Selection processes that consist of merely an unstructured interview are a poor predictor of success, yet an interview is still the candidate assessment tool of choice for many hiring managers. Understandably, these decision-makers want to meet applicants before extending job offers and feel this is the best way to get to know a potential employee. But what are hiring managers missing by only subjecting applicants to interviews? And does the interview itself cloud their judgment?
Unconscious biases create an unsteady bridge between first impressions and long-term commitments. One survey found that 33% of hiring managers decide whether or not they’re going to hire an individual within the first 90 seconds of meeting him or her, and as many as 40% believe a lack of a smile is a sufficient reason to eliminate someone (Source: Twin Employment and Training survey, 2018). Even if a job seeker clears those early hurdles, 81% of them lie during the interview (Source: Ron Friedman, “The Best Place to Work,” 2014).
Luckily, there are better and more informative assessments for job candidates.
Oust Unconscious Bias
Unconscious biases are very real and can lead to bad hiring decisions — resulting in not only a lack of diversity, but also increased turnover and potential legal troubles. In fact, one “preferred” trait could influence your perceptions, causing you to make unfair judgments about job seekers who lack that attribute.
For example, just because someone is enthusiastic doesn’t necessarily make him or her the best person for the job. But visible excitement about a job can lead many hiring managers to favor one applicant over another. Though enthusiasm is always welcome, it can also cause you to overlook a candidate’s shortcomings.
It’s vital to adopt a more holistic selection process that evaluates an applicant’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in a job-related fashion in order to prevent similar scenarios. Here are three types of assessments that can help identify the best candidate for the job.
1. Job Auditions
Job auditions work in one of two ways. Candidates might perform simulations of job duties (within a group or individually). This is the more straightforward method. The other approach involves task simulations, too, but the goal is to gauge whether candidates have the personality and ability to learn essential job duties.
Branding and marketing firm TBGA, for example, asks marketing job candidates to work on internal projects — such as contributing to the monthly newsletter or launching a social media campaign — as part of the vetting process. In order to pass the test, TBGA requires candidates to hit project metrics like open and click-through rates (Source: AllBusiness.com article, 2019).
Though job auditions are often linked to higher employee satisfaction, there are two main problems with this strategy (Source: Glassdoor study, 2015). First, the process consumes valuable time when applicants cannot perform as required (although I would argue it’s better to know this fact before making a job offer). Second, employers cannot expect applicants to perform functions that can be “learned in a brief orientation.”
2. Work Sample Tests
During a work sample test, applicants display the skills necessary to perform day-one job functions. You can still determine whether candidates are up to the task ... without ever meeting a single applicant. The time commitment is minimal for employers, yet you’re gathering the same information you would through a job audition.
Work sample tests that are content-validated for specific positions are like metaphorical bridges: They lead successful applicants from candidacy to hire. The test requires particular skills and abilities. Of course, it’s still up to the employer to identify all tasks upfront to ensure that they’re necessary for the job and essential for sustained success.
Triplebyte, for example, provides personalized online coding tests for companies looking to hire engineers. The platform uses scores to align candidates with job opportunities. If you want to take the job analysis a step further, you can ask qualified candidates to complete a technical questionnaire. Think of it as another work sample test, where applicants answer job-related questions to verify skill levels.
3. Interactions With Current Employees
Many companies are now using successful incumbents as subject matter experts to pilot, validate, and modify the candidate selection process. Because SMEs possess institutional knowledge, they can quickly identify whether the criteria and the actual job align. Additionally, SMEs can determine whether the testing is more complicated than the job itself, which is also problematic.
It also allows you to see applicants interact with existing employees. They will be part of the team, after all. Gauging chemistry among employees is a good thing — especially when 81% of Millennials, 52% of Gen Xers, and 41% of Gen Zers say employee interaction during interviews is critical (Source: Engage2Excel, “What You Need to Know About Today’s Job Seekers,” 2017).
Another path to take might be to ask your employees for referrals. Studies have shown that candidates who come from referrals decrease hiring time, have a higher conversion rate, and stay with the company longer (Source: Glassdoor article, 2013).
Job auditions, work sample tests, and interactions with current employees can certainly help determine whether applicants are capable of performing specific job duties. Still, they should be seen as components of the selection process. When combined with a properly developed written test and subsequent interview, you will have a robust overall selection process.
Patrick Nooren, Ph.D., is the executive vice president of Biddle Consulting Group, Inc., which develops TestGenius, an online pre-employment testing platform. Patrick has 25 years of experience in the EEO/AA industry and has worked with hundreds of clients of all sizes to develop their affirmative action plans and support them during audits. He has conducted training across the nation and has authored numerous articles and software programs in the areas of affirmative action, disparate impact, test validation, compensation analysis, and EEO. Patrick is also the primary author and editor of “Compensation Analysis: A Practitioner’s Guide to Identifying and Addressing Compensation Disparities.”