You probably know you should use assessments to help screen job applicants. However, with thousands of assessments available, how do you know which ones are right for you? What should they assess, and how many should you use? Should you use the same assessments for every job in your company, or should you use different assessments depending on the job?
Depending on your company and the nature of the work you do, some assessments might make sense to use for all (or at least most) positions, but usually different jobs demand different skills. If that’s the case, you need to figure out the best assessments for each position. This can be challenging but possible if you take these steps.
The First Step: Define Your Job Requirements
The best way to choose assessments is to do some homework and investigate what it takes to do the job you need to fill. Base your choices on solid information and not on your “gut feelings” about the job. The first step in designing an assessment program for a particular job is to determine the major knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs) candidates need to perform the job with excellence.
K: What do they know (for example, do they have knowledge of legal procedures)?
S: What skills do they have (for example, are they proficient in Excel)?
A: What are their aptitudes (for example, can they learn quickly)?
O: What other qualities do they need (for example, does the job require a friendly personality or a level of physical strength)?
The Second Step: Figure out What You Need with a Job Analysis
Conduct a detailed analysis of the job by studying and documenting the nature of the tasks performed, the KSAOs needed to perform those tasks, and setting in which the job is performed. You can gather job analysis information in many ways — there is no “best way” to do it.
1. Doing Your Own Job Analysis
The most precise way to gather KSAO information is to conduct your own job analysis on the specific job in question. Such a customized job analysis can be difficult and time-consuming. They involve interviewing or surveying existing employees and supervisors in the position in question to get a snapshot of the job and its KSAOs. Large companies usually conduct such studies when they have many positions for the same job within the company. They use their own in-house experts or hire consultants to do their job analyses.
2. Relying on Existing Job Analysis
Often small firms or large firms that have only a few people doing the same job will turn to existing job analysis databases to determine KSAOs for that job. The best example is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics O*NET website. This publically available website provides extensive job analysis information on nearly 1,000 jobs. You can go to the website, enter the job title, and find the major KSAOs related to that job. O*NET’s job analyses are based on samples of employees and jobs around the country, so they only give a snapshot of the typical KSAOs for each job.
Nevertheless, O*NET can be a good starting point. You can compare O*NET’s KSAOs to your current job to see which are applicable and which are not. Or, you can see if O*NET recommends requirements missing from your job description. For example, if O*NET says a person must have skill in using database software such as Access, you should check to be sure that your position lists the same requirement. Though it is a useful resource, keep in mind that using O*NET is not as precise as doing your own job analysis.
I have the KSAOs. What Happens Next?
Once you know the KSAOs for a job, you can determine the best way to assess them in applicants. Some KSAOs can be determined from applicants’ backgrounds. For example, if they are licensed CPAs, you might assume they have knowledge of accounting principles, based on their education and have passed the CPA exam.
However, if you want additional verification that their knowledge is current or if the job needs specific knowledge not necessarily covered in a university curriculum or included in the CPA exam, you would need to assess candidates in a different way, and that often means the use of skills assessments. For many KSAOs, it would be difficult to accurately determine a person’s skill level without some sort of an assessment or test. For important KSAOs that a person must possess at the time of hiring, an assessment is a smart investment.
As with job analyses, some companies create their own customized assessments in-house. Other companies they will work with assessment providers, who offer a wide range of already-developed assessments that can be customized particular KSAOs. In either case, be sure to do your homework and let your job’s KSAOs inform the assessments and any other selection devices you use.
What KSAOs do you assess in your job applicants? Let us know in the comments below.
Eric J. Friedman
Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills assessment for pre-employment selection and training. Since 2003, eSkill has tested millions of job candidates for employers worldwide such as Zappos, ADP, Coca-Cola, Randstad, and GE. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their roles.
Paul E. Spector
Paul E. Spector is a distinguished professor of industrial-organizational (IO) psychology and business at the University of South Florida. He has taught and written about HR topics for more than 40 years and has a leading textbook on IO psychology, now in its 7th edition. He has more than 200 publications mainly concerning the people side of organizations. His main focus has been on employee misbehavior, the mistreatment of employees, and occupational stress.