Recruiting, Assessment & Training Solutions
  • Using Pre-Employment Assessments: The Three-Legged Stool Rule

    three legged stool Let me begin by getting this statement out of the way: I am a raving fan of using assessments in the hiring process.

    As someone who has hired extensively throughout my own career, I know the importance of making the right (or the wrong) decisions when it comes to bringing new people into an organization. And I know that businesses don’t have the luxury of time or perfect information when it comes to making those decisions.  You’ve got a limited window of time to recruit, interview, and ultimately make selection decisions with your candidates. During that time, you must gather enough information to help you confidently accept – or reject – any given candidate.

    Pre-hire assessments can be a critical part of that process and can provide incredible insights into a person’s suitability for a given role.

    However (you saw some sort of “but” coming, right?) … There are two additional statements that I’ll make about using pre-hire assessments:

    1. You don’t need to use them with everyone.
    2. They’re not the end-all, be-all when it comes to making hiring decisions.

    Here’s where that three-legged stool comes in.

    The three legs of the stool in the hiring process are represented by your candidate’s resume (background, skills, qualifications, experience), interview performance, and their assessment results. Are three are helpful in making selection decisions, but not all candidates will even advance to the point of being evaluated in these three areas.

    Let’s look at each area further now:

    Resume: What type of education, experience, certifications, accomplishments, or skills do you require for your open position? Before a company will invest time or money into interviewing or assessing a candidate, they need to see that the applicant has the basic qualifications to do the job. Recruiters and hiring managers must begin with an application screening process that identifies candidates who appear to be qualified to move forward. If the candidate doesn’t clear the basic hurdle of showing the essential qualifications to be considered for a job, there’s no need to spend the time or money to assess them.

    Interview: Now we build some depth into the process! Who IS this person that looked decent enough on paper for us to consider hiring? If you’ve done any amount of interviewing at all, you know how important this part of the process is. As hiring managers, we can get clarification on a candidate’s previous roles and responsibilities. We get to witness their interpersonal skills (or lack therof!). We see whether they showed up on time, dressed appropriately, appeared interested in the position, asked intelligent questions, and were able to elaborate further about their experience to convince us that they are capable of performing the tasks at hand for the job.

    Two legs of the stool down..

    Now we have some things to consider as we begin weighing the qualifications of the candidates that we are considering. You may have any of the following thoughts as you begin to compare candidates:

    • Candidate A had incredible experience but wasn’t impressive in the interview
    • Candidate B had solid experience and performed well in the interview
    • Candidate C had less experience but wowed us in the interview
    • Candidate D was the least qualified and completely bombed the interview

    And NOW it’s time to take a look at that third leg!

    Assessments: Before we use assessments in the pre-hire process, we use them with existing employees so that we can get a better picture of the “profile” for success in given positions. We start by understanding what’s needed in terms of abilities, behavioral traits, and occupational interests. When we compare the assessments of potential hires with those of existing employees (sometimes top performers and sometimes bottom performers), we get a better idea about the job fit between the candidate and the open position. We’re looking for data to show us if candidates CAN do the job, HOW they will do the job, and if they WANT to do the job.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d save my money on Candidate D but assess the other three!

    If we see a strong correlation between the candidate’s assessment and the performance model for success, we can factor that in to any of the above scenarios as we make our decisions. The opposite is true as well.

    When we look at all three of these components, we can compare our candidates side by side as we attempt to determine who is the most likely to succeed as our next employee.  Sometimes we have a clear winner, sometimes we have to scratch them all and go back to the drawing board, and sometimes we see that a candidate may not be a fit for this particular position – but who would be a great asset to another department.

    Using our stool analogy, our goal is to hire those who will give that stool the most solid foundation and to avoid hiring those who would make the stool collapse!

    Still no small task, but… that’s why they pay you the big bucks…. right?!


    How can we help you make better hiring decisions? We’re happy to provide a complimentary assessment consultation if you’d like to learn more!