Talent assessments are the secret weapon for hiring managers and recruiters looking to streamline their employment process, improve the quality of the candidates they hire, and ultimately — save precious money and time.
In this article, we'll look at the different types of talent assessments you may want to consider using when building your recruitment process, including aptitude tests and the specific roles they might be useful for, and why soft skills are often underappreciated but should be tested for.
What are talent assessments?
A talent assessment is a test or exam that helps you examine specific skills, qualities, or knowledge.
Talent assessments can be selected and adapted to suit the specific position you're trying to fill, thus making it a really useful tool to help you screen prospective candidates.
Using talent assessments can help you find stronger candidates, minimize the recruitment process time, and help you save money and retain staff. And as a result, more and more employers and recruiters are building these assessments into their hiring practices as standard.
Statistics on talent assessments in the hiring process
Hiring the right person for the role is even more important than you might think. A report from financial services company Mercer states that The American Management Association estimates the cost of making a bad hire as 1.4 times an employee's annual salary. While the same report states that The California Strategic HR Partnership (a consortium of Fortune 500 executives) estimates the cost to be almost 10 times this.
But it's not all about money. With greater significance being placed on job satisfaction by candidates, it's never been more important to invest in the people you hire for mutual satisfaction.
A blog on LinkedIn's Pulse app reveals that businesses using pre-hiring assessments are 36% more likely to feel satisfied with their hire, and using talent assessments leads to a 15% year-on-year improvement in hiring managers' satisfaction. Stats are certainly hard to ignore!
Why should you use talent assessments when hiring graduates?
Graduates often don't have a lot of experience, thus making it harder for you to review a resume and identify the experience and expertise you'd like to see. Talent assessments help to fill this gap, giving you a robust and rigorous way to test candidates and see if they have a natural skill, understanding, and expertise needed for the role you're hiring.
Talent assessments can also help you choose between those with similar grades or experience, fill gaps in an existing team, and make more informed choices.
Types of talent assessments
There are a huge variety of talent assessments to choose from when you're looking to design the recruitment process for a specific role.
The first thing to consider is whether you want to assess a core skill that's essential for the role. This need could be answered by, for example, using a numerical reasoning test as a screening device when hiring for an accountancy role, or an error-checking test in an administrative position.
You may also want to think about using soft skills tests. These tests offer a useful way to examine whether a candidate has vital traits and characteristics such as adaptability and communication skills. Often underappreciated, soft skills can be the difference between hiring someone that's fair or someone that excels.
Most of the tests listed below will be timed to increase the pressure on candidates. The questions are often multiple choice, and they could involve anything from responding to hypothetical scenarios to analyzing data or solving puzzles — depending on the scope of the test.
Abstract reasoning tests examine how well someone can identify sequences and relationships between seemingly random shapes, patterns, and images.
The outcome of the test is a good indicator of how someone thinks. Those that have a natural ability for abstract reasoning tests tend to be logical, strategic thinkers — which is a useful skill for a huge variety of different roles.
Emotional intelligence is an incredibly sought-after characteristic in almost all fields of work.
Candidates who showcase emotional intelligence through testing indicate they'll work well with others, have good self-awareness, are motivated, have empathy, and possess the social skills needed to work with others easily and effectively.
Error checking tests put candidates under timed pressure to determine their efficacy at spotting errors in data sets.
Attention to detail is a particularly sought-after skill in administrative roles or jobs where you're required to work with large amounts of data. As a result, it's an incredibly useful test for any role where accuracy and an ability to spot upcoming issues are necessary.
Logical reasoning tests look at how well someone can solve problems under pressure.
Logical thinking is the ability to take the information in front of you, analyze it, and come up with a logical and accurate conclusion.
It's a skill that serves people particularly well in industries such as finance and tech.
Numerical reasoning tests assess competence with numbers. Most typically, candidates will be asked to analyze, interpret and draw conclusions from data presented as tables, graphs, or charts. They'll also be expected to showcase their understanding of fractions, decimals, and percentages.
The test is most often set when hiring for finance-based roles such as accountancy.
Situational judgment tests help employers and recruiters understand an individual's motivations, how they may act in different workplace scenarios, and whether they're likely to gel with an existing team.
The tests can be tailored to different jobs and industries, providing vital insight into softer skills such as communication, teamwork, and accountability.
Verbal reasoning tests are designed to assess an individual's comprehension skills.
The test requires candidates to read through a dense passage of text and answer related questions that are designed to assess general understanding, and the ability to differentiate fact from inference.
Programming skills tests
Programming skills tests are specifically designed to assess an individual's understanding of coding, programming principles, and general problem-solving.
The programming skills test could be used when hiring a huge variety of tech-based jobs, from a more specific role such as an Android or iOS developer, to more generalized jobs like a software engineer.
