Does pre-hire testing length affect candidate completion rates?
The use of web-based pre-hire assessments to help identify quality job candidates has become more and more widespread in recent years across all industries and job types, including contact center agents. These objective, online assessments effectively predict job performance and agent retention. Although many contact center recruiters use pre-hire assessments to help identify quality candidates, they sometimes express concerns that the time to complete the assessments may cause candidates to drop out of the assessment process prematurely. This whitepaper presents contact center data that directly addresses the question of whether shortened testing times lead to improved candidate completion rates.
Contact Center Agent Recruiting and Testing
Plagued by high turnover, a constant need to fill seats (empty seats = lost revenue), and often high candidate-to-hire ratios, contact center recruiters often “play the numbers game”, seeking to get as many candidates through the pre-hire screening process as possible.
In an effort to cast a wide net, many companies are moving the candidate screening process online. Recruiting teams conduct large-scale recruiting campaigns such as newspaper or radio ads that direct all interested individuals to a website where they can complete an online application process. The application process typically includes candidate screening tools (e.g., scored applications) and/or web-based pre-hire assessments (e.g., personality inventories, problem-solving tests, work simulations) that serve as an automated and efficient screen for job relevant skills, abilities, and personal characteristics.
When attempting to identify quality contact center candidates who will perform better and stay longer on the job, it is best to measure as many job relevant skills, abilities, and characteristics as possible. Unfortunately, there is no “magic” pre-hire assessment that will measure all relevant predictors of agent success in 10 minutes. The reality is that effective pre-hire screening often requires using multiple assessments, each designed to measure specific capabilities, and each of which takes time for candidates to complete. It is not uncommon for a high-quality pre-hire assessment process to take 60-90 minutes of testing time which may include completing three to four assessments and/or tests.
The Perceived Issue
For recruiters who are focused on reducing applicant dropout rates and getting large numbers of candidates completely through the pipeline, testing length is very tempting as a potentially easy target. Though a longer pre-hire assessment process may allow more thorough and effective measurement of key candidate success characteristics, a commonly held belief is that testing length is also inversely related to completion rates. Contact center organizations and recruiters often believe that the longer the assessment process, the higher the percentage of candidates who will tire of it and fail to complete it, causing the company to miss out on mission-critical talent that had too many other opportunities to waste their time on an extended pre-hire process. They propose that shortening testing time/length will alleviate or minimize the issue of applicant fallout and improve completion rates.
What Do the Data Tell Us?
FurstPerson has recently taken advantage of opportunities to test this hypothesis using empirical data. For illustration purposes, we have taken data from two contact center organizations. Results vary call center organization to call center organization but the general conclusions are consistent. For each organization, testing time was reduced from approximately 75 minutes to approximately 45 minutes, for an overall reduction in testing time of about 40%.
Example A employs home agents and therefore uses remote, or off-site, candidate testing. After shortening the pre-hire assessment battery by roughly 30 minutes, Example A has seen no reduction in candidate dropout rates. Data from more than 22,000 applicants show that, whether using the original, longer assessment battery or the shortened testing time, the rate of candidate incompletion has been 40% (see Figure 1). In other words, 4 of every 10 candidates have failed to complete the process, regardless of how long it takes.
Example B operates brick-and-mortar centers in a variety of locations, and uses both off-site and on-site testing. The data presented here are from over 18,000 off-site applicants and almost 5,000 on-site applicants. Using the full-length pre-hire assessment process (~75 minutes), incompletion rates were 43.4% for off-site testing and 2.4% for on-site testing (see Figure 2). Data from comparable call center organizations shows that these percentages align with typical incompletion rates (see Norms in Figure 2). After shortening the assessment battery, candidate incompletion rates were 48.0% and 4.7% for off-site and on-site testing, respectively.
This direct pre-post comparison highlights two points. First and foremost, shortening testing length is not likely to reduce applicant fallout rates
Second, when moving to an online process, call center hiring leaders need to understand that applicant dropout or incompletion rates are exponentially higher when testing is done off-site as opposed to on-site. Understanding how the online hiring funnel differs from the onsite hiring funnel is critical.