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Companies are at the crossroads of "flourish" and "flounder" when it comes to filling open jobs—because much to the dismay of many managers, hiring isn't cut and dry. In fact, it may be the defining difference between business success and failure.

As the complexity of work grows and talent shortages increase, talent management vulnerabilities are being laid wide open. Companies' competitors, desperate to find the right people to keep their strategic and growth plans on track, are ready to pounce on any opportunity to poach talent. It's equivalent to an exposed weakness in a company's firewall, right when a hacker wants to launch an attack.

No Time for Cookie-Cutter Hiring Strategies

Hiring managers have typically taken a cookie-cutter approach to finding top talent, relying on resumes, references and a standard set of interview questions. But companies are increasingly realizing that the traditional hiring process is inadequate when it comes to identifying a great candidate from a rotten one, due to personal bias and lack of consistency.

One solution "best-in-class" companies (the top 20 percent of profitable and productive companies) are employing is the "success profile", a benchmark of essential skills, characteristics, competencies and qualities of top-performing current employees. It's the first step to making recruitment and hiring easier and more effective.

But a success profile doesn't simply make things easier on the HR team, it also helps ensure that a new employee begins contributing to the company's bottom line as soon as possible. It's an investment with significant demonstrated ROI—according to a recent report by Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies are 2.1 times more likely to have a success profile than all other companies.

Measuring Performance Against Predictions

A success profile is only the first step. The report found that companies that correlate the performance defined by the success profile with pre-hire assessments are 24 percent more likely to hire workers who exceed expectations.

While pre-hire assessments may not predict every facet of an employee's tenure with a company, they certainly offer a vast improvement over the vulnerable and error-prone traditional hiring process, which remains highly dependent on the interview, resume and references. All three of these tools are subject to personal bias, inaccuracy, and exaggeration, none of which would be tolerated in other functions of business, such as operations and finance.

The benefits of using pre-employment testing don't stop at improved performance either. Aberdeen found that businesses using pre-hire assessments experience 39 percent lower turnover, and are 17 percent more likely to have employees who rate themselves as highly engaged.

In addition, the assessments can be used post-hire to identify the capabilities and motivations of high potential employees, and accelerate their maturation and development.

Choosing the Right Performance Assessment

Like the hiring process in general, selecting the right pre-assessment test is not cut-and-dry either. There is a gigantic and sometimes confusing world of assessments out there.

Often the best choice comes down to timing—where in the talent lifecycle are you facing the biggest challenges? Different pre-assessment tests can be useful at different stages of talent acquisition, such as screening, the interview or guiding the manager in his final decision.

The Aberdeen Group report revealed several ways best-in-class companies use assessments:

  • The most valuable pre-hire assessment type is "cultural fit", with 53 percent of companies using it to guide or conduct the interview and another 13 percent in the final hiring decision.
  • "Skills and knowledge" testing is most helpful in the beginning of the process; 72 percent of the best companies use this type of testing to screen candidates and select the best for an interview.
  • The popularity of "personality" assessments are close behind with nearly one-third of the best companies using them.
  • "Cognitive ability" testing is used in almost every aspect of the hiring process, highlighting the importance of good critical thinking skills in many of today's jobs.

As detailed above, pre-assessment tests provide insight into an applicant's disposition, preferred working style, ideal workplace conditions and how they might interact with colleagues and customers.

While hiring the right employee will likely never be a walk in the park, success profiles and pre-hire assessments allow hiring managers to screen out high-risk candidates and identify the most qualified ones more efficiently and effectively.

Photo: Shutterstock