One Misconception in Talent Assessment

Marlon Mai November 15, 2013 3 mins read

Nowadays most headhunting companies choose to use recruiting software to assess candidates’ abilities. As a tool which combines psychological testing with computer technology, recruiting software helps to complete candidate assessment through human-computer interaction.

Using computerized instead of manual data processing reduces processing errors and increases working efficiency, both of which help to meet the needs of assessing a large group of people. With the development of modern technology, compared with traditional paper testing, recruiting software has its unique advantages. These are: it provides an overall assessment of candidates so that each component of human resources management can easily use the assessment data; it enjoys higher reliability and validity; it provides a more scientific and objective process of assessment; and it simplifies the process of assessment and result analysis, and is more suitable for extensive use.

There are a large number of recruiting software available on the market, and for many people, such computer software is the most scientific and advanced tool for evaluating talents. The authority of recruiting software, however, may be just the opposite. More often than not, recruiting software uses questions as a measure of assessment and it scores candidates’ answers which are shown as assessment results. Such an evaluation mode has the following disadvantages:

Firstly, the questions and criteria designed for one kind of recruitment software might not suit the assessment needs of different professions. In other words, certain recruitment software cannot be applicable to every field of work and should not be used mechanically. Different professions call for staff of different qualities and capabilities. An accountant should be careful and serious at work; a manager should have outstanding leadership and communication skills; and an artist should in particular have the spirit of innovation. Many domestic headhunting companies, however, although specialized in quite different domains, often use similar or even the same questions for assessing candidates. But those non-customized questions can hardly meet the assessment needs of different professions.

Secondly, in some circumstances, there is a mismatch between the software and its users. This means that although scientific recruiting software has been applied to the assessment process, employers use the software unprofessionally. As a result, even if a candidate’s ability has been assessed correctly, employers’ insufficient analysis of data and of assessment measures can result in an incorrect assessment.

Thirdly, it is difficult to manage the re-using rate of questions, and one big problem of assessment questions is its rather poor reusability. Most questions lose their value after first use. This is because when candidates come across questions that are similar to the ones that they have done before, candidates can give correct answers based on their former exam experience rather than working it out using certain abilities, although most employers hope to check candidates’ capabilities through those questions. In actual practice, it appears to be quite difficult to design new questions at all times, which also negatively influences the correctness of assessments. Take shape reasoning questions in IQ tests as one example. If a test taker has done some exercises about shape reasoning before participating in a similar test, compared with being examined without preparation, the effectiveness of evaluating the candidate’s ability will be considerably reduced (it seems quite difficult for us to believe that we can know the actual intellectual conditions of candidates if they have become familiar with assessment questions before exams). These conclusions are drawn from my personal experience.

In assessment practice, we should focus primarily on the relations between aims and measures of assessment and should avoid the tendency of using new but possibly unsuitable software non-selectively, or using software whose effectiveness has not been validated. Instead of using ready-made recruiting software, we should customize the assessment process with help from a professional and capable headhunting company to guarantee a certain accuracy rate of candidate assessment. Most domestic headhunting companies try to establish an internal assessment center of their own, aiming at providing professional talent assessment services with some assistance from recruiting software.

Marlon Mai's picture
Managing Director | Finance & Accounting, IT, Sales & Marketing Recruitment
mmai@morganmckinley.com