Published on by Lou Jarbinet
As a hiring manager or recruiter, you want to bring on the “best” person for a job but how do you know who’s right? With its 30-year recruitment experience, Profile Group shares its key candidate assessment tips.
Companies over-rely on interviews when hiring.
Unfortunately this has been shown to be a poor predictor of future performance and introduces opportunities for bias. We are after all only humans and, even when asking the same questions to all candidates, we are not always objective when interacting with people. Appearance, body language, voice…can directly and wrongly influence our judgement. Also often interviews are booked without any proper preparation and they are usually very ‘general’.
Here are the steps we recommend to ensure an objective assessment of your candidates:
Step 1 – Define what you need to measure
Start by defining the KPIs linked to the required competencies for the role. Ask yourself what the candidate should be able to do: is it to manage, communicate, make quick decisions, plan, …? For example for a role requiring to constantly innovate, you will need talent that can both define the right questions (be analytical), and then discover new answers (be creative). For these roles, it will be key to measure both abilities which are often seen as incompatible.
Once the list of KPIs is set, you need to define the questions you will ask. You will need to ensure to:
Uncover capabilities, not just experience
Are you asking questions that get to someone’s capabilities or are you seeking confirming data that someone has done exactly what you have already scoped? Quite often, we use useless metrics to scope a job to do what has already been done. The upside of asking for years of experience is we get someone who has done what we need. The downside is we risk limiting what we can create next by doing what has already worked. Instead of asking, “Have you done x or y or z?” you want to ask, “How would you approach doing x or y or z?”. This shift in question lets you learn someone’s capacity to think with you.
Assess whether the candidate can co-create on a team
You want to find people who can play together and even sometimes fill in the gaps between predefined roles to get the work done. Then it is good to ask candidates: “How would you handle a situation where it’s become clear that there is a gap on your team?”. Then follow up to learn how they felt about the situation. Were they proud of catching the gap? Concerned that it existed in the first place? This will help you see if you are dealing with a team player or a know-it-all.
Uncover the kinds of things the candidate loves to work on
Figuring out what people genuinely care about lets you put people together who don’t have the same approaches but who want to reach the same goal. People need to be united around a shared purpose and focused on something that has meaning to them. Ask candidates: “What did you find meaningful about that project? What does that particular success say about what matters to you?”
Include a list of concrete examples you want the candidate to provide
for each competency. The value of an interview is that it is a 2-way exchange. The employer seeks to learn about the candidate’s skills and relevant experiences. On the other end, allow the candidate to evaluate your company, the role, the team, etc… The better the candidate is, the more they will want to ask questions. Welcome and even encourage these questions, even the tricky ones as they show great critical thinking.
Step 2 – Format your Employee Value Proposition
Ensure the way you present your company is aligned upfront and is really inspiring for the candidates. Focus on your company’s mission and its fundamental purpose, ideally at societal and environmental level. Highlight your company culture and the key values you want to champion. A key topic is how people are managed and how you organise performance reviews for example.
It is important to show that people are recognised and encouraged. Be as concrete as possible with examples of what is done differently for the employees. Of course benefits are also important and not just the financial part. We previously wrote an article about how to create the EVP, you can read more tips and tricks about it here.
Step 3 – Carefully define how you will evaluate
Interviews are a logical first step as they will help eliminate the obvious outliers but they do require careful preparation:
- Ensure all decision makers interview the candidate together and not one by one
- Use the same set of questions for all candidates
- Structure your interview with
- An introduction of the people in the room, including the candidate’s introduction
- Ask the questions you prepared
- Let the candidate ask more questions
- Ensure you focus on the EVP: go beyond what was in the job offer with concrete facts and examples. You can use a video showing the office, the people, the company and also some testimonials or even organise a short meeting with one of your employees
- Provide your feedback to the candidate
- Confirm or not your interest and explain the next steps
After the interviews, you will need to ensure a more objective evaluation and we recommend 2 sets of tests: skill testing as well as personality testing. We have more than 400 tests available but pick the most relevant ones for each role and company. Both of these types of tests should be ideally done before the 2nd interview so you can then use the results to dig into the ‘difficult’ areas. The purpose here is not to focus on the negative but on the contrary, see how a person can react, learn and grow from their test results.
Finally we strongly advise to add a ‘real assessment stage’ with a role play situation.
Hence try giving candidates who make it past an initial screening test a small real-life test of the primary skill the job requires. For instance, ask a coder to solve a small coding project. This “minimally viable demonstration of competence,” and a follow-up discussion that debriefs the exercise, can be a powerful tool for moving beyond the resume to find qualified candidates.
Moreover role plays are key to help evaluate the ability to make effective decisions.
Everything that an employee does throughout the day is based on making decisions and taking action. It’s truly as simple as this. Employers commonly look at an employee’s ability to perform a task, but they seldom dive deep into an employee’s ability to make effective decisions. You don’t need a very talented individual who is stuck in the same place and going in circles because of their poor decision-making skills. There are 3 aspects you need to look at: can they make decisions on their own? can they make decisions in difficult situations? can they learn to make better decisions next time?
Step 4 – Work with experts who will take the time and use the right tools
At Profile Group, we take pride in the way we focus on the candidate assessment as we know what it takes and how it can be a source of failure if not handled properly. Not just for your ongoing recruitment but also for your company’s reputation.
We do take the time to help our clients and candidates to prepare their interviews so they are really useful at making the right recruitment choices. We prepare the interview plan upfront and present it for discussion.
Also we have the right testing tools which we regularly update but also the expertise at carrying role plays for many various roles.
Finally we also pay attention to the debriefing: we create a report and present it to the hiring and/or HR managers but also to each candidate.
For more info on our Assessment service, just click here.