The most essential element of any effective hiring process is its ability to accurately predict how well candidates will perform in certain roles. As recruiters become increasingly focused on measurable outcomes, traditional hiring methods (such as unstructured interviews and resume reviews) are being called into question.

Companies are increasingly supplementing or replacing these methods with assessments, which are intended to mitigate bias and provide more rigorous evaluations of candidates. While assessments often serve these functions, there are many questions hiring managers should ask themselves before using them: are they focused on soft skills, hard skills, or personality traits? When should assessments be deployed? What characteristics is the company looking for?

Assessments are powerful hiring tools, but they aren’t an automatic solution to the problems recruiters face. They have to be carefully calibrated to pursue specific outcomes, and they need to be used in a way that won’t discriminate against or alienate candidates. With these guidelines in mind, recruiters can fully leverage assessments in their hiring processes.

How Assessments Can Enable Evidence-Based Hiring

Recruiters are increasingly outcome-oriented – they want to make sure that new hires will perform well on the job, contribute to a healthy organizational culture, and remain with the company over the long term. This has led some to question conventional hiring methods such as unstructured interviews, which have a poor record of predictive validity.

On the other hand, pre-employment assessments have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to accurately predict job performance. One reason for this finding is the generalizability of certain traits. A review of the relevant research by the American Psychological Association reports that general cognitive ability and conscientiousness, for instance, “appear to be relevant to performance in virtually every job studied.”

Pre-employment assessments are especially important at a time when companies are prioritizing diversity and inclusion. Traditional hiring methods are prone to bias, which is why some diverse candidates even mask their identities on resumes to land interviews. This is a status quo recruiters shouldn’t accept, and assessments can help them move beyond it.

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The Risks Posed by Assessments

Although assessments sometimes allow recruiters to objectively measure candidates on a level playing field, this isn’t always the case. The quality of assessments can vary dramatically depending on how they’re constructed. They can actively work against a company if they aren’t designed to track the right skills and traits.

For example, companies sometimes develop assessments that aren’t sufficiently relevant to the role in question or fail to account for important variables. These problems arise when the developers of assessments make unwarranted assumptions about which characteristics new hires should possess – characteristics that frequently turn out to be counterintuitive. When companies emphasize traits unrelated to job performance or responsibilities, this can be a source of discrimination and lead to poor hiring outcomes.

Companies should develop assessments with the same critical perspective they apply to every other stage of the hiring process. If recruiters rely on flawed assessments, they won’t just confront the costs of bad hires – they’ll also bear the opportunity cost of missing out on employees who would have been a great fit.

Maximizing the Value of Assessments

Not all assessments are created equally. While it makes sense for recruiters to take assessments seriously as a strategy to avoid the pitfalls of conventional hiring, they need to think carefully about why and how these assessments are being used. There are several guidelines recruiters can use to make these determinations, all of which will help them build a more predictive and fair hiring process:

  • Recruiters have to decide when an assessment will be deployed. In many cases, early assessments make sense, as they filter out candidates who aren’t a good fit before the company (or candidate, for that matter) has invested too much time in the process.
  • Need to systematically consider which skills and traits are necessary for each role – as well as the company’s broader culture and operations.
  • Can use this information to establish how those skills and traits will be measured – a process that will be consistently updated as they compare hiring decisions with outcomes.

The best way to take full advantage of assessments is by subjecting them to a constant process of review and reconfiguration. This will ensure that they’re always directly applicable to the company’s hiring goals and capable of producing the outcomes recruiters want.

By Taylor Moon

Taylor Moon is the Director of Content at She's a seasoned Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in various industries, predominantly in digital marketing and technology. As a hiring manager throughout her career, she's worked closely with recruiters and HR and acted as a sourcer and recruiter in various roles, bringing a unique perspective into topics.