One of the most important factors in determining the “success” of an assessment program involves the extent to which the assessments used meet the expectations of their users. Unfortunately, expectations for assessment are often a bit misguided due to a slick sales job or a misunderstanding regarding how to use assessments correctly. Using assessment in a manner that will allow results to align with expectations requires a bit of effort and understanding. Getting results starts with ensuring that you clearly understand the traits required for successful job performance and choose quality measures of these traits. Beyond this, the most important aspect of using assessments correctly is a clear understanding of what assessments can and cannot tell us.
What assessments can tell us:
- The basics about certain work related attributes- Assessment is great for providing a rough sketch of an applicant. This is especially true when it comes to certain personality characteristics or mental abilities. Expecting more than just a rough sketch from most pre-employment assessments is unrealistic.
- Mastery of specific knowledge areas- Assessment is also good for measuring someone’s knowledge or skill level when it comes to a specific body of information. Knowledge of a specific computer program is a good example.
- How applicant compares to others on certain important work related attributes- Assessment can provide a good measuring stick for where an applicant is vs. other applicants or a general population of similar individuals. This information is very helpful when evaluating applicants relative to one another.
- The best and the worst- Assessment is a great way to identify those applicants who are very likely not to work out. That is they are good for providing red flags on certain attributes that are required for job success. Assessment can also help provide insight into those who rise to the top when it comes to potential and ability.
So, assessment is a really good way to get a snapshot of applicants relative to certain traits required for success but it is important that users do not expect it to tell the whole story all the time. There is plenty of important information that assessments generally do not tell us.
What assessments do not tell us:
- Everything we need to know- Overreliance on assessment results can be problematic. Assessments are best used as rough indicators of specific things that candidates bring to the table. Job performance is a complex composite of many different aspects. It is best to try and use a variety of assessments and other data collection methods (i.e., resumes, interviews) to build a more complete picture of an applicant. At the end of the day, it is the experience and skill of the hiring professional that should be used to make a decision and assessments are just one piece of information that helps them do their job.
- Past job performance- Assessments do not tell you how well an applicant performed in a past role. Of course there are other ways to gather this information. Just don’t expect assessments to provide it.
- Contextual issues that may impact performance- Assessments do not tell you about the many life-related factors that may cause someone to perform poorly or leave a job. We have all performed at less than ideal levels or had problems with a job due to things such as commutes, difficult bosses, low salary, etc. These factors are just as likely to cause problems.
- How traits translate into work behaviors- Just because an assessment provides insight into certain traits that may be important for job performance does not mean that it always tells you how an individual will actually behave when they are on the job. It is important to understand that assessments use past data to make broad based predictions, not highly specific insight.
Work within your expectations
Remember humans are complex and interactions with other humans within a work context are often hard to predict. Assessment is a far from perfect science and expecting too much from an assessment can set you up for disappointment. However, assessment still has tremendous value when used correctly because it can provide meaningful data to help expert hiring personnel make informed decisions.