Category Archives: HR Assessments

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Implementing Background Checks and Pre-screening into Interviews

Most organizations perform some background checks and pre-screening before individuals walk into their first interview. This is necessary for most and sometimes mandatory. But, how do you use that data to improve the quality of your interview?

In most cases, recruiters can analyze data from background checks and prescreening to ask better questions, get more information, and form a better opinion of who the candidate is.

Perform Comprehensive Pre-Screening

Pre-screening should include background checks, contacting references, and so on. It should also incorporate personality and competency tests to see who the person is, what they can do, and how they will do it.

While not every role will require comprehensive screening, doing so will allow interviewers to create a more comprehensive picture of who a person is before they come into the interview. You should (at the least) test for personality and soft skills such as communication or EQ, which can be delivered in several tests or rolled into one.

Ask Questions Related to Assessments

Most assessments will turn up information that can lead to further questions. Reviewing assessments like answers given by previous employers and background data will allow you to form pointed questions that can help you learn about a candidate. For example:

  • Reference data: “So, we called your previous manager at your last job and he said you’ve had some issues with conflict in his team, what’s your side of that?”
  • Background data: “What convinced you to switch from marketing to finance? Are you happy with that choice?”

Why should you create specific questions around background results? Generic questions based on responses often don’t tell you a lot about an individual, their choices, or why they are in your office. Instead, you’re likely to get very prepared responses. Asking specific questions about data they’ve given you, in line with the information you need, will help you to improve the total result of your interview.

Question Prepared Answers

Candidates now have the tools to prepare for nearly any type of interview, often based on the organization. Having behavior and competency information for a candidate gives you the opportunity to actively question prepared answers based on those assessments.

For example, if a candidate suggests they would respond in a specific way, you can ask how that compares to their test results showing X behavior. This can force an individual to give more honest answers, because they won’t likely have time to prepare for this sort of questioning. Nearly everyone expects they’ll be asked “How would you respond to X situation”, but following their answer with something like, “Your personality profile suggests you prefer to avoid conflict, how do you manage that in a situation like the one we’ve just gone over?” would prompt an answer that hasn’t been prepared for.

Integrating assessment and personality testing into the interview process will give recruiters an easier way to determine who an individual is, how they react, and what they can do. It also allows recruiters to see how well that data matches up to personality shown during interviews, so they can create a bigger picture with more data to make a final assessment.


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Using Employee Assessment for Succession and Development

Employee assessments are typically performed on prospective candidates, during annual performance review, and any time when additional assessment is called for. Assessment can offer organizations valuable input with which to make decisions regarding recruitment, salary, bonuses, and retaining individuals.

Employee assessment is also more often used for applications including personal development and succession planning. These applications enable organizations to utilize existing data for investment, providing they have the structures in place to map how assessment results relate to future roles and capabilities.

Using Job Profiles

Job profiling is the process of mapping required behaviors, competencies, skills, and personality to success in a role. Creating job profile frameworks, typically with the support of a competency framework, allows you to see specific factors such as behavior and personality that contribute to performance in a role.

Most organizations achieve these frameworks with an “out of the box” solution in a framework designed on industry averages, which is then updated and tweaked across the organization to reflect unique role requirements in the organization. This second step is typically achieved through a combination of interviewing, reviewing performance results, and discussing job requirements with teams and people around the role.

Mapping Assessment Results to Job Profiles

Job profiles list a series of behaviors, actions, and skills that contribute to performance in a role. You can easily graph these results out, and then simply match individuals with similar results to see who matches required traits. Here, it’s more important to pay attention to soft skills such as behavior and personality, which are more difficult to train.

Importantly several types of people can often succeed (and to the same degree) in a single role. Your job profiles should encompass what success looks like and why that is success, so that you can look for it in others.