Soft skills tests
Adaptability is all about how well someone can flex and adjust to different challenges. It's an incredibly useful soft skill in most roles, but especially in fast-paced and innovative industries.
Using a test such as this will be a good indicator of the candidates who will adapt well to an ever-changing business, and even thrive off the unpredictability.
It's virtually impossible to do a job that doesn't involve some sort of communication. As a result, it's probably one of the more important soft skills to assess in the hiring process.
A communication test will look at how well candidates display empathy, active listening, and convey their ideas.
Interpersonal skills are the skills we use when interacting, working, and communicating with others.
Assessing individuals to see how strong their interpersonal skills are is a really good way to see how well someone is likely to work as part of a team.
Having this information ahead of hiring can be a valuable way to minimize challenging situations and difficult working relationships.
Leadership is a quality that it's always wise to look for — even if you're hiring for a relatively junior position.
Strong leaders, or those with leadership potential, will demonstrate qualities such as effective communication, good delegation and prioritization, and the ability to motivate and inspire others.
A problem solving test will help you quickly identify the candidates who perform under pressure, think logically, and ultimately come up with rational or logical conclusions when presented with a challenge.
Problem solving can be applied to careers in a huge variety of industries, from roles in the arts to finance, tech and engineering.
Teamwork is the backbone of most organizations and an important thing to look for throughout your hiring process.
The test will help you to see which candidates indicate a propensity and willingness to work alongside others, participate in the delivery of common objectives, and help those around them to achieve success.
Time management is a core skill that indicates someone will be professional, accountable, and able to juggle multiple conflicting priorities.
It's important to test whether prospective candidates understand the significance of time management, especially in client-facing roles, or those where it's particularly important to the overall success and reputation of an organization.
Software skills tests
For technical roles, it's essential to screen candidates to get a solid understanding of their proficiency in core skills such as coding, programming, and troubleshooting.
What should you look for in a talent assessment tool?
The talent assessment market is ever-changing and growing, which means it can be hard to determine which provider to select, or what it is you want your chosen test to do for you.
The following considerations should help make selecting the right assessment easier.
How does it work?
When you're deciding on the right talent assessment for you, it's important to consider a few different things.
Firstly, how easily accessible is it for your candidates? Do you want tests that can be accessed online, from anywhere? Or do you like to supervise candidates and have them all take the test at the same time in a specified location?
The format of the test itself is also important to think about. Most tests are timed (but it's always worth checking as it can be a useful indicator as to how well a candidate copes under pressure). You might want multiple-choice answers so you get an objective score. Or you might prefer free-form answer boxes that give you a better idea of how a candidate expresses.
What skills and abilities can be assessed?
It's a good idea to think about the core skills you'd expect to see in an ideal candidate, and then work backward to find the proper test(s). Aptitude tests might be better for examining specific skills such as numerical aptitude or verbal comprehension, while soft skills tests can help you find people with the right characteristics and traits to take your business to the next level.
It's important to also remember you don't have to select just one test. Often, a complementary test battery may include a mix of aptitude and soft skills tests.
What results can it show you?
The most appealing thing about talent assessments for recruiters and employers are the results and data you get at the end of the process.
Whether you choose to benchmark scores, or you want to take a more holistic approach to review test scores alongside interview responses, there's no doubt that talent assessments give you a valuable opportunity to get a better understanding of how each candidate performs under pressure, and where their unique strengths and weaknesses lie.
Does it fit with your recruitment process?
The question should be, does your current recruitment process need improvement?
When looking to introduce talent assessments, it's worth taking a step back and looking at your entire recruitment process; areas of strength and weakness, places where you could save time and money, and even the overall effectiveness of the people you've hired so far. This can help you work out where to use talent assessments, and where else you could make improvements.
Does it offer a positive candidate experience?
Talent assessments have been hailed as a positive step in the fight against bias in recruitment.
Giving all interested applicants the same test and basing the decision on who to hire on data gives everyone the same starting chance, and reduces the risk of people being selected based on where they've worked or gone to college.
Some tests can even provide personalized feedback, which is always appreciated by candidates who want to improve their hireability.
Many candidates feel reassured the process is fairer, and even that they may have more control over the results by, in many cases, being able to prepare for the assessment.
Does it protect candidates' data?
Ultimately this will depend on the test provider you use, but most companies take data protection extremely seriously and will want to ensure a safe experience for both you and your candidates.
If you're unsure, take the time to ask about a company's data protection policy; how they handle and store data, and whether they can prove compliance.
What is the cost?
Although there is a cost attached to the talent assessments themselves, in the long run it tends to prove a savvy investment as it will help you minimize time spent on the hiring, and lead to longer-term staff retention, which in turn is associated with lower running costs.
Taking the time to compare different provider costs will help you find the right deal for you and your company, and is a worthwhile exercise to ensure you can use talent assessments for your hires.