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Are you The One? Using Technology to Assess Candidates

I recently had the opportunity to evaluate a new candidate assessment tool that is about to go into Beta. I love doing stuff like this. Poor guy that was charged with collecting my feedback ended up answering two pages of my questions before he got to ask his J Now, using tests as part of the selection process is nothing new, but it certainly feels as though there has been a renewed and vigorous focus on candidate assessments within the HR Technology landscape of late. Maybe the sluggish economy has created a heightened sensitivity amongst employers to the costs and risks associated with making a bad hire. Or maybe the sweet promises that the proponents of Big Data keep whispering in our general direction has made us hungry to know how all that info can help rid us of doubt about whether our top candidate is really The One.

Yes, we can test people’s typing speed, their ability to craft a pivot table, even their presentation or writing skills,- that’s not the hard part, and it’s not the part that most of these tools are concerned with. Rather, they are focused on the ineffable, amorphous, perhaps mythical idea of ‘fit’. Fit with the organizational culture, with the manager, with the team. We can all agree that fit is really, really important, we just can’t really put into words what ‘fit’ is…we seem to think that we’ll know fit when we see it. But study after study reinforces what those of us who are involved in recruitment (or Talent Acquisition if you prefer to make it sound more militant) already know – that interviewing is a very imperfect method of assessing candidates for ‘fit’.

So, I get why there is an increasing number of candidate assessment tools available. Because they see a market; they see our desire to turn candidate selection into more of a science than an art. There is real potential there. Thing is, these are not easy products to bring to market. Vendors have to create a technology platform and an approach to assessment that actually produces meaningful data, while also concerning themselves with things like reliability and validity testing, adverse impact and candidate experience (another deservedly hot topic in the HR technology market right now).

And in my experience, many of these tools are trying to match a candidate’s personality, work habits or behavioural preferences with an organization’s culture, or a manager’s or team’s working style. And that is where things get a little murky for me- you have to consider where the information used to compare candidate result to is being drawn from How can you measure a culture (I will refrain from going all post-modern social theory on you here)? We all know intuitively that cultures are not monolithic- how we experience the culture in our organizations depends on our position within them, and on our own viewpoint. And cultures shift, sometimes rapidly. Does it make sense to assume that some element of culture will remain static and thus continue to align with your perfect hire?

As for assessing fit with a manager’s or team’s working style? Better tools don’t rely on manager’s to self-report (humans are notoriously bad as assessing themselves accurately), but even if they draw data points from other team members, you’re still not removing the subjectivity inherent in that kind of evaluation.

I’m not saying that these tools can’t be a helpful part of a selection process, I’m just hesitant to assume that they are the way of the future when it comes to the picking the right candidate. Do you have experience with any of these tools? Have you found them to yield better results than interviews alone?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on IT Lyderis.

    November 7, 2012

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