Using Gap Analysis to Determine Development Direction

Employee assessments in hiring are most-often used to directly match individuals to required or wanted behaviors and traits but some of those skills will be missing. A gap analysis can help you determine what and where candidates need to improve. If you’re planning succession and development, you should be significantly more concerned with personality and behavior traits such as personal motivation, emotional intelligence, etc. These traits are difficult to train but greatly impact leadership and creative roles. If someone shows great promise in areas that contribute to a role but are not necessarily hard skills, you can flag them for further development.

This process should always involve:

  • Analyze what’s missing from the profile to completely fill out the role
  • Discuss options with candidates and determine motivation and interest
  • Offer development opportunities in line with the role
  • Offer coaching or mentoring in-line with the role
  • Monitor progress and continue to map personality to job profiles

For example, if someone’s assessment profile maps to success in a role such as branch director but they lack key skills and don’t have the broad range of experience necessary to make good decisions. Here, it would be a relatively simple decision to set aside room for personal development, to broaden their experience with assignments in other departments or branches, and to assign them a mentor or coach who could help bridge gaps relating to personal development.

Internal development can save time and resources over sourcing leaders and technical experts externally. Managing internal succession planning and development also allows you to better select the desired traits and personalities of individuals promoted into roles, allows you to control their work culture, and gives you more room to choose, because having internal people ready doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t still hire externally.


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How Should Employee Assessments Impact Business Results?

Employee assessments and performance reviews are an often-resource-intensive endeavor requiring training, time from HR, and third-party tooling for assessment, testing, and monitoring programs. Whether you’re attempting to validate the efficacy of employee assessments, attempting to streamline them to meet goals, or attempting to gain buy-in for improvements from management, understanding how these assessments do and should impact business results will help.

Employee assessments exist to tell you the state of employees and their performance, which can be used to impact numerous business results.

Documentation for Workforce Protection

Employee assessments exist to inform you of employee performance and progress towards performance goals. Documenting this progress and follow-up practices allows you to protect your organization and the employees who are part of it. For example, having routine employee assessments in place allow you to target individuals who are poor performers. You can then take targeted steps to improve that performance:

  • Identify problems. What’s behind poor performance
  • Identify development opportunities. Where can individuals improve?
  • Identify candidates who are performing poorly because they are in the wrong roles
  • Discuss performance issues with individuals and work to find solutions
  • Highlight candidates who don’t improve after 3-9 months of development for possible termination

How will this work to improve business results? Actively responding to employee assessments enables you to lift performance for the organization, improving work turnaround, reducing turnover, improving motivation, and offering opportunities for individuals with problems or misalignment with roles and goals.

Streamlining a Workforce to Achieve Goals

Understanding what your workforce is capable of will allow you to make better decisions regarding work-force optimization, development, and hiring or onboarding to meet future goals. For example, if you know the organization wants to achieve something specific, employee assessment can give you a better starting point with which to begin steering the workforce to meet those goals. This applies even when future organizational goals include restructures or changing departments, because assessments help you understand what people can do and therefore where you can move them and why.

Streamlining your workforce to achieve goals also involves offering development to improve performance, moving individuals who aren’t suited to a particular role, removing individuals who simply aren’t performing or responding, and hiring to fill performance gaps.

Finally, this includes hiring individuals who meet assessment requirements or job profiles to fill specific roles well. If you know what the organization needs to achieve specific results, you can design a recruitment plan and hire for it, whether that includes leaders or those with leadership potential, high-performance individuals, or individuals showing promise in specific roles and categories.

Reducing Employee Turnover

Employee turnover relates to poor employee-role fit, poor reactions to performance, and no room for development. Using performance assessments to identify and improve role-fit, to offer those development opportunities, and to create room to improve performance rather than simply being handed a rating will work to improve employee satisfaction and company loyalty. Both of these factors will reduce turnover which will help the organization achieve goals, including saving money.

Employee assessment interacts with and impacts business goals and results, because the state of the workforce affects an organization’s ability to achieve anything. Approaching any type of improvement in processes around assessments and performance review, including pitching ideas to management, should involve approaching the problem from those business results.


