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Behavioral Assessments – Foe or Friend?

I think we are all looking for a little more understanding these days – wouldn’t you agree? Administering behavioral assessments might just provide the understanding we seek! Personality tests are used to assess behavioral traits in people. The purpose of these assessments is to predict how people will respond to certain situations, highlight strengths and weaknesses, and uncover what behaviors they have that will best suit certain roles. As an example, a customer engagement role could benefit from a person that has a high degree of empathy and understanding. The myriad of assessments available are plentiful, all offering different tools and styles to compliment your hiring process. Assessments can measure outcomes that will help you understand your new hires faster, provide best practices to motivate and engage them, and ultimately teach you how to best communicate with them. However, some companies use assessments as a make-or-break decision in their interviewing process as to whether a potential employee should be hired. This is not a recommended practice that we support. 

When companies use assessments as a make-or-break rule they are potentially unfairly excluding candidates in certain groups, particularly those with disabilities or cultural differences. Although these assessments help us look for possible “fit” for a company it is important that companies use hiring tools that measure for the essential functions of particular jobs and ensure that this can be done in a fair and equitable way.

Why do companies consider assessments a valuable complement to hire? We know that hard skills are easier to assess, such as holding a specific degree, or speaking a second language. Soft skills can be determined by conducting more of a behavioral interview and can be much harder to define. It can also be difficult to teach soft skills to new hires. By utilizing personality assessments in the recruitment process, hiring authorities hope to weed out candidates with less than desirable personality traits that might hinder someone from performing well in a specific role. As an example, it could be assumed that when hiring for a sales role, the ideal candidate is a chatty extrovert because the role requires confidence, cold calling, and consistent human connection. But this type of bias can be shortsighted as it could also be argued that a successful salesperson needs to be an incredible listener.

While many professionals swear by the effectiveness of assessments, there are persuading arguments and research on both sides. While personality tests can eliminate the unconscious bias of hiring managers, as mentioned they can inadvertently discriminate or pigeonhole individuals based on their personality traits.

When used as a complement to your hiring strategy, assessments can be a valuable asset to your hiring process, providing you with knowledge and insights about a candidate that might take you some time to otherwise discover. Look at assessments as just one part of your toolkit to help you build your recruiting process faster and better and provide additional understanding of your candidates. 

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