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6 major assessment concerns and why you shouldn’t worry

Skills assessments have been in vogue for a long time – but cognitive and personality assessments are rapidly catching on. It’s been predicted that the global cognitive assessment market will grow by $13.6 billion from 2020 to 2024.

However, unlike skills assessments, which are focused squarely on analyzing a candidate’s skill set, the benefits of cognitive and personality assessments are less clear – including to the candidate. In fact, candidates have spoken out against the idea – with articles titled “No, I won’t take your pre-employment assessment. Here’s why“. and “I Hate Dumb Pre Assessment Tests When Applying For Jobs“, among others.

Before we go into detail on assessment concerns, let’s take a look at the types of assessments. There are five core assessments:

  1. abstract reasoning
  2. numerical analysis
  3. verbal communication
  4. attention & focus
  5. personality

Each of them have their distinct best practices for specific job roles – for instance, verbal communication skills are desired for those working in public-facing roles such as customer service or sales. Numerical analysis can be applied to those working in finance. And so on.

Now, let’s look at the concerns about these assessments.

Why you should use cognitive assessments

Let’s first look at cognitive assessment concerns, with reasons why you should include them anyway.

Concern #1: They reduce the candidate to a number

The concern: A standardized recruitment process – especially for larger organizations who have built a scalable hiring model – can make candidates feel like they’re on a conveyor belt. When you add assessments, candidates will feel like you’re just adding another statistic to them.

The reality: A standardized process is also more susceptible to bias – despite the sincere intent for the opposite. Likewise, AI screening of resumes can lead to a new problem, as seen in the example of Amazon. Even if you take AI out of the picture, humans can still be influenced by the reputation of the school the candidate went to, or their charisma in a face-to-face interview.

When you add assessments to the process, you can analyze cognitive abilities and potentials in an isolated environment without being influenced by these other factors.

Concern #2: There’s plenty to learn in other stages of the process

The concern: In between the resume, cover letter, interview, and even the reference check, you already have plenty of information to help you make a good decision on the candidate. Adding assessments just further complicates things.

The reality: Each of the stages in the evaluation are designed to understand specific parts of a candidate’s eligibility for a role. But gaps remain: for instance, it’s hard to discern how much of a candidate’s success actually comes from their own contribution or just from the environment they worked in. Plus, exaggerating one’s accomplishments in a resume isn’t entirely uncommon.

With assessments, you’re future-proofing your company against those potential bad or misleading hires by directly analyzing what they can actually bring to your company.

Concern #3: Assessments prolong an already lengthy process

The concern: Adding assessments just adds time to an already lengthy recruitment process – a common gripe among many candidates.

The reality: Yes, they’re right – if those other stages are clumsily managed with slow turnaround at the recruiter’s side due to an excess of work. But optimization tools, such as automated emailing, self-scheduling options, and one-way video interviews, can shorten those stages. This gives you the luxury to seamlessly add assessments to the mix – also in a semi-automated way – without prolonging the process. In effect, you’re getting more for less.

Now that we’ve covered three main concerns around cognitive assessments, let’s look at the more charged topic of personality assessments.

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Why you should use personality assessments

While cognitive assessments are already a widely accepted element of the recruitment process, the value of personality assessments isn’t as universally acknowledged. The controversy around Myers Brigg and DiSC profile testing is widespread, and there’s little consensus on their usefulness.

Concern #1: Personality assessments promote biased hiring

The concern: Testing for personality promotes biased hiring. For instance, if you find that someone’s not a so-called “team player” or a good “cultural fit”, you may opt not to move forward with them. It also unfairly favors extroverted “go-getters” and “problem solvers” over equally qualified introverts who prefer to focus on the work at hand.

The reality: Personality assessments should not be dealmakers or dealbreakers in a hiring decision. They only help provide stronger insights into a candidate that may not be found in other stages. Perhaps a candidate seemed quiet and unmotivated during an interview – a personality assessment may find them to be introverted yet still just as qualified as a louder, friendlier candidate who made a stronger impression in the interview stage.

Concern #2: Candidates will try for the “right” answer rather than being honest

The concern: When jobseekers take a personality test, they’re going to be naturally inclined to try and give the ‘right’ answers to further their candidacy for the role. They may not be wholly honest.

The reality: It’s not a test. It’s an assessment. You’re trying to get a deeper understanding of their personality and traits. The result can help you learn how they’re likely to behave in the role, how they like to be managed, the job environment in which they most thrive, and their preferred communication style, among other things that help you understand who the candidate is and what motivates them.

Concern #3: Personalities have nothing to do with the job

The concern: Many see personality assessments as irrelevant and even as an invasion of privacy. What do they really have to do with candidacy for a role?

The reality: As stated above, having a good understanding of how a candidate might act or behave in the workplace will help you build better teams and a work environment in which they can thrive. This can create a better all-around employee experience with more engaged and productive employees.

Assess your own team first

That being said, personality assessments have their limits. To use them to their fullest benefit, have the existing employees in your company take an assessment as well.

Not only can you identify opportunities to build stronger teams, more motivational environments, and better management structures, you can also set up mentorship programs specifically tailored to specific personalities that can bring the best out of a new hire.

This means a much stronger onboarding and a shorter time to maximum productivity.

It’s not a dealmaker or dealbreaker

Boston-based management consultant Laura Crandall seconds that. Personality assessments shouldn’t be the defining factor in making a decision – nor should they even influence a decision.

Laura adds: “The name is a bit misleading, as, at their core, these tests aim to identify how personality traits, be they assertiveness, optimism, extroversion or introversion, and the like, will manifest in workplace behavior.”

And she adds succinctly: “They’re just lenses.”

In the end, while they are great tools to overcome the “one size fits all” solution, cognitive and personality assessments need to be utilized properly for them to be effective. You also want to communicate their intent and benefits to the candidate as clearly as you can to maintain that all-important candidate experience.

Think of it as adding another tool to your HR toolkit that focuses on bringing the best people to your company, and bringing the best out of them while they’re there.

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