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Six Steps to a Successful Pre-Hire Assessment Program

As someone who’s been in the pre-employment assessment industry for over 25 years, I’ve seen the good and the bad in terms of how organizations implement and roll out a pre-hire assessment program. Done wrongly, the pre-hire assessment process can cause division among managers, create unnecessary chaos and work, subject candidates to unfavorable experiences, and cost a lot of time and effort for little or no ROI.

But done correctly, pre-hire assessment can enhance both the candidates’ quality of experience and the quality of hiring decisions and, in so doing, improve retention and productivity. This of course ultimately improves customer satisfaction and positively impacts profitability.

As a way to help your organization successfully incorporate pre-employment assessment into your organization’s overall hiring process, here are six key steps to ensure a great rollout, acceptance, and ROI.

Step 1: Identify the key problem you feel pre-employment assessment will help solve.

Here are some of the key questions I like to ask a company that’s considering implementing pre-hiring assessment.

  • Are you wanting to use pre-hire assessment because your organization is having issues with unwanted turnover? If so, is the unwanted turnover across the board or is it centered on a particular department, job title, or manager?

  • Are you wanting to use pre-hire assessment because your organization is having problems achieving certain performance metrics (i.e. sales production etc.)?

  • Are you wanting to use pre-hire assessment to help you hire for culture fit? If so, have you done any analysis or surveys to identify your current culture?

  • Is your organization seeking to assess technical/hard skills, behavior/soft skills, or both?

  • Are you wanting to use pre-hire assessment to provide guidance and training to your interviewers and hiring managers and to improve the overall interviewing and hiring process?

The answers to these questions are key to identifying the assessment techniques that will best address your needs.

Step 2: Evaluate the cost of the problem and the potential ROI of a pre-hire assessment program

Depending on the information uncovered in Step 1, the next step is to evaluate the true cost of the problem you’re trying to address. Some key questions to ask are as follows:

  • What is the true cost of unwanted turnover (e.g. job board fees + interviewer time and related cost + new hire wages + onboarding + training)?

  • What is the real cost of falling short of identified performance metrics?

  • What is the real cost of inexperienced interviewers or a lack of objective tools to accurately assess talent? Are we missing out on top talent?

Step 3: Gain approval from leadership

I’m a firm believer that for any assessment program to be successful, the leadership of the company needs to fully embrace and champion it from the start. If leadership doesn’t back the use of the assessment, some managers will inevitably push back and not leverage the assessment resources effectively. A pre-hire assessment program should be imbedded in the culture of an organization and seen as a key resource to addressing the business problems identified in Step 1.

Step 4: Sample and Pilot an assessment before rolling out to the entire company

I believe the “proof is in the pudding,” so to speak, when it comes to pre-hire assessments. One way to determine the suitability and accuracy of an assessment and judge its ability to address the business problem you are trying to solve is to test it against existing employees. So have a selection of people within your organization complete some samples. This allows a sampling of employees to experience a proposed assessment firsthand, and helps in evaluating the accuracy of the results/output.

Also, in this process I believe it’s best to have a representative from the assessment vendor to walk you and your sample group through the results to make sure you understand what the assessment data is telling you and how it can potentially solve your business problem. I also strongly encourage piloting a potential assessment for a period of time, or on a smaller scale first to confirm it will meet your needs. Consider a 30, 60, or 90-day pilot in one department or job function.

Also consider a pilot study on the top, average, and weaker performers in a given role based on objective performance metrics (i.e. turnover, sales production, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction etc.). See if the assessment data is accurately showing the differences between the performance groups. This enables customization based on your actual employees and performance measurements and will provide great value in regard to acceptance and ROI. Implement in small steps to gain champions along the way and then ramp up the rollout from there.

Step 5: Attend vendor-provided certification training

A critical step for successfully implementing a pre-employment assessment program is to require training and certification for all hiring managers and users of the assessment information. This is even more important for behavioral assessments, since training here can also help with onboarding and managing new hires more effectively. This assessment certification training ensures your organization maximizes your ROI and makes the best possible use of the assessment tools.

Step 6: Evaluate and Measure

Finally, after all steps are completed, and you’ve implemented the assessment and rolled it out to all users, the final and ongoing step that will ensure success is to continue checking in on your users. Confirm they are getting the desired results and feel the assessment is a valued resource in their interviewing and hiring toolbox.

Also, measure and confirm the expected ROI. There are many success stories to be told about pre-hire assessments, and every success story has the hiring manager going through the steps outlined in this article to ensure success in their organization’s hiring process.


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