Improving hiring outcomes with pre-screening

March 23, 2016 Kelly

Hiring can be a costly and time-consuming process, and one that many organizations struggle with. But new technologies can help to streamline the screening process, improve outcomes, and ensure that experience leaves every candidate with a more positive view of the organization they applied to work for.

Hiring the right people takes time. A lot of time. A Robert Half survey found that it requires an average of five weeks to fill a staff-level position and 7.5 weeks to fill a management-level position. But it’s time well spent if it results in an effective hire: the 2013 Human Capital Management Trends Report by the Aberdeen Group showed that 57 percent of organizations consider talent acquisition to be the most important HR process supporting the business strategy.

While an effective hiring process can be time-intensive, pre-screening can help you save time by automating the initial evaluation process and significantly reducing the time spent on interviewing and assessing unqualified candidates. But it’s not just about time savings; pre-screening can improve hiring outcomes as well. That’s probably one of the reasons that pre-hire assessments are a fast-growing trend. According to Bersin by Deloitte research, pre-hire assessments are now a $1 billion market and a tool used on a regular basis by over 60 percent of large organizations.

In addition to reducing the time and effort required at the early stages of the hiring process, online pre-screening can help your organization improve three key elements of the hiring process:

Legal defensibility. By removing the effects of human bias and focusing on the cognitive skills required for the job, online pre-screening can help your organization filter candidates more fairly and defensibly. By comparison, filtering candidates by resume can be a minefield of bias-triggering information. At minimum, a resume contains the candidate’s name, where and when they went to college, and whether they’re currently employed—enough data to identify the gender, minority, age, and class background of the candidate. Studies have uncovered racial bias, gender bias, religion-based bias, and many others in resume-based hiring practices—all of which can create significant legal pain for your organization.

Hiring outcomes. Resumes have one of the weakest correlations with performance, and interviews fare poorly as well: one University of Michigan study found that interviews were no better than a coin-toss at identifying successful candidates. In meta-analyses, however, cognitive abilities are unambiguously correlated with job performance. By defining the cognitive requirements of the job and developing a pre-screening process to test candidates’ cognitive ability, your organization can significantly improve its ability to identify the candidates who are likely to perform satisfactorily.

Candidate experience. A well-conceived, cognitive-based pre-screening test can improve the application experience for the candidate and protect the organization’s brand. When cognitive pre-screening tests are clearly relevant to the job the candidate has applied for, it gives them an opportunity to see what the job entails and what’s expected of them. It also gives them instant feedback on their performance. Whether they are successful or unsuccessful in their application, they are more likely to walk away with a positive perception of the organization and a sense that the hiring process was fair and relevant. Treating applicants with respect is important: according to a CareerBuilder study, 58 percent of candidates are less likely to buy from a company they applied to if they didn’t get a response to their application. Conversely, 69 percent of candidates are more likely to buy from a company that treated them with respect throughout the application process. For any organization with a vested interest in maintaining positive public relations, the candidate experience is an important consideration.

Pre-screening best practices

Online pre-screening can improve your hiring process, but it isn’t a magic bullet. To have a positive effect on the quality of your hires, it needs to be validated, relevant, trustworthy, and accessible. Here are some best practices for creating an effective online pre-screening process:

Validate the testing criteria. The process should test cognitive functions that directly correlate to success the job. Ideally, the testing criteria will be based on a validation process that identifies the job competencies, tasks or cognitive abilities that are proven to distinguish high-performing employees. For example, organizations that have developed and validated competency-based job profiles can use each job’s behavioral indicators to guide the development of online pre-screening test questions.

Consider “face validity.” Online pre-screening tests with face validity mimic the real-world environment in which the job takes place. For example, a test for a hotel concierge job could involve choosing a package of events that slots into the times and days a guest has available in their schedule. While this ability could be evaluated just as effectively with a simple numeracy test, creating questions that reflects real-world job conditions makes the questions appear more valid to candidates completing the test. As a result, they are much more likely to perceive the test—and the hiring organization—as fair and trustworthy.

Prevent cheating. While personality tests have no right or wrong answers, cognitive tests do, and if they’re delivered in an online and unproctored environment, there is a risk that the test could be leaked. To guard against cheating:

  • Include a warning screen that lets candidates know that their results will be analyzed for evidence of cheating.
  • Include an honesty agreement that the candidate must digitally sign or check before taking the test.
  • Include a copyright warning to deter candidates who plan to redistribute the test contents.

Protect candidate privacy. While protecting your intellectual property is important, it’s equally important to protect the privacy of the people who are entrusting their information to you. Make sure your technology provider has clear data privacy and protection policies in place that govern issues such as who has access to candidates’ data, how long the data is stored, and how it’s protected. It’s also a good idea to let test participants know how their data will be used by your organization during the evaluation process.

Ensure accessibility. Your online pre-screening platform should include accessibility features that enable visually- or hearing-impaired candidates to participate fully in any testing required. You should also develop organizational policies to guide your response to requests for special accommodation, such as additional time to complete the test for people with motor impairments.

For organizations that face stiff competition for talent, the ability to rapidly and efficiently screen a wider pool of candidates can be invaluable. Online pre-screening has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to process candidates in the earliest hiring stage, ensure that every candidate is evaluated fairly, and identify those candidates with the cognitive skills to succeed on the job.

For more on pre-screening and assessment

For best practices on the post-screening interview process, read the blog post, “3 ways competency-based interviews improve hiring outcomes.

Enhance your screening and assessment expertise by attending “Shaping the Future of Assessment,” a conference held by HRSG partner QuestionMark. HRSG will be presenting best practices for Employment, Certification, and Compliance Testing: Creating defensible assessments for a diverse clientele

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