Assessment Obsession - Hiring

There is no easy way out when hiring new employees. Have we gone too far with assessments?

I recently met with someone that was helping a client find some key resources. The client had a difficult problem in the past and fell in love with using assessments for hiring. It took away the uncertainty and helped with the decision-making process. Unfortunately, if a candidate did not fit perfectly in the assessment’s categories, the client was not interested. Even worse, the client would discard really good candidates that were “close”. It made hiring a real problem because no one was perfect. Since I used to be the President of a well-known assessment company, you would think I would be “all in” where they are concerned. Not so. Validated assessments are great instruments for identifying personality attributes that may not be readily observable during the interview process. Some are even good at uncovering hidden needs that may be contrary to observable traits. That’s good to know. More sophisticated hiring assessments can be created for specific jobs. As long as you know the most important attributes for that role, you can tailor the assessment and get really specific. A problem with role specific assessments can be when the focus is too myopic and does not look at the total package. It is not a problem with the assessment but a problem with the user. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Talking to Strangers”, he highlights that even professional interrogators can identify when someone is lying only slightly above average (54%). An assessment will not tell you if someone is lying but it will give you insight into how the candidate really feels and may react.


Use an assessment as part of a more comprehensive hiring process.


  • Understand what the assessment measures and what it does not. No single assessment measures everything regardless of what the company says. Investigate 2 or 3 assessments based upon the needs you have. Some are pre-designed for job specific roles like Sales or Project Managers.

  • Never go against a “red flag” on the assessment. I would not hire someone today without using a personality assessment. However, every time I ignored red flags from an assessment and hired the person anyway, that exact issue burned me later.

  • Review the assessment results and decide if you want to go forward. If so, ask the candidate tough questions. Ask about cultural beliefs, personal priorities, likes/dislikes, scenarios, etc. If you are not comfortable asking hard questions, incorporate someone else in the process to help.

I mentioned above about a “validated” assessment. Make sure the assessment you use has been through rigorous psychometric validation. If you are not sure, ask the company to provide you with validation testing and result data. If they pause, run. Many assessments are popping up that incorporate cool algorithms or artificial intelligence with limited testing. AI will continue to evolve and be used in assessments, but the results should still be validated with real humans. Assessments are great for what they do but should complement a more comprehensive hiring process. Never rely solely on an assessment for a hiring decision or you will be losing out on your finest candidates.

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