Article · 5 minute read

A Practitioner's Perspective: What To Do If Assessments Aren't Telling You What You Want to Hear…

By Hannah Mullaney 1st November 2022

I have been doing some recruitment over the past month and found myself in a situation that many recruiters often find themselves in… annoyed at the tests!

Let me paint the picture.

The process I have been using is fairly standard – CV review (we need someone with some specific experience), online ability and personality assessments, virtual interview to assess motivation for role, followed by a final-stage face-to-face interview and presentation. On multiple occasions I have been really drawn in by someone’s CV and then, disappointingly, their scores on the online assessments indicate they aren’t actually a very good fit for the role. My reaction?

“These bl**dy tests!”

And I (as my LinkedIn bio proudly presents) am an advocate for fair selection and the benefits that psychometrics can bring to assessment processes. I have over a decade’s worth of experience designing, training and consulting on these types of tools. And yet I still felt a profound sense of irritation that the psychometrics were presenting a blocker to my end goal – hiring someone.

I had to give myself a good talking to and get the rational part of my brain firing up to remind myself that this was not a blocker or a problem but really useful information that was stopping me from making an expensive hiring mistake. It was ultimately helping me get to my end goal – hiring someone who would be successful in the role and want to stay.

But the experience got me thinking about many conversations I have had over the years with Heads of Recruitment or in-house assessment teams who have really struggled with push-back from recruiters on the use of psychometrics. And it nearly always boils down to what I have described above.

There are some things that can be done to help tackle this challenge and I thought I would share them here.

Top tips for using assessment in recruitment:
1. Position online assessments as early as possible in the recruitment process

If human interaction happens before the online assessments, there is often a commitment to hire that person and an assessment profile that shows limited fit is going to feel problematic, like it has presented a problem, rather than useful information. In our experience, this is what often ends up giving assessment a bad name.

It is already well known that the more you can bring assessment forward in a recruitment process, the better value it provides in terms of ROI. However, bringing it forward also helps deliver better DE&I outcomes at the end.


2. If you are including a step before psychometrics that requires human intervention, have someone else run this stage.

The best processes put assessments right in the forefront so that humans only see people who are likely to be a good fit for the role. This not only solves the problem of a potentially problematic set of psychometric results for a candidate you are already sold on, but it usually also ensures that any diversity in the candidate pipeline can be retained for longer, increasing the likelihood of better DE&I outcomes in hiring.

Sometimes this isn’t possible – you may be looking for a particular type of experience that requires a CV review, or you may be hiring for a senior role with a search firm where candidates would expect to have some contact with someone at the organization before formally applying. Where this is the case, bringing someone else in to run this part of the process removes the risk of you getting attached to anyone before the psychometric screening.

3. Provide recruiters with training in psychometrics

Whilst one of the most successful recruitment teams I work with send all of their recruiters on our in-depth Wave training program, this doesn’t have to be the case.

We also work with clients to regularly upskill recruiters in the specifics of the tools they are using via webinars and short learning events.

The important thing is that you do something to ensure that all recruiters understand the benefits of the tools and risks involved in not using them – or ignoring the data they provide. Recruiter briefings need to go beyond the ‘what’ and explore the ‘why’, giving participants time to ask questions and perhaps even explore the tools for themselves.

It can be difficult to secure the time commitment to do this properly but trust me, it’s worth going to battle over.

4. Be militant about the process

Given the chance, most of us would choose to ignore the objective data in favor of our ‘gut feel’, which risks being wrong but will also, of course, be wrought with bias.

There can also be pushback from the business if they see an assessment process as an unnecessary gateway, so the recruiting team needs to have the confidence to be masters of the processes. Where we see most success is where recruiters are really strict on the process and mandate that every potential hire needs to go through it. One client told us that this approach got push-back for about a month before line managers and recruiters started to realize the value of it – it’s the old ‘change behavior and attitudes will follow’ adage.

It’s time for us all to stop relying on ‘gut feeling’ and to start making informed decisions based on real data.   

About the Author
Hannah Mullaney 

Hannah is Client Solutions Director at Saville Assessment and has a wealth of experience, providing both hiring and development assessment solutions to a wide range of clients, across a full spectrum of industries. 

You can connect with Hannah on LinkedIn here

Hannah Mullaney Profile Picture

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