process is like most organizations’ – resume, interview, background check, reference check – you could be missing out on some critical information that can mean a big difference in the success of your students and schools.

Resumes don’t reveal struggles an employee might have faced in past jobs, and background and reference checks are only as good as the people you talk to (usually supplied by the job candidate!). In addition, interviews don’t add much more information, because everyone is on their best behavior.

According to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study, people who think highly of themselves exhibit high levels of self-confidence and competence – meaning they handle interviews with aplomb. If you only hire people who interview well, you could end up with a lot of confidence on staff, but not much in the way of people that will actually be an asset to your schools.

How do you combat the drawbacks that the traditional hiring process presents? You have to make your process multifaceted. Adding assessments is the first step.

Adding assessment tools to your hiring process provides you with four benefits:

1)      You can improve the value of the interview. Many institutions use cognitive ability testing for evaluating candidates for any position, which is a great way to find out if they can learn the job tasks, think outside the box, and solve problems that might come up. But did you know that cognitive ability tests also increase the predictive validity of the other selection criteria like the interview, background check, and even other tests?

A study conducted in 1998 found that using a cognitive ability test increases the overall validity of the selection process by leaps and bounds. For example, combining the test with an unstructured interview makes the process 45% more predictive. Combining it with reference checks makes the process 119% more predictive. The process goes up to 420% more predictive when using it with education history. So cognitive ability testing is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to increase the value of your existing hiring process.

2)      You can determine if someone has the skills needed for the job. For example, if performing mail merges in MS Word is important for your new Administrative Assistant to have, you should see their skills in action. Don’t discover shortcomings later and be faced with having to train them (expensive!) or replace them (even more expensive!).

3)      You can get past “first date” behavior. People can interview really well and hide personality traits or attitudes that might hinder them on the job. Unfortunately, what you see is often not what you get. Combat this with a personality or integrity test to go beyond the façade that’s presented in the interview.

4)      You can have a more complete and objective candidate profile. Some of your best faculty and staff might be the worst interviewers. They like everyone, or they aren’t consistent with their method of evaluating candidates, or they just go with “gut instinct.” This means that important questions might go unasked, or the notes taken may not be specific enough to make a solid decision. If the interview lacks rigor, assessment adds other objective elements to help balance the subjectivity of the interview.

So how do you know which assessments to use? First, know what positions you’re hiring for. Tests are often selected based on the job tasks or level of employment. Second, conduct a job analysis when creating your job description. A solid job description will aid you in determining what is valuable in the positions and therefore, what to test for. Third, make sure the criteria you’re assessing are job-related. The EEOC requires all assessments test for abilities, skills, and traits that are related to the specific job. For example, a math test may not be appropriate for bus drivers or guidance counselors, but might be needed when hiring cooks and administrative personnel.

Following these steps will help you select the correct pre-employment tests to incorporate into your hiring process. When in doubt, speak with your assessment provider to get their recommendations.

Happy hiring!


I think it is wise to include objective measurements to the traditionally subjective process of hiring. Personally, my experience with job interviews after graduate school was confusing, to say the least. I had less than ideal work experience, yet had a solid educational background and up-to-date skills to perform the jobs I was interviewing for. Being a I/O Psychology graduate, I was familiar with the interview (having practiced the role of the interviewer many times). As a result, I always felt confident during interviews and always came out of them feeling like I was great. However, I did not get selected for any of the dozen jobs I applied and interviewed for. I had an excellent resume; meticulously constructed to near perfection. However, it was my lack of previous work experience that made employers think twice about hiring me.

If these companies had used assessment, like the ones discussed in the article, I'm certain that the results would have given the employers a much better perspective of what I was capable of doing in a "real world" situation, potentially increasing their confidence in my knowledge and skills, while lowering any fears of hiring someone with less experience than they were willing to take a risk on.

Certainly, there is always a risk of misusing assessment and measurement tools, or overly relying on these tools rather than weighing the possible benefits of the subjective aspects of certain types of jobs. However, used correctly, and in combination with traditional tools like interviews and resumes, assessments can provide a more complete and unbiased perspective of the real individual the company is screening for hire. For educated individuals with little work experience, it may be present the opportunity they need for their first job within their chosen profession. On the other hand, for more experienced individuals who have been away from academics, and may be negatively affected when competing with recent graduates, the assessment may also confirm the strengths these individuals have accumulated through their experience.

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