Are Assessments the Holy Grail or a Wholly Fail?

Grail or Fail WEBThe short answer is neither. The longer answer is a bit more complex. Nor is any organization likely to find the perfect workforce regardless of whether they use assessments or not.

The debate over the usefulness, accuracy, and even the legality of assessments has raged on for a number of years. For those who like to categorize everything into the black and white, right or wrong, good or bad piles, the true answer may not be that clear cut. According to recent research by Aberdeen Group, there is a shortage of critical talent and replacing an employee can carry a price tag of upwards of five times a bad hire’s salary. Therefore, it is evident that making good hiring decisions is crucial for an organization’s bottom line. Moreover, the use of assessments can have a positive impact on not only hiring, but retention, performance, and engagement.

Aside from measuring a potential candidate’s interests, backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses, assessments provide other bonuses.

  • Best-in-class organizations are 45% more likely to use pre-hire assessments
  • Best-in-class companies are 95% more likely to have a consistent competency model used for hiring, [including using assessments consistently as part of the model].
  • Companies that use assessments are 36% more likely to be satisfied with their new hires
  • Organizations using pre-hire assessments with performance results are 24% more likely to have employees who exceed performance expectations.
  • Businesses using pre-hire assessments in conjugation with performance results have employees who are 17% more likely to rate themselves as engaged.
  • Assessments can provide information as to whether or are not an employee is a good cultural fit. Best-in-class companies pass this information along to manager
    You can read the full report, Pre-Hire Assessments: An Asset for HR in the Age of the Candidate, at

Those of us who tout the use of assessments as a critical tool in combating turnover, for increasing productivity, and improving customer satisfaction are also aware that cautionary measures must be taken in the use of assessments. So, no they are not the Holy Grail nor are they a wholly failure. Assessments are designed to be used in conjunction with the entire hiring process of implementing good search techniques, establishing performance standards, using good interviewing techniques, reference checking, and drug testing. Here are some other ideas to consider.

  • Ensure that the assessments you select are valid, reliable, and scientifically based. Bear in mind that demographics are constantly changing and assessment producers who fail to conduct constant research may leave you with invalid results.
  • Ensure that the assessments you use, measure what you are seeking to measure. For example, even the Myers-Briggs Foundation suggests that the Myers-Briggs or MBTI, assessment should not be used for hiring, but is better suited for measuring performance. Further, as many of you know, the MBTI was created by a mother daughter team with no psychological or scientific backgrounds.
  • Ask your assessment vendor if the assessments you want to use meet all requirements by the EEOC and other federally mandated laws. Indeed, even as we speak, there is a pending lawsuit brought by an attorney for his son who suffers with bi-polar disorder. The claim is that assessments that were used in turning him down for a job violate the Americans with Disability Act.
  • Don’t fall in love with data and algorithms over common sense hiring decisions. People are people everywhere and predictions, good or bad, cannot always be made by the numbers.

Some candidates also complain that taking assessments is time consuming. Picture the single parent who is working full-time, with a child, and going to school at night. This person is sometimes forced to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to complete an application process. When using public Wi-Fi, sometimes it cuts out near the end of an application process and then the candidate must begin all over again. In my own, case, I would never be hired for my genius. However, I’m a loyal, dedicated workhorse. I work quickly and accurately (most of the time). More often than not, if my boss asked me where a project was, I would respond, “It’s on your desk.” Not every assessment can measure such attributes. In addition, the questions must be asked, “What are our organizational objectives, who do we need to perform theses, and what assessments measure those skills and attributes?” And now, a new monkey wrench is being thrown in the mixture.

We’ve all heard of measuring I.Q. and E.Q, but, according to an article by Eliza Gray, organizations are trying to measure X.Q. According to Ms. Gray, “2015 [is] the new way of employer assessments, no official name has emerged for the qualities employers are testing for. In fact, they can often seem mysterious – a kind of X quotient, or X.Q. Generally speaking. It is the practice of testing for personality traits that will lead to success in a particular role.” If hiring executives are unable to name what they are looking for, how in the world will they be able to measure it? This is like trying to describe a movie or rock star who has “it”. This is like those who pursue the relentless hunt for the Holy Grail and it sounds like it could lead down the path to a wholly fail. Be clear about objectives and goals and who and what your organization needs to meet them.

Business, Hiring,, Assessments,