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5 Competencies to Test for When Hiring or Developing Leaders

Competency frameworks allow you to define which behaviors and characteristics contribute to the success of a role. While the unique position and organization will contribute to those vital competencies, there is often overlap in the skills someone needs to be a good leader. Those can typically be discovered through job profiling, testing, and leadership training.

These 5 competencies are often invaluable in leaders, because they impact how individuals approach others, approach their role, and how they can take charge. You will, of course, have to add your own competencies based on the specific role and its parameters when hiring or developing for that role.

Social Intelligence

Social intelligence is often seen as one of the best indicators of a good leader. It covers how individuals recognize, cope with, and perform in various social situations. It explains how an individual will react and behave in social situations with different dynamics. A highly socially intelligent person will be able to recognize, respond, and react to a great deal of social situations, remain sensitive to different social issues, and perform well and with empathy towards others.

This impacts leadership because a good leader must change their approach and leadership style based on the situation.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence defines how an individual recognizes, responds to, and controls their own emotions and how they respond in interpersonal relationships. EQ is crucial in leaders because it impacts how they react to others, what they prioritize, and why. An emotionally intelligent leader can build relationships and trust, build loyalty, and respond empathetically to individuals in his or her team. This will improve the quality of leadership, improve individual job satisfaction, and likely reduce turnover over having leaders without it.

Adaptability

Whether testing specifically for adaptability or for a broader competency such as agility, soft-skills like adaptability are crucial for leaders. This is true whether you are either moving someone up into a new role or bringing someone in from outside your organization, as leaders must adapt to new roles and new responsibilities.

As outlined by Ram Charan’s Leadership Pipeline, an individual moving into a leadership position from a technical role must adapt to helping others complete work. A leader moving from managing a team to managing a department must adapt from helping others complete work to strategizing long-term goals.

Adaptability is therefore an extremely crucial soft-skill for a leader, because it defines whether they’ll be able to make the shift from their current job responsibilities to a completely new set.

Ethical and Moral Standards

While ethical and moral standards typically comprise several competencies, leaders consistently agree that having these standards is one of the most important things for success. Strong ethical and moral standards allow an individual to perform well in settings where they are responsible for mitigating risk, protecting assets, and building trust with their teams. Doing so is impossible without a strong ethical and moral code in place.

Self-Organizing

Leaders must be able to self-organize and self-direct if they are to perform in any capacity at all. This means that any candidate for any level of leadership must show strong motivation and self-direction. If they cannot motivate themselves or do not show a strong tendency towards self-development, learning, and organization, they likely cannot succeed in an autonomous leadership position.

Leaders exist in numerous roles and at different levels of organization. A leader might refer to an individual who guides a few people in a team or someone who drives business strategy and structure. This will impact what and who you are looking for. However, nearly every leader needs these 5 competencies to succeed in a role that involves guiding others.


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Using Job Match Patterns to Improve the Quality of Hires

Any role requires different skills, personality traits, and behaviors to be done well. It’s important to outline the skills and personality traits that typically make someone successful in a role, especially in a job profile for your HR team. Here is where job match patterns come in as a useful tool that recruiters can use to define which behaviors contribute to job success, and which candidates make the best match.

Integrating this tool into the recruitment process means establishing a framework to measure what success looks like in roles, where it comes from, and why.

Assessing Job Requirements

Most assessment centers will offer a basic library of job requirements based on standards for an industry or role. They should then further define these job match patterns to meet the specific needs and requirements of your organization. This typically means using tools such as performance analysis, role interviewing, and role assessment to determine what contributes.

In most cases, an assessment center will consider factors such as:

  • Existing benchmarks and profiles based on industry standards
  • Performance data from your organization highlighting which persons excel
  • Interviews and assessments to determine which factors contribute to role success
  • Existing job profiles

In most cases, job match profiles are divided into three categories including organizational match (attitude and behavior), skills match (technical skills, degrees, etc.) and job match which includes personality, cognitive abilities, and personal interests. Each of these will greatly affect an individual’s performance as well as their ability to fit into a role or team, which is why it’s often important to restructure job match based on individual teams.

