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Use Personnel Assessments Wisely in the Interview Process

Use Personnel Assessments Wisely in the Interview Process

By: Eric Herrenkohl

Used wisely, on-line personnel assessments can add a lot of value to the interview process. They can help you to clarify an A-Player Profile for your role, identify skills that are key for top performance, reveal weaknesses that you would have missed in some job candidates, and focus on people who have the talents to be big producers in a particularly role. Here are some specifics to consider:

Assess the job before you assess people. In my upcoming book, How to Hire A-Players, I talk about a company that hired and fired three sales managers for a sales management position. Then I worked with them to create an A-Player Profile for the job. Before we started assessing job candidates, we assessed the job itself – and found that this company had been “intentionally” hiring the wrong people by committing some common interview mistakes.

The CEO thought he needed a “hunter” who could prospect for new business. In fact, the job primarily required someone who could sell and manage multiple projects after the sale. Strong prospecting skills were less important for this role. After we defined this profile, we captured it in an assessment instrument that showed the specific talents and skills needed to perform well in the role.  With that in place, we could assess every job candidate and see how they measure up to this job.

Obviously, different jobs require different skills. If you’re hiring a new CEO, you need someone with very strong analytical and leadership skills. If you’re hiring salespeople, you need assertive people who know how to prospect for and close business. For a customer service role, you want fantastic “people people” who can quickly build trust and rapport, stay focused on customers, and follow through to resolve their problems. In most every job, you want people with strong motivation, drive, and work ethic. Using the right assessment tools, you can pinpoint the specific skills that are key to high performance in a role and measure them.

Focus on skills that relate to performance. One reason to “assess the job” before you start assessing people is that you only want to measure skills that relate to job performance. Used correctly, personnel assessments help you to be more objective about the people you interview. If you’re hiring people to work in your warehouse, they don’t have to be great conversationalists – but they do have to be responsible and have a great work ethic. 

Too often interviewers overlook good people because of a superficial resume review or a negative first impression. Instead, figure out the skills that predict top performance, measure them with assessment tools and focus on them in the interview, and then make more objective hiring decisions. 

Use assessment tools to sharpen the focus of your interviews. Some of my clients insist on assessing job candidates before they ever interview them. Others interview people between first and second interviews. Either way, use personnel assessment results to sharpen your focus during face-to-face interviews, particularly if you're the only one doing the interview

Let’s say your sales position requires a real “hunter” who can find and close new business without much assistance. When you assess a finalist for the position, the assessment reveals a profile better suited for post-sale account management.  Immediately you know to dig into the person’s past accomplishments in generating new business. Often you find that such a person, despite their strong interviewing skills, cannot tell you in detail about their accomplishments in business development. This is a perfect example of how assessments add value to the entire interview process by helping you to focus on the right questions to ask.

In addition, there will be candidates who don’t immediately impress you face-to-face but whose assessment results are very strong. In this situation, the assessment helps you to keep your gut reaction in check. Instead of assuming that the person can’t do the job and finding reasons to support your emotional reaction, the assessments help you to keep an open mind. When you work to stay objective with your interviews and hire people based on the link between their past accomplishments and your A-Player Profile, your hiring results improve. 

Assessments improve but don’t replace strong interviews. Keep in mind that even well-designed personnel assessments don’t take the place of interviewing. Instead, they make the entire interview process more valuable and effective. A great hiring process collects a range of different insights about candidates, compares that data to the requirements of the job, weeds out weaker players and focuses on hiring the best people.

Assessments are an important – but never the only – part of that formula.  If you’re looking for a “rule of thumb,” assessments should never be more than 1/3rd of the hiring decision. What people have accomplished in their past – as revealed by resumes, interviews, and reference checks – always form the majority of the hiring decision.Use a tool that is designed for pre-employment screening.

Finally, keep in mind that while there are many tools out there that are appropriate for use in training or coaching, when it comes to hiring you have to use tools that are specifically designed for pre-employment screening. Look for tools that allow you to assess the requirements of the job first, before you start assessing people. Your assessment provider should be able to provide you with data that demonstrates the tools you are using are “commercial grade.” There are a lot of tools out there. Make sure that you use one which is well designed and vetted.

Author Bio
Eric Herrenkohl
is the author of the upcoming book How to Hire A-Players (John Wiley & Sons, April 2010) and is President of Herrenkohl Consulting. Herrenkohl Consulting helps executives create the organizations they need to build the businesses they want. To receive Eric's free monthly e-letter Performance Principles, go to www.herrenkohlconsulting.com.