There is a balance between speed and quality that we deal with on a daily basis but do not often think about. We have more open jobs than we can possibly fill and so there is a high demand for a constant flow of candidates.
On the other hand, most of the jobs we recruit for are specialized and require skills that most people simply do not have. While we do want to fill our high volume of jobs we also know we can’t just send anyone. Every day we are balancing quality and speed.
Most recruiters have a philosophy that they stick by. Some recruiters have the philosophy that they would rather have 2 great candidates over 5 good ones. Other recruiters tend not to worry about anyone job and they source, talk to and submit everyone they encounter that they feel might have a chance at the job. Who is right and who is wrong?
The answer is both, neither and it depends. We have stumbled upon a concept well known to all project managers. It is known as the project management triangle. Good is one side, fast another and cheap is the final. The idea is you can have two but not three. In my experience the view of the recruiter tends to reflect the environment they started recruiting in. There is one thing we can use to try to balance good and fast. That focal point can be assessments.
In process terms, assessments are a quality control element. Anyone who passes an assessment has passed a universally agreed to quality control measure. In recruiting, assessments are typically used to validate the hard skills that the recruiter simply lacks the knowledge to validate.
Here is the conundrum that you face as a recruiter:
The earlier in the process you place an assessment the less time you spend downstream with candidates who do not pass quality control. However, most skilled candidates are not willing to take the time to do an assessment unless and until they are confident they have a reasonable chance of landing the job. Typically that means they have at least spoken with a recruiter and possibly even a hiring manager.
So what is the answer? I think it depends on the type of recruiting you do.
If you have volume and you spend a lot of time saying no to people the assessment begins towards the beginning of the interview process. In this case, putting the assessment upfront ends up saving a lot of time with candidates who are not qualified.
If you recruit skilled and niche professionals I would advise moving assessments back in the recruitment process. This strikes a balance between good and fast that I believe is optimal. In a niche low volume, high value recruiting process quality checks are used primarily for validation as opposed to elimination. This tends to be why high volume processes benefit more from automation. Automation is great at sorting the candidates that do not fit a profile but it is not as effective on smaller data sets. That is due to the nature of automation as it requires large data sets to be able to accurately do its work.
Finally, prep your candidate for the process and the assessment. This is something I feel we have gotten away from as an industry. Assessments are meant to be a quality control element not a test of candidates on the spot reaction. Prep them for the types of questions they are going to be asked and how much time they will have to spend in order to complete the task. Also, make sure to tell them what they get if they pass the assessment. Is it an in-person interview?
There has to be a reward for the effort the candidate has put in. If they don’t pass the assessment tell them you will inform them. The worst candidate experience you can provide is to make a candidate take an assessment, have them fail it and never hear from you again.
If you think of assessments as a form of quality control the proper place to put them will become evident. If you don’t get it right the first time that is okay. Try something different, ask a different question because the truth is, we will forever be struggling with better, faster, cheaper.