As I’m sure you all can relate, I was just thrown into hiring with no training, tips or help. It was just a part of my job as a leader and apparently we should all know how to do it, right? (Yes, you just felt my major eye roll).
So I had to figure it out and I’ll be honest, I made some big mistakes in the beginning. The first time I had to fire someone because I had made a bad hire was one of the worst days I’ve ever had. I woke up, well really I hadn’t slept, and felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat, I was cold sweating, major anxiety, and even though I knew it was the right thing all I could think about was how horrible it would feel to be fired and how this could financially devastate this person. I learned a lot that day, and worked as hard as I possibly could to avoid making bad hires so I never had to feel that way again or make anyone else feel that way again. I’ve now hired hundreds of people and have only had to fire a handful or two.
This is where assessments come in for me. When I started in my hiring journey I never included any kind of assessment for candidates. Mostly I didn’t know what I should assess them on and I also didn’t feel like I had the time to create an assessment. But again, when you have to sit across from someone and tell them today is their last day you start prioritizing time to make your hiring process better. Here are a few simple tips as you work in assessments to your hiring process:
Test the skills you won’t be training for
You want to test for your minimum qualifications, not your high level “nice to have” skills. For example, if your position requires managing multiples calendars in Outlook then create an assessment where someone would have to take a list of appointments and create those appointments in Outlook, including inviting others, including links to directions, and setting reminders that correlate with travel time. You don’t want to spend your time and money training someone who has never used Outlook, which is a common skill, when you need to focus your time and money on training them on more technical or proprietary information.
Timed, in-person assessments are key
Make sure that you add the assessment time to the interview appointment so your candidates know how long they need to commit to the interview process that day. Let them know when scheduling that they will have a 45 minute interview followed by a 30 minute assessment (or the other way around). If you let a candidate take their assessment home, you’ll never know how long it took them to complete AND you won’t know if they had someone else complete the assessment for them.
I suggest no more than a 30 minute assessment. You’ll need one of your staff members to manage the assessment process to ensure times are kept accurately and all candidates are treated fairly.
Keep it simple
Don’t complicate the process. Test the basic, required skills you need and leave it at that. For example, if I’m testing someone’s basic ability to take information and summarize it into a clear, concise email I’m not going to also ask them to create a PowerPoint of the main points.
Also, don’t use the assessment to get free work. I know some copywriters and marketers who have come into assessments and been asked to write a blog post or write create marketing material and then after they weren’t hired they see their design or blog used by the company. That’s just shady – don’t be that guy.
Lastly – don’t forget that you can utilize the free assessment tools from Indeed in the screening process! That makes it even easier for you.
Learn from my (almost) mistakes
If you still need more convincing, let me tell you about the one time that made me 100% certain that I would ALWAYS use assessments when hiring. I was hiring for a Program Manager and I needed someone who had some management experience, aligned with my leadership style, and could manipulate and analyze raw performance data in Excel (the rest could be trained).
We had made it to the second round of interviews and had it narrowed down to two candidates. The first was an in-house person with minimal experience, but someone who had shown great success in their current position. The second was a seasoned manager in the industry from another respected company in the area. I was heavily leaning towards the second choice due to her experience and alignment in leadership values – whereas our in-house hire was going to need much more hand-holding and development in being a leader.
The last piece of our hiring puzzle was to review their performance on their timed assessment. The assessment was taking an excel spreadsheet with hundred of rows of data and manipulating it to find percentages and trends in the data. For example, we asked to share what percentage of the rows represented males. It basically meant that this person had to open the Excel worksheet, know how to add data filters, use those filters, and then either do basic math to calculate a percentage or utilize the percentage function in Excel.
When I went to check the assessments I checked out in-house hire first. Absolutely perfect results. When I went to check the results from my favored candidate, she had written in the Excel document, “I’m sorry I cannot complete this assessment. I do not know how to figure this out in this amount of time as I have a data analyst who does this work for me in my current position.” I WAS SHOOK. I was SO close to hiring this person and she had represented in the interviews that she knew how to analyze basic raw data. I could not take on a manager that was that far behind in needing to be trained up in Excel and therefore my decision was made.
I HAD DODGED A HUGE BULLET. I was so thankful that I found this out before she had quit her current job, moved over to our company, started training and making relationships with our team, wasted months of time and thousands of dollars of training before I realized this was a bad hire. Learn from my mistakes!
So what now?
Share in the comments what ideas you have for assessments to make your hiring process even better. Or share a story of how you’ve dodged a bullet in the hiring process! And make sure to send this to a colleague who also does hiring in your company – trust me they’ll appreciate it. Come back next week to learn about avoiding discrimination in your hiring process.