Testing Candidates for Job Match

Once you’ve created a job match profile for a role or a specific position, you can hire candidates accordingly. Here, candidates are tested using tools such as structured interviewing, test assignments, and a range of assessments such as cognitive, competency, or behavioral depending on the role and the traits you are looking for.

Here, you should work with an assessment company to determine which assessments you should be using and why. In most cases, you want a small series of assessments to give the most complete picture of the traits and behaviors you are looking for, so assessments must often be tailored to the role. You can’t ask a candidate to complete assessment after assessment, so you should choose only the solutions that identify the most relevant information.

You can then use this data to match the qualities shown by candidates to those of your most successful employees, to rank candidates based on likelihood of strong performance, and to otherwise match them to the profile you’ve created.

Validating Results

Job match patterns are valuable because they primarily exist to help you find candidates with attributes and behaviors matching those of your most successful employees. However, it’s important to keep in mind that job needs change over time,and you may have overlooked personality traits or influencing factors for job success. Therefore, it is crucial to continue validating the success of your job match profiles with continued performance review and updates. If candidates hired through job match programs don’t perform as expected, the job profile must be adjusted and improved to ensure future candidates meet those expectations.

The bottom line: Job match profiles look at the factors that enable individuals to perform their jobs well, and observing those patterns can greatly improve hiring and retention.


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How to Follow Up on HR Assessments and Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are a crucial element of most company cultures. At the same time, HR assessments and performance reviews are in the middle of a massive overhaul. Most organizations recognize that old-school performance reviews are more harmful than helpful and many offer little value, only demotivation.

While some of this demotivation surrounds the natural process of being tested and the possibility of being found wanting, most of it relates to what is tested, how, and why. Most organizations don’t have processes in place to actually use performance reviews for positive improvement. At the same time, these processes both add to the value of performance reviews and reduce the negative reactions surrounding them, because employees at every level get something back from their participation.

So here are a few ways to bridge the gap, and follow up on HR assessment discoveries and performance reviews (both good and bad).

Recognize Performance

“Old-school” performance appraisals force HR to categorize a certain percentage of employees into top/middle/bottom categories, with some offering more room for nuance. At the same time, it’s important to step back, look at performance holistically, and recognize where individuals have succeeded and have improved. Doing so will allow you to acknowledge individuals and offer positive feedback.

Understand Failure and Its Reasons

Most people don’t underperform for no reason at all. If individuals are performing poorly, it’s crucial to step back, look at their team, their role, their personality, and, when possible, family and personal life. Here, poor performance often relates to factors such as:

  • Poor role/team fit
  • Poor culture fit
  • High levels of personal or work-related stress
  • Poor management / aggressive management
  • High or low levels of responsibility (boredom/overwork)
  • Poor skill fit (under/over-qualified for a role)
  • Personal disagreements/conflict inside the team or with management
  • Lack of personal motivation

Each of these factors can take an otherwise highly effective and high-performing individual and dramatically reduce their performance. This will result in flagging performance, flagging quality, and changes to the individual’s personality and disposition. If you can identify a reason behind poor performance, especially when it extends to a team or group of people, you can work to improve that performance by correcting the problem.

Improving Role Fit

Some individuals do not fit into certain types of teams, management styles may not fit their work styles, or there may be an excessive amount of interpersonal conflict inside a team. Here, issues may stem from problems such as the individual is over/under-qualified for their role, the individual doesn’t get along with others in the team, or so on. Solving this issue can be complex, but typically relates to moving someone into a better fit, working to improve management styles for that team, or otherwise changing facets of the role or team to improve.

While your actions here can impact just the individual or the team as a whole, those decisions must depend on the performance and behavior of the rest of the team.

