The hiring process is fundamentally about gathering data points and reducing uncertainty about a candidate skills and capabilities. Hiring is fundamentally about capital allocation: Where and on who can you as the person making a hiring decision most productively deploy the capital that has been allocated to you that brings the largest return on investment to your team and your organization? For these hiring managers, recruiters, or managers making mission critical talent decisions, your job is to be an effective calibrator of talent, aiming for a minimum threshold of certainty around a candidate's skills and capabilities for the position you’re hiring for.
Companies and candidates are always playing games of incomplete information in the hiring process, where the employer doesn’t have all the information they need about a candidate, but the candidate knows good and well where their skills and capabilities lie. In an ideal world, a company would have the opportunity to establish a good working relationship with candidates over a few months time, maybe get the opportunity to actually work with these candidates on real world projects on a trial basis, and eventually develop a deep understanding of that individuals skills, capabilities, their fit within the organization, and if they would be a good hire.
In reality, there are a variety of factors that inhibit a company's ability to do just that, namely the compressed timelines associated with making hiring decisions that necessitate employers to rely on more easily accessible proxy metrics for talent. Employers are ultimately in the prediction business, they have to use the limited information they have on candidates and make an informed bet based on that information. Employers need signaling mechanisms that help them spot talent a priority.
The methods for calibrating talent, signalling capabilities and reducing uncertainty about a candidate in these compressed periods are things we’re all too familiar with. Companies traditionally rely on age old methods for assessing and evaluating talent for their organizations: Interviews, resume screens, college degrees, and more. While great in many ways, it’s also widely recognized that these methods for assessing and signalling talent are laden with imperfection. ---
An often underutilized but highly effective method of evaluating and understanding talent are skills assessments. Assessments create value in various ways:
Broadly speaking, we as a society are making major strides towards this idea of the quantified self, where people are getting access to tools to learn more and more about themselves. This is especially prevalent in healthcare, where people are getting access to various tools and wearable technologies that enable them to personalized insights about their health and fitness. They can then use that information to make informed decisions around their health.
Similarly, enterprise organizations are shifting towards this idea of the quantified employee, where organizations and employees can get personalized insights about themselves professionally, and then use those insights to inform critical talent decisions. This is happening across the human capital supply chain, whether that be performance management tools, culture check ins, and of course, skills assessments. With regard to skills assessment, the idea is that just as I can track my fitness data to inform my fitness decisions, we should be able to do the same with our skills and our talent.
Generally, company’s deploy assessments in their organizations to serve two functions:
The determination as to whether an assessment is developmental or evaluative ultimately revolves around feedback and selection. If employees take an assessment and the results of those assessments are used to inform selection decisions (promoting, demoting, firing, etc), then those assessments are considered evaluative. If assessments are given and no critical selection decisions are made, or the results of those assessments remain anonymous and only accessible to the employee who took it, then the assessment is often considered developmental.
There are many companies that offer various forms of assessment, both for pre employment purposes in the hiring process as well as developmental purposes within organizations. The types of assessment you often see are:
A relatively nascent but emerging subset of assessments that are coming on the market are those for what we call non technical skills, which is the core focus of our products and services. These are skills like communication, creativity, decision making, and so on. These types of skills have been widely recognized as incredibly important for performance at work, but there has traditionally been a limited means for companies to effectively evaluate these skills.
Most companies rely on the interview process and their interviewers to pick up social cues and skills cues in an interview as a primary form of non technical skills assessment, which can be incredibly subjective, data absent, and unreliable for a few reasons: There are piles and piles of studies & data and that essentially says that we as humans are terrible evaluators of other people’s abstract attributes, most candidates aren’t necessarily presenting an authentic version of themselves, and a lot of interviewers aren’t really trained to effectively evaluate these skills. Our goal is to infuse data and objectivity into this assessment and evaluation process.
How we assess and evaluate talent ultimately determines how we select, allocate, and operationalize talent. I think it’s overwhelmingly the case that talent is underselected, misallocated, and inefficiently operationalized. Here’s what that means:
Creating better mechanisms to screen and signal individual talent will drive dramatic improvements in these areas and subsequently lead to a whole host of positive outcomes for both individuals and organizations in terms of the value that people can create and the value that companies can capture. It’s hard, if not impossible, to build great companies without great talent.