Paper 3


Introducing a new candidate selection method in an evidence-based way:
an example from a UK retailer

As one of the UK’s largest retailers, Sainsbury’s candidates are also likely to be customers. They need to get their assessment right as research consistently shows a poor recruitment process can have a direct negative impact on a retailer’s commercial performance.

In Paper 3, we presented how Sainsbury’s, in partnership with Saville Assessment, are introducing a new selection method in an evidence-based way to make sure they are confident that it is effective against the Saville Assessment Return on Investment Model (Kavanagh, MacIver, & Fung, 2019) before the full launch.


We shared the following bold approach to partnership:

4 step process - meet objectives, trial, review ROI and roll out


As we were able to agree very specific objectives for the partnership, the actual solution could be very targeted and very simple. Sainsbury’s have introduced a new, engaging, image-based SJT (Situational Judgment Test) for Services Assistants to replace the text-based SJT which had been in use for a number of years.

ROI Wheel

The new SJT has been designed to achieve outcomes against the five areas Saville Assessment have shown demonstrate success in a selection process (Kavanagh, MacIver, & Fung, 2019):


  • Quality – the SJT design process should ensure higher performance in the SJT translates to higher performance in the role.
  • Engagement – the new SJT was designed in line with Sainsbury’s branding with engaging scenarios. This, and the fact the assessment was fully mobile-optimized, should mean the overall candidate net promoter score would increase.
  • Efficiency – the psychometric design of the SJT meant fewer items were needed to get robust selection information.
  • Cost – reduced cost per hire would be achieved through higher retention and performance.
  • Diversity & Inclusion – the SJT was designed in a way to ensure there are no group differences across protected characteristics.

Specific objectives were agreed against each of these five areas to ensure the trial is seen as a success. Once a three-month trial has taken place, a review against these objectives will be conducted to decide whether to roll out the assessment.

We reflected how the approach taken meant the assessment could be introduced and reviewed, meaning Sainsbury’s would be confident they were introducing an assessment with a positive impact.

Key messages and insights from the overall symposium:



  • Psychological assessment at work is an area where best-practice guidance and frameworks are commonplace. It would be beneficial to develop a common framework for understanding whether new selection methods have had a positive impact. The approach presented in this symposium could act as a starting point.
  • By having clearly defined and measurable criteria agreed up front, an objective evaluation of the impact of an intervention is achievable.
  • By considering five key areas of assessment effectiveness (quality, engagement, efficiency, cost, diversity & inclusion) organizations can dial up or dial down the importance of different success criteria and ensure that the assessment solution is positively impacting their 'customers' in the right way.
  • We believe that agreeing the right objectives in advance of an assessment design process means stakeholders avoid going into the long-term use of the process 'blind' to the impact it is having. This ensures a genuine partnership with the test designer with long-term benefits.

Watch the short video summary of this paper

Martin Kavanagh paper 3 video
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Find out about the other papers we presented at the DOP Annual Conference 2020:

PAPER 1

The practice of science in candidate assessment: are our choices informed by science?

PAPER 2

Positive & negative prediction: a criterion-related validity study with a global IT services company

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