Effectiveness Of Various Talent Assessment Methods

Assessing and selecting the right talent for a specific position within your organization is a matter of asking the right candidate the right questions. As any good lawyer or reporter can tell you, many times the key to getting the answer you’re looking for is to find a better way to ask the initial question.

The assessment methods you use for making new hires or finding an internal candidate for a succession are extremely important for determining whether or not you make the right choice. But there are so many different methods of assessing candidates that hiring professionals can either lean on a single methodology that doesn’t meet all of the needs for the position to be filled, or they can inundate the candidate with several different assessment methods that can lead to a lot of irrelevant information and wasted time and resources.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review (Groysberg et al. 2009) found that improving the quality and relevance of assessments used during the talent selection process is three times more effective than increasing the size of the candidate pool in finding the right candidate.

Moreover, improving the quality of assessments was found to be six times more profitable for organizations than getting the chosen candidate to accept a lower compensation package. Asking the right questions is, to say the least, essential for the talent assessment and selection process.

When considering which types of assessment methods should be put to use in your talent selection process, it is important to consider that there are two key elements of what makes a candidate a good fit for a position, and different assessment methods are more successful at assessing these different elements than others.

These key elements are divided into the candidate’s basic job-related competency and his or her psychological profile. The former determines how successful a candidate will be at the basic tasks of the job, and the latter determines how strong of a fit the candidate will be with the internal culture of the company, his or her interpersonal skills and how dependable he or she will be.

As the infographic below details, certain assessment methods can be very effective in ascertaining a candidate’s viability in some areas but not others. Striking a balance means combining two or more different methods.

The standard assessment interview continues to be an effective means of determining whether or not a candidate has the technical and functional skills to succeed in a position, as well as assessing the candidate’s motives, values and psychological needs.

These interviews also provide a lot of insight into a candidate’s competencies in terms of interpersonal skills. Where they are weaker than other methods is in assessing a candidate’s learning agility and leadership qualities, however.

Many organizations today employ a competency-based 360-degree survey approach, in which they solicit information from sources including a candidate’s peers, subordinates and supervisors as well as from the candidate.

This is intended to provide a more complete picture of a candidate’s skills and effectiveness, and has been found to be very effective in assessing leadership qualities and interpersonal skills, but is much less effective at determining a candidate’s values, psychological profile and intellectual strength.

An “in-basket” exercise simulates a task that the candidate must be expected to accomplish in the position and evaluates the methods the candidate uses to do so. This method is highly effective in assessing the candidate’s basic competency as well as abstract problem-solving skills and learning agility, but because it is a solitary task offers no insight into a candidate’s leadership ability.

On the other hand, a business simulation, which allows the candidate to collaborate with others to accomplish a simulated task, provides more information about the candidate’s leadership acumen. Providing a candidate with actual job-related assignments is perhaps one of the most effective means of determining a candidate’s qualifications for the specific position, but this ignores the personality and psychological side of the candidate’s assessment.

Cognitive ability tests weigh a candidate’s ability to reason and solve problems in a general sense. Although they are very accurate for determining a person’s general intelligence, they do not provide any information about how a candidate will interact with people.

Likewise, abstract reasoning tests can be valuable because they evaluate a candidate’s general intellectual potential without regard to education, background or experience, but tell hiring professionals little about their specific job-related technical or functional skills.

For determining a candidate’s personality traits, the most effective method remains a personality assessment such as the Caliper Profile. These methods examine the positive and negative qualities in a candidate’s personality and provide a clear picture of what motivates him or her.

Keeping the accompanying infographic for future reference can be helpful in striking the right balance in your assessment process and asking the right questions of your candidates.

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About the author:

Steve Strelsin is a partner at Axiom Consulting Partners. He has spent over 35 years consulting to companies in a wide range of industries. His consulting work includes organization development, strategy and talent development.

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