In a race to recruit and hire top talent job candidates, many employers are turning to an array of talent acquisition tools, like job simulations, aptitude tests and various types of pre-employment tests, to help them filter through their candidate pools during the employee selection process. But which talent assessment tools are the most accurate in terms of their relationship to predicting job performance?
The truth is it depends on the type of employee assessment tools your organization uses, and the process you use to analyze the results.
Popular Candidate & Employee Assessment Tools, Ranked from Best to Worst in Effectiveness
Talent assessments provide a wealth of information to help leaders understand why people think and behave the way they do. From job simulations to interviews, there are a number of different types of pre-employment tests or candidate assessment tools organizations use to find, hire, and keep talent that drives their business forward. However, not all of these tools are created equal.
Below is a look at six talent assessment tools used in the employee selection process - ranked from most to least effective - and an analysis of their predictive power in terms of determining future performance.
1. Job Simulations / Work Samples
Work samples and simulation tests are used in the pre-hire assessment process to give employers the opportunity to see the candidates in action. These skills tests involve giving the candidates a work-related task to complete or having them engage in a role-play simulation test. The main objectives of this type of testing are to access job-specific skills and to analyze decision-making capabilities.
While work samples and job simulations are similar, there are some key differences between the two types of skills tests. A candidate completing a work sample will perform a subset of a job’s tasks, often in the actual environment and using the requisite tools and equipment. A candidate completing a simulation will perform job-related activities in a fictitious environment that mirrors the actual job.
Employers who utilize simulations and work samples can assess how the candidates work under pressure, and if they can multi-task and prioritize. This assessment technique is one of the strongest predictors of job performance when administered correctly. Getting the most accurate results from these employee selection tools requires customized work samples and simulation assessments that are highly structured and based on accurate job responsibilities specific to your organization. A trained evaluator also should analyze standardized results.
2. Aptitude Tests / Problem-Solving Tests / Cognitive Tests
Pre-hire assessment tests are used to analyze cognitive ability and problem-solving, and to measure a person's reasoning and logic skills, ability to learn new material, and reading comprehension.
A study conducted by psychologists John Hunter, Ph.D. and Frank Schmidt, Ph.D. showed a direct link between cognitive ability and job performance across multiple job types. Additionally, these types of pre-employment tests are cost-effective to administer, and cognitive ability tests have been shown to predict job performance particularly well for complex jobs. The more intricate the job or training demands, the better aptitude tests and cognitive tests work. Problem-solving tests, on the other hand, can assess leadership, potential, vision, insight, and intelligence, all of which can translate into a higher job performance level.
3. Personality Tests / Conscientiousness Tests
Personality and/or conscientiousness pre-hire tests assess the applicant's thought process and analyze behavioral and emotional patterns. They identify a variety of personality traits. Job candidates are asked to evaluate themselves through a series of structured questions, giving clues as to their personality traits.
Many employers find the personality test can help pinpoint important attributes, such as leadership, integrity, attendance, creativity and cooperation. These personality traits in turn are quite effective at predicting future job performance, which can help with employee selection. However, the accuracy of these predictions is directly related to the quality of the tests. Highly structured personality tests that are industry specific tend to offer a higher level of results than standardized personality tests.
While personality tests can help produce a number of valid inferences for different organizational outcomes, personality tests alone aren’t as effective as job simulations in identifying candidates who have the raw skills (e.g., data entry, keyboarding, or multitasking) needed to perform certain tasks essential for success on the job. It is important to use other types of pre-employment testing with the personality test, like skills tests, job simulations and aptitude tests.
4. Structured Interviews
While there are a variety of different types of interviews, structured interviews have a higher degree of predictive power than other types of interviews. In a structured interview, the interviewer asks each prospective job candidate the exact same series of questions. The interviewer can elaborate if the candidate does not understand the question, but he cannot stray from the pre-determined set of questions. This type of pre-hire tool can help assess certain types of skills, such as communication skills, but this is only the case if a trained interviewer and highly-structured interview process is used. Otherwise, the results are very subjective, a factor that is not accurate at predicting job performance and not very useful in the employee selection process.
5. Unstructured Interviews
On the other hand, unstructured interviews have no set format and no set of questions to ask each job candidate. Many managers like this format because it gives them the freedom to take the interview in any direction. They believe this allows them to better assess candidates in the employee selection process.
The truth is that this type of interview leads to inconsistent and subjective results. Even trained interviewers have a difficult time comparing job applicants and providing useful results for employee selection. In addition, it is not uncommon for the interviewer to miss asking vital questions during this type of interview process, which makes it even more difficult to predict future job performance.
6. Years of Experience
Many companies don't just consider past experience a strong attribute in employee selection - they require it. Certainly, you want candidates that have the skills and tools necessary to perform the duties of the position – but do years of experience equate to a higher job performance?
Well, not always. In fact, sometimes past work experience can have a negative effect. Employees who have clocked up a number of years on the job bring with them previous work experiences, both good and bad. They may also bring with them poor work habits and incorrect problem-solving strategies.
Work samples/simulation, cognitive ability/problem-solving tests, and personality/conscientiousness tests all provide real value to the employment selection process, and when used properly these types of pre-employment tests can be good indicators of future performance. FurstPerson research has shown these tests demonstrate significant workforce improvements, including:
- 15% - 60% reduction in early-life attrition
- 10% - 70% improvement in performance
While interviews do provide the opportunity for candidate engagement, due to the subjective nature of both structured and unstructured interviews, the predictive power of such tools is far more limited. Using a variety of pre-employment testing tools is a good strategy for increasing the defensibility of the pre-hire selection system as a whole.
No two companies are the same, which is why we partner with each of our clients to create customized pre-hire and post-hire assessment test solutions. No matter what role you’re hiring for, our consultants always work directly with you to assist with the creation and implementation of a winning strategic talent assessment process. Schedule a free consultation with us today to learn more about how we help our clients find, hire, and keep high-quality candidates.