Offer Development

Many people struggle to adapt to change, new leadership styles, new tooling, new role responsibilities, and so on. Others are over-qualified for their role but don’t have the necessary skills or behaviors to move up. Recognizing this gives you the opportunity to offer development, so that anyone who is struggling in their role can learn the necessary skills to excel or to move on.

While these types of development initiatives can be costly and require that you conduct behavioral assessments and understand job profiles and individual teams, they will pay off in terms of improved performance, improved motivation, and a happier workforce.

Poor performance in the workplace is rarely as simple as employees who don’t care about their jobs, but it can be. If that is the case, your reaction to a poor performance review should be to increase motivation. In some cases, individuals will show no improvement and should eventually be let go or cut from a team, but the cases where they cannot improve and likely excel in a role where they struggled before is rare. Acting on these motivations and taking steps to improve role and culture fit for an individual will improve performance.


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How and Why to Assess Core Values in Candidates

Value-based assessments have always been popular in organizations, but today, they’re more popular than ever. With even large-scale organizations like Southwest Airlines and Aegon adopting core-value based hiring, many businesses are wondering why and how they can do the same.

Core values represent a candidate’s core beliefs relating to moral questions and answers. Most organizations benefit from learning about these values before making a hire but it’s important not to rely too heavily on value-based assessments.

What are Core Values?

Core values make up a set of personal beliefs which are the guiding principles behind an organization or person’s behavior and actions. These values define who and what a person or organization is at its deepest level by defining what they care about, will act on, and are motivated by.

Core values include but are not limited to:

  • Religious, or lack of, beliefs
  • Dependability
  • Humor
  • Passion
  • Fitness
  • Creativity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Helping others

A core value is only a core value if it is a motivating factor of their personality, something that they act on and make decisions based on.

Why Assess Core Values in Candidates?

Assessing core values in candidates can tell you what they value, which, in turn, will tell you what they will do and why. Core values also allow you to find candidates whose core values align with or match those of your organization to ensure that they are a good fit, are more likely to stay in your organization, and can contribute in ways that align with the organization’s goals.

Ben & Jerry’s shares their core values on their website. Here, the organization lists three primary values, which are broken down into more complex values:

  • Make fantastic ice cream (product excellence)
  • Manage our company for sustainable financial growth (dependability, reliability, success, profit)
  • Use our company in innovate ways to make the world a better place (Empathy, helping others, environmental good)

Ben & Jerry’s could use these core values they hold to determine that someone who doesn’t care about their product probably isn’t a good fit for the company. Instead, they’d be looking for someone with core values like “creativity, reliability, dedication, empathy, and willingness to help others.”

These core values would help Ben & Jerry’s find candidates who would not only show up to do their job, but who would be excited about the product, the company mission, continuing excellence, and helping others through the organization.

How do You Assess Core Values in Candidates?

Assessing core values in a candidate can be a tricky process, largely because you have to learn a lot about your candidate in a relatively tiny window. Most organizations take the approach of using structured interviews to learn about individual behaviors and motivations. You may also ask specific questions about core values, although many candidates will tell you what they think you want to hear rather than how they actually feel, so most assessment centers will take an indirect approach.

One common way to determine core values is using assessments and questions. Here, you can ask questions such as:

  • What is a major driving factor in your life?
  • If you could change one thing about your previous job, what would it be?
  • What have you learned in the last 6 months and why?
  • What are you looking for in a role and why?
  • What is one of your most momentous life decisions?
  • How would you handle X scenario?

It’s also important to work core values into job descriptions, into assignments, and into how you evaluate candidates and their behavior.

Behavioral questions are designed to figure out how an individual would act or how they think they would act in a situation with moral weight and consequences. This will show you what they value and why. You can see examples of what organizations like Zappos use when hiring if you’re looking for more examples.

Core values can help you to determine if a candidate is a good fit for your organization based on what they believe in and what drives them. However, it shouldn’t be your final decision-making point. You also need a good understanding of what your organization’s core values are before you can use values as a hiring point.


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