Pre-employment assessments have been around for decades. Over that time, they have moved from jamming a group of people into a room and administering paper-and-pencil assessments to deploying assessments on smartphones that candidates can complete on the go, from almost anywhere. Programming an assessment has become easy to do and, as a result, assessments options are starting to flood the market. With new options at their disposal, what are organizations asking for with regard to their assessments? What are some recent trends in assessment?
Rarely does a week go by when I don’t receive a question around one of the five trends listed below:
In recent years, some applicant tracking companies are attaching assessments to their systems and providing them to their customers for free. I just talked to an HR professional about this exact situation. She mentioned that her organization used the free assessment for their call center workforce and didn’t find it to be predictive. As a test developer, I wasn’t surprised to hear this because I know that not all assessments are the same. You tend to get what you pay for; a free assessment might be worth exactly that.
Assessments provide value when they are well-designed and measure important underlying competencies related to the target position. Maybe this assessment is predictive of performance in a different job, but it wasn’t for this one. Beware of "one size fits all" assessments where the assessment hasn’t been properly linked to the position(s) for which you are hiring.
Organizations’ appetites for long assessments is shrinking every year. It seems that companies want a 10-minute assessment that can tell them everything they need to know about their candidates. Even with the latest and greatest assessment technologies (e.g., computer adaptive testing), short assessments give you limited information. In that amount of time, you can get a good read on one competency or a shallow read on several competencies. We offer short assessments, but we know we are limited in how we can interpret the information gleaned from them. Instead of identifying the best of the best, we use those assessments to screen out the worst of the applicant pool.
Beware of organizations who claim to be able to identify the best candidates in less than 15 minutes with just a handful of questions. If you want a legally defensible and accurate assessment, get the information you need from your candidates even if it takes a few extra minutes. In our experience with varying lengths of assessments, candidates continue to rate their satisfaction with the assessment process positively at the 30-minute mark and even the 60-minute mark as long as expectations are set in advance.
Not only do organizations want assessments to be short and cheap, they want assessments to be engaging and fun for their candidates. A recent trend in assessment is called “gamification.” Organizations want to incorporate the fun of gaming into the recruiting and employee assessment process. We incorporate some aspects of gaming into interactive simulations within some of our assessments. However, a true gaming experience as part of the assessment process may not be a smart choice for all organizations. Most games provide the participant with a challenge or a problem to solve with certain limits. The participant learns with each attempt and slowly gets better until they solve the problem.
If you remember the previous trend of organizations, namely wanting short assessments, gamified assessments would have a difficult time building up the context and teaching the participant all of the rules of the game in a short period of time. Additionally, games tend to measure mostly cognitive skills such as problem-solving and applied learning. Assessments that are heavily loaded in the measurement of cognitive ability tend to lead to adverse impact in the hiring process, which could open an organization up to legal scrutiny. Games can be fun and candidates enjoy them. There are aspects of gaming that can be built into assessments, but when they need to be combined with other modes of measurement to ensure that candidates are evaluated on more than just cognitive ability.
Mobile devices are becoming more and more common and candidates love the convenience of being able to apply for a job from their smartphones. By adding this to the list, we have a description of the Holy Grail of assessments: short, cheap, engaging and able to be completed on any device. Just like the actual Holy Grail, however, this is very hard to find!
When assessments include speed and reaction measurements, like those often found in game-like assessments, it is difficult to ensure that the device will provide an accurate score for each candidate. Think about what it’s like to play a game with a keyboard, mouse and 20” monitor versus a touch screen on a 4” smartphone. Touch screens and screen size, along with other features, can affect candidate scores leading to inequivalent measurement based solely on the device, not candidate ability. Because of this, it is not recommended that all types of assessments be completed on mobile devices, especially the more engaging ones. This is a hot topic for personnel psychologists and a lot of research is being done in this area. Beware of gamified assessments that can be completed on any device; ask questions about equivalence and make sure that some candidates are not being disadvantaged.
5) Big Data
With the plethora of data at our disposal, many organizations are looking for ways to use personal data, like that available on social media and even data from activity trackers, to make inferences about individuals during the hiring process. In a previous blog, I discuss the pitfalls of using social media and other sources in the hiring process. These sources are unreliable and often provide personal information that is not relevant to the job (e.g., age, race, gender, marital status) that could be used inadvertently in decision making. While some of this information could be predictive, the information gleaned from these kinds of sources are often acting as proxies for underlying traits that individuals possess. Instead of inferring from unreliable data, an assessment can do a better job of directly measuring the trait(s) of interest. Beware of personal data that could bias your decision making. Choose your data sources carefully.
These are the five top trends I’ve seen in the employee assessment arena over the past few years. As with all trends, each one has pros and cons. Some of these will stay and some of these will go. For now, it’s important to find the right assessment for your needs. A short, mobile friendly, free one might work well for one organization, while a longer, more engaging assessment may work better for another. Good Luck!