Assessing the odds

is under pressure to recruit more wisely, and an increasing number of
organisations are now using assessment tools to make better informed decisions.
Nic Paton reports

marketing firm Chemistry Communications Group has been tightening up its
recruitment practices of late. According to HR manager Denise de Rozario, the
company – which employs about 90 people in two offices in the capital and one
in Southampton – has hired around 15 people since February, and now uses
psychometric testing as the norm.

line managers have found it incredibly useful because it gives them an insight
into how they might shape their qualities," she says. "We are doing
many more psychometric profiles than we were three years ago."

are not the only ones. In a survey of more than 250 HR professionals and 8,000
jobseekers by recruitment firm Reed, more than half (55 per cent) of those
polled said they were using assessment tools more when recruiting now than they
were three years ago.   

and presentations

and psychometric tests were embraced by more than half the survey’s sample,
with competency-based interviews also in the top three of favourite assessment

De Rozario’s case, potential candidates have a first interview with her, then
fill in a personality profile, which is followed by a second interview.
"It is so hard to recruit, and there are so many variables," she
says. "Testing helps us tell whether someone is going to fit into the
organisation. Candidates like it too; they say it seems much more professional."

it seems the days of relying on gut instinct when appointing candidates are
disappearing. That type of subjective decision-making can still have its place,
but testing and assessment brings an extra dimension and sophistication to the

Reed survey also shows some interesting differences when it comes to sectors.
The public sector, for instance, makes much more use of presentations, group
exercises and work simulation tests, although overall, the top three remain the

manufacturing sector, by contrast, is less keen on work simulation tests, while
the service sectors are less interested in working through a series of tasks in
an allotted time, otherwise known as ‘in-tray’ exercises.

jobseekers, 76 per cent of those polled agreed that employers were using
assessments more now than in the past.

than one in 10 had experienced in-tray exercises. But all the other categories
of assessment – competency-based interviews, personality questionnaires,
psychometric tests, presentations, work-simulation tests and group exercises –
had been experienced by more than one in three jobseekers.

tests cited included role play, verbal comprehension, IQ and intelligence
tests, maths and logic tests and graphology and handwriting analysis.

most popular tests among jobseekers were competency-based interviews (37 per
cent), followed by work simulation tests (23 per cent), and personality
questionnaires (12 per cent).

contrast, psychometric tests were believed to be the worst at identifying the
right person by more than one in five jobseekers (22 per cent), followed by
personality questionnaires (18 per cent).

third said that undertaking assessments made them feel better about the
organisation they were applying to, whether or not they got the job. This was
double the number who said assessments made them feel worse.

ascent of assessments

why the need for change? The Reed survey points to the tougher jobs market,
meaning firms have more candidates to choose from for fewer jobs, and so the
need for more tools to select the best and weed out the worst. But there may be
other factors at work too, suggests Stephanie Peckham, lead consultant at HR
consultancy DBM.

departments are under a lot more pressure to make the correct decision on
recruitment, because it is so expensive and reflects on the company. There is
huge pressure to get it right," she explains.

companies increasingly want to use tests in the recruitment process, it is
going to become necessary for HR to take a bigger role in educating people
about what assessment can bring to the table and, crucially, what its
limitations are.

important thing is for HR to know what it is measuring in the first
place," Peckham adds. "Job analyses need to look at what sort of
traits they are looking for."

argues Laura Frith, chartered psychologist and head of Reed Consulting,
managers now have a greater appreciation of what assessment tools are available
to them.

the moment, many organisations are going through restructuring programmes
that  involve changes in organisational
culture. At such times, the ability of assessment tools to assess intangibles
such as attitude and cultural fit becomes more important than ever," she

can also be the brand benefit that can come from carrying out well thought out,
rigorous and effective assessments. "A good assessment programme actually
makes people feel better about the organisation they have applied for, even if
they do not get the job," says Frith. "In today’s competitive times,
where employer brand and consumer brand are frequently indivisible, building a
good impression with the thousands of candidates who are turned away can be a
vital benefit to the organisation."

De Rozario warns, it is important HR remembers that testing, for all its
merits, remains just one element of the recruitment process.

want something that is just going to be part of the process – it is important
that you don’t just zone in on these things," she says.

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