We’re a small organization. Why should we use pre-hire testing?


We’re a small organization. Why should we use pre-hire testing?
January 6, 2017, 7:00:00 PM EST   By Mike Russiello

We’re small.  Why should we use pre-hire testing?

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Over the past few years I’ve had a few conversations with small business managers about testing job candidates. Many of the conversations follow a similar pattern.

First, we cover the basics - I explain how the cost of a bad hire can be significant, or even devastating to a smaller company, while the benefits of bringing on a great employee can truly impact company success. Heads nod. Yep, we’re in sync. So far, so good.

Intrigued, most managers ask questions to confirm the tests really work. They want to be assured the test is 100 percent accurate.

This is where the trouble starts. I explain that assessments aren’t that accurate, but they do make a strong statistical difference when used systematically. I often use the weather as an analogy:  We all know the weather report isn’t 100% accurate, but we still pay attention to it whenever we’re planning a picnic - and we feel better off for it.  

Only partly convinced and possibly a little annoyed, the manager starts to think of his or her own situation, looking for a reason to dismiss testing. This is when the frustrations of small company hiring bubble up:

  • “I don’t have much time for hiring.”

  • “We need to find people who won’t quit after a week.”

  • “We can’t wait for the best candidate to come along. We have to accept what we can get.“

  • “Most of our candidates are referrals. We already know what we’re getting.”

These are all valid concerns, though they’re not good reasons to avoid pre-hire testing.

The factual approach

Now, I could point out that testing takes virtually no time on the part of the hiring manager, can estimate the likelihood of early turnover, and can give objective information about the potential performance of a candidate. I can also point out that the cost of testing is far less than the cost of a bad hire, even if the person only stays a single day! We could call this the factual approach.

The educational approach

Alternatively, I could pitch the useful information you get using modern whole-person assessments. How smart is he or she, really? How fast will they learn? How reliable will they be? Will they get along with others?  Will they add to or hurt espirit des corps? I can describe the coolness of simulation-based tests. I can point out that the U.S. Department of Labor recommends a balanced multi-faceted approach to selecting job candidates that includes assessments. You could call this the educational approach.   

The biggest reason for smaller organizations to test

The factual and educational approaches make some good points. But there’s a much more compelling argument in favor of testing in a small organization. It has only become evident to me after talking with hundreds of small organizations that utilize testing in their hiring processes.

No need for suspense. The reason is:

Just the mere act of using a test transforms hiring from a task into a process.

Now, I know that’s pretty simplistic. But the impact it can have on your organization, no matter how small, is huge.

A task is something you need to do so you can scratch it off your to-do list. Typically, you take the fastest, easiest approach available to accomplishing the item. The goal is to scratch it off the list. Get it done. Move on.

Conversely, a process is something that is mapped out ahead of time, with the intent to achieve one or more objectives, both in the short and the long term. The goal here is to improve the organization and its performance.

“Task-oriented hiring” finds a person who can start work. But “process-oriented hiring” brings aboard employees who can learn fast and who can make customers happy, and who will help your company be more successful.

Using pre-employment tests makes an impression on everyone involved. Hiring is no longer a task assigned to one person. It’s a process that involves several steps. It’s something that makes a difference in the success of the organization. It’s something we need to do right, not just quickly.

Why is process-oriented hiring so important?

The biggest effect of process-oriented hiring is that everyone sees it as a deliberate, pre-meditated set of steps designed to achieve one or more goals. It’s no longer about hiring someone who meets the minimum requirements and can start as soon as possible. It’s about achieving organizational success.

This change in perspective makes everyone involved behave differently.  For instance, as a hiring manager, if you instinctively like someone you are interviewing, you might put that urge aside for a short time and consider the candidate objectively, or do a careful comparison of him or her to the other candidates, rather than just make a job offer. If you have scheduled an interview, you might take the time to review the test results, and any other information that is available on the candidate to design your interview in such a way that you can efficiently probe into areas of weakness or concern, rather than holding a forgettable, meaningless cursory conversation about the candidate’s background.

Even candidates behave differently when they know they are involved with a process rather than an ad hoc event.  Their respect for the management is strengthened, and they know they are being treated fairly. For those who are hired they come aboard with a higher opinion of the organization and people in it. For strong candidates who are undecided, contrasting a your process-oriented approach to your competitor’s task-based approach can make the difference. Even candidates who are not selected exit the process trusting that they were treated objectively and they are more likely to purchase the company’s products or talk positively about the company to others.

So what’s the bottom line?

It’s simple. Small organizations benefit by using pre-hire testing because it transforms their hiring into a process rather than a task just by being present. Sure, the test results are useful too, and the candidate gains a better impression of how your company does things. These are nice side benefits. But the key takeaway is that using tests can change everyone’s perspective on hiring, with very tangible long-term benefits for the organization.

Still skeptical?

If you don’t believe me, I urge you to try it yourself. Many testing companies, HR Avatar included (https://www.hravatar.com), offer free trials in which you can administer several tests to see if it works. If you give it a go, I would urge you to evaluate the change it makes on the "way" you hire, not just the objective test results themselves (which are also usually pretty helpful, of course). Feel the magic! Then decide. No risk. No pain. Either way, no worries! Thanks for reading!

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