Employee skills assessments are great indicators for a candidates likelihood to succeed in role. However, they are hard to do the right way, and they can’t always tell you the whole story. From devaluing soft skills to not communicating clearly enough, recruiters, HR leaders and executives give their insights into the common mistakes made in employee skills assessments.

Not Valuing Soft Skills in Employees

Not recognizing the value of soft skills is one mistake to avoid when conducting employee skills assessments. Soft skills — such as communication, problem-solving and collaboration — are critical for workplace success and should be measured alongside hard skills required for job roles.

This can be avoided by encouraging employees to speak up during their assessments and posing questions that focus on their ability to perform less skills-based tasks within their role. An uncommon approach could include assigning a project or task in advance of the assessment, giving candidates an opportunity to demonstrate both technical and interpersonal skill-sets in a more natural setting than a traditional interview or assessment.

Michael Alexis
CEO, swag.org

Confusing Skills With Other Characteristics

You may be measuring skills in the hiring process and using this information to match candidates to jobs. Keep in mind, many skills can be trained. Other aspects of fit can be predictive of job success and long-term retention and can be very fair to diverse candidates.

Hiring teams have access to science-based candidate insights to help identify and hire the right talent. Virtual assessments with job simulations, like Modern Hire’s Virtual Job Tryouts, provide a realistic preview of a typical day on the job while measuring a host of job-related characteristics that are critical for success.

VJTs can even predict the success of a candidate in the open position and recommend them for the job; they can also predict the likelihood of the candidate not working out. By embracing science-based assessments, HR leaders can focus on hiring qualified candidates that are likely to have a positive impact on the organization, while increasing retention and reducing turnover in the new year ahead.

Eric Sydell
EVP of Innovation, Modern Hire

Basing the Assessments Solely on Job Performance 

While job performance is an important aspect of an employee’s skills and abilities, it is not the only one. Other factors, such as communication skills, problem-solving abilities and teamwork, can also be important indicators of an employee’s skills and potential.

To avoid this mistake, it’s important to use a variety of assessment methods, such as interviews, observation, and testing, to gain a comprehensive understanding of an employee’s skills and abilities.

Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the assessment is job-related and measures the skills and abilities that are necessary for successful job performance. Involving multiple people in the assessment process, such as managers, supervisors and peers can help with this problem. This will provide a more well-rounded view of an employee’s skills and help to mitigate any bias that may be present.

Paw Vej
Chief Operating Officer, Financer.com

Not Sticking With an 80/20 Formula

An over-reliance on skills assessments can lead to concerns when you hire new employees. A skills assessment doesn’t take into account work ethic, workplace experience or other pertinent information that hiring managers must take into account before hiring someone.

If someone scores well on the skills assessment, that should be part of the calculus of whether that candidate is worthy of being selected, but it should only be a small part of it. I think 20% is acceptable. Some might think 25% or 30% is more appropriate, but ultimately a candidate should be hired based on their performance at previous employment stops. Aptitude matters, but it isn’t the only thing that matters.

Brittany Dolin
Co-Founder, Pocketbook Agency

Turning It into an Employer Skills Assessment

Questions matter. Skill assessments have their obvious origins in employee and/or candidate evaluation. When labor markets are tight, as they have been for some time, prospective and current employees scrutinize the employer as much or more than they are being scrutinized at every turn in the candidate/employee lifecycle.

Skill assessments can reflect positively on a company, have a negligible impact or make a company look really bad. While I’m sure other responders will dive into the specific reasons this can happen (gender bias, lack of accessibility, etc.), my overall point is to remove any possibility that the tables can be turned on the employer.

Jeremy Ames
Senior Manager, Accenture

Basing Solely on Job Title or Tenure

Avoid basing the assessment solely on an individual’s job title or tenure. This can lead to inaccurate or incomplete assessments, as an employee’s job title or tenure does not necessarily reflect their current level of skill or proficiency.

It’s important to use a variety of assessment methods that provide a comprehensive view of an employee’s skills. These methods might include:

  • Job performance evaluations
  • Skill-specific tests or assessments
  • Self-assessments
  • Peer evaluations
  • 360-degree evaluations
  • On-the-job assessments
  • Training and development opportunities

It’s also important to provide employees with clear criteria and performance standards, so they know what they need to do to demonstrate their skills and abilities. And be sure to communicate with the employee in advance on the areas and skills that will be focused on in the assessment. This will enable them to prepare adequately and be ready to demonstrate their skills.

Johannes Larsson
Founder & CEO, JohannesLarsson.com

Not Involving Employees in the Process

One mistake to avoid when conducting employee skills assessments is to assess employees on items outside of their job descriptions. We can avoid this by ensuring that the skills assessments are specific to the tasks and responsibilities associated with our employees’ jobs.

It is important to provide the team with clear instructions and guidelines on how they should complete the assessment, so they have a better understanding of what is expected of them. Involve your employees in the assessment process and ensure that their feedback is taken into account.

Christa Reed
Head of Job Market Research, JobSearcher

Not Giving Employees the Chance to Upset Your Biases

Let’s face it. We are humans, and every human is fundamentally a box of biases. These biases are not all inherently evil, as they are generalized predictions from the repetitiveness of previous experiences.

When you have two or three employees with a significantly shared trait repeat the same outcome, a manager would be naturally prone to associating such outcome (or skill or deficiency) with that trait and expecting another entirely different employee with that trait to repeat the same outcome. This is a bias.

But when conducting employee skills evaluations, strive to give employees an even playing field to upset these biases. Don’t be too quick to tap into the predictions of your existing biases. “Oh, he has X trait, he should automatically excel (or struggle) at Y skill”..don’t be too quick to assume. Strive to treat each employee as a new entity and give them a blank slate to prove their capacity and surprise you.

Lotus Felix
CEO, Lotus Brains Studio