Interview Assessment Standards Are Coming

Interview assessment standards are coming. We knew this would happen, the Talent Acquisition community just wasn’t entirely sure when it would happen. If you’re confident in the way your company currently uses assessments, you’re in rare company. According to the Global Talent Report, most TA professionals don’t really want to adopt new interviewing tactics and techniques, noting “new interviewing techniques (e.g., soft skills assessments and job auditions) are gaining favor as ways to augment traditional interviews, but adoption is still early at just 56% noting it as important or very important.

However, say the word “assessments” in any room of Talent Acquisition professionals and you might find yourself explaining just what you mean. There are 5 main assessment categories we’re seeing infiltrate the market. We’ll explore the pros and cons of each and then dive into how interview standards could be applied in the future.

Soft Skills Assessments

Soft skills assessments are exactly what they sound like. Instead of measuring technical skills, these assessments measure the traits (both strengths and weaknesses) of a candidate’s personality. Typically, the individual results of a candidate are then compared to top-performing employees in the company, to see if success can be predicted. Top companies like Citi use a home-grown soft skills scale but other companies use various vendors in the industry, each with its own lexicon and claim to fame. Some use neuroscience to back up their tests, others use machine learning and AI to predict success, and still, others focus on personality quiz-like assessments.

Conventional #interviews can reinforce existing biases, do a terrible job of assessing #SoftSkills, and can be unreliable. Here’s what you can expect for the future of interview assessments. Click To Tweet

Why this works: Soft skills are often a great predictor of whether someone will succeed in an organization. Personality naturally indicates whether someone will be a cultural match. Soft skills have historically been overlooked as a way to assess candidates but in fact, many companies are learning that while technical skills can be taught, it’s difficult to try to make the wrong personality fit on a team. Additionally, some of the companies using this have expanded their talent pools beyond their typical recruiting grounds, opening the company up to a more diverse group of people.

Why it doesn’t: Many of the large companies using assessments don’t personalize them for locations or team dynamics. This can make a candidate who would shine in Indianapolis fall short on an assessment based on successful employee models in New York City. Detractors also say this can unfairly create cultural bias and perpetuate sometimes unhealthy company cultures.

What interview standards might be applied: We’re already hearing from thought leaders in the space that soft skills assessments can make up nearly 25% of a candidate’s possible “score”, making these increasingly important (the word “soft” belies how much companies are beginning to rely on these assessment results.) Legality is shaky here though.

As interview feedback becomes more popular, it’s far simpler to tell someone she wasn’t hired because she didn’t have the requisite technical background than it is to say her personality prevented her from becoming an employee. This could open companies up to a wave of lawsuits regarding just how fair it is to hire based on personality, which can be fluid. Standards could be created to ensure companies are using a standardized test or that all companies disclose the traits they are looking for.

It’s also possible that standards may include when candidates have to take the test. Many companies use these tools as pre-screening tools, which can be more time-consuming than the actual application for candidates in active job search mode. Many take up to an hour to complete, which could lead to claims of bias for those already employed elsewhere or who lack the time to complete the assessment before even securing an interview.

Standard Assessments

Standard assessments include those that judge technical acumen and are most often used (but not always)  in technical jobs. Or as HireVue put it: “With the exception of the interview, most pre-employment tests take the form of a formal test with closed-ended questions. Assessment questions are designed to act as a proxy for certain aspects of a job.

Why it works: Because it would be impossible for every recruiter or hiring manager to know the unique ins and outs of every position for which they interview, technical or standard assessments are used to ensure the person being interviewed can actually do the job. Whether it’s a typing test for an administrative assistant or a timed coding assessment in a particular language, these assessments give the company’s hiring representatives a better view into the actual skills of a candidate. Basically, the rubber meets the road with these tests and candidates ostensibly can’t fib about their proficiency in the skill on which they are being assessed.

Why it doesn’t: Standard or traditional assessments give no window into whether the person will be a good fit for the position, it simply dictates whether they can do the job. With a massive backlash against every standardized test, from the SATs to the stalwart IQ test, many candidates are hesitant to take a standard assessment simply because they are terrible test-takers, and not due to their inability to do the job. On the other hand, you may hire someone with all the technical specifications based on their assessment performance, but find they don’t fit into the team or culture at all.

What interview standards may be applied: As the longest-standing member of assessments, most of the interview standards have already been applied. In fact, many legal pros would likely say that the proper use of standard pre-employment tests or assessments should actually reduce the likelihood of being sued.

