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What do Beachcombers, Air Traffic Controllers, and Hiring Managers have In Common?
March 31, 2015 8:00:00 PM EDT   By Mike Russiello

Answer: They all use tools to help them find what they're looking for.

  • Beachcombers use metal detectors to find lost coins and jewelry
  • Air Traffic Controllers use radar systems to find airplanes
  • Hiring managers use assessments to find qualified candidates

Most great tools get used

Beachcomber image

Tools that prove effective at a task are adopted fast. It's a safe bet 99 percent of all serious beachcombers use a metal detector. And have you ever seen a photo of an air traffic controller without a radar screen in front of him or her? Of course not. But what about pre-employment assessments?

In 2014 the Wall Street Journal quoted analyst Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte's estimate that 60 percent of all US job applicants were asked to complete some kind of pre-employment assessment. If you consider the number of applicants per job and the typical number of jobs the average candidate applies for before landing a position, the actual number of hires made using testing is probably under 50 percent - substantially less than Beachcombers and air traffic controllers.

Air traffic controllers use radar systems to find planes

Beachcombers look for coins. Air Traffic Controllers look for planes. But what hiring managers are looking for depends on the job. Simply looking for "Good People" is too broad and won't work.

Determining what to look for in a job candidate isn't easy. Typically, you must define what good job performance looks like, identify measurable characteristics that separate good from poor performers, and design a hiring process that actually evaluates them . Identifying these differentiating characteristics can be a challenge, and many organizations hire professional industrial psychologists to assist them.

Photo of a job interview

Given the effort involved with determining the most relevant and discriminating characteristics to measure within an assessment, it's no wonder adoption of pre-employment assessment has been slow. How many busy managers will go through the process I've outlined above? Certainly less than 50 percent.

Still, pre-employment assessment usage grows every year.

Will new assessment tools fuel increased usage?

Yes! The future is click and go tests, or "solutions" that are pre-configured for specific jobs. Years of government-funded research have produced databases, like the US Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (ONET), that outline the most relevant characteristics for most jobs. Additionally, academic research has produced significant findings regarding which characteristics are the most differentiating between high and low job performers for various types of jobs. By leveraging this research, as well as information technology, companies are able to offer pre-configured tests for many different jobs. HR Avatar, our company, offers 200 such tests, for example.

With these types of tests in place, managers don't need to spend time thinking about what to look for. Instead, they administer the test and obtain objective data that helps them make a better hiring decision. Voila!

What's next?

With the advent of these new "turn-key, job-specific" assessments for specific jobs, what can we expect?

The answer is simple. We can expect assessments to become as useful to a hiring manager as a metal detector is to a beachcomber or a radar system is to an air traffic controller. It's just a matter of time!

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