Testing makes the selection process fairer and more objective for all candidates. Tests are less subjective than interviews, where the personal biases of interviewers are much more likely to lead to discrimination claims. In fact, a recently published study shows that companies are over three times more likely to be sued because of interviews than for their use of aptitude, personality, or skills tests.”

However, there are pitfalls to be aware of. Any test that is used to identify psychopathologies or that could be construed as a health test must be strictly avoided to ensure compliance with the ADA and AMA regulations.

Job Auditions/Project-Based Assessments

Project-based assessments or job auditions give candidates an opportunity to work with the team before the hire. Often conducted on the weekend or during an evening, these give the candidate an opportunity to work on a project they would do if you hired them. These are popular because the candidate has to prove in a real-life setting that they can do the work and other employees can give feedback that the hiring manager or recruiter could miss.

Why it works: Job auditions give a more well-rounded view of the candidate and can be fairer to applicants who don’t interview well. Applicants who have a less-than-perfect resume may shine in a job audition. Job auditions or project-based assessments also reduce the risk of hiring someone who padded their resume or skillset. Many candidates are excellent at interviewing but short on actual skills. These assessments can reduce the risk considerably regarding retention and turnover.

Why it doesn’t: Plainly put, employers are asking for free work and/or intellectual property. While the risk is reduced for the employer, most project-based assessments offer little to no pay and they don’t guarantee the candidate a position. Often candidates are wary their ideas will be stolen or that they are being exploited. Additionally, while some companies offer feedback post job audition, many do not, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of candidates, which can negatively impact candidate experience and employer brand reputation.

#Interview #assessment standards are coming. Take a look at the pros and cons of each type in @TalentTechLabs recent article: Click To Tweet

What standards might be applied: Many companies already using job auditions as a standard part of the hiring process including Citadel, Weebly, and Automattic. Those using them successfully are applying standards regarding the length of the project, the demands of the project, compensation, and ensuring candidates their work will not be used in real work. As the gig economy continues to grow, legislation could be introduced that requires employers to pay for any short-term project, and as Whitney Johnson notes:

“The ideal job audition functions as a kind of speed dating. Any date, even a really short one, should involve the reciprocal interest of both parties. It’s not just a question of “do they want me?” but equally a question of “do I want them?” In the process of auditioning for a job, a company is learning a lot about you. But you should be able to learn a LOT about them as well. By the time a reciprocal audition is over, you’ll have a pretty good idea if you’ve found an employer that makes you excited to get to work.” 

  • Virtual or Augmented Reality Assessments- Often used further along in the process due to cost and candidate time investment, VR or Augmented Assessments are similar to projects or work shadowing, with the exception that the candidate is in a virtual world instead of the real one.

Why it works: Because it’s super cool, many companies get an employer brand boost just for using VR/AR in their hiring process. Employers get a chance to see how candidates would do in semi-real situations without the risk of exposing candidates to clients or sensitive projects or proprietary processes or work. Companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon are already using VR to hire, train, and upskill workers.

Why it doesn’t: The process is generally too new to find holes in the VR/AR assessment but many of the issues candidates have with the project-based assessments hold true here as well. In addition, some might think the VR/AR assessment is elitist given the time it takes and the likely familiarity some candidates would have with VR over others.

Casual or Surprise Assessments

The surprise assessment is basically an interview or assessment wherein the candidate doesn’t really know they’re being interviewed. In past generations, this was called “taking the candidate to lunch”. The goal is to see how the candidate interacts in more casual settings versus an interview where they’re likely to be on their “best behavior”.

Why it works: Some people simply don’t interview very well and this can hamper an otherwise great career, and keep your company from finding the best employee for the job. Surprise or casual interviewing can give these candidates a level playing field. Employers and recruiters can get a sense of the person’s personality, as well as an idea of how they treat people that aren’t going to hire them.

Why it doesn’t: Interviewing or assessing someone who doesn’t know they’re being assessed doesn’t exactly engender trust. And since interviews are supposed to be objective, you can’t exactly do it for just a few select candidates, otherwise, you open yourself up to potential legal issues.

Standards that may be applied: This is by far the most likely to get you in trouble and the least likely to give you a great sense of cultural or skill-based fit. Sure, take your last-round candidates out for lunch, but don’t place too much value in these glorified meals, they can’t replace any traditional interview and definitely shouldn’t be called assessments.

Conventional interviews can reinforce existing biases, do a terrible job of assessing soft skills, and can be unreliable. But with the latest crop of assessments, you can decide how and when to apply these to your unique hiring process. Just keep the potential pitfalls and sure to be implemented standards front of mind.

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