Getting the Assessment Timing Right

Are you requiring candidates to “pass” an assessment? In a pass or fail environment, figuring out the best time to insert an assessment into the recruiting process is paramount.

Issue the test too soon, and you may severely limit the talent pool. On the other hand, if you request the assessment late in the process and the applicant “fails,” you’ve potentially wasted Grand Canyon amounts of time.

The recruiting and interview time wasted for “fails” is the main dilemma.

Inefficiency tempts many ambitious software companies to test candidates from the first hello. The reason is obvious: wasting time goes against our better judgement. Why invest time in a candidate you can’t even hire? If you’re like most companies, this means assessing as soon as possible feels like the most effective solution.

What’s the best way to solve this problem while maximizing recruiting results and simultaneously keeping the candidate experience positive?

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HOT Software Companies Assess Early

If you are a large, well known organization with an excellent reputation, generous compensation plan, and salespeople are clamoring, let’s say even stalking hiring managers, to work for your company then go ahead and assess candidates right out of the gate.

The process looks like this: apply, asses, and proceed to interview only if the candidate passes the assessment.

In this situation, assessing candidates at the very beginning of the interview process won’t hurt much of anything. Most candidates will rightfully assume they were selected from the masses of applicants to take the assessment.

If they don’t pass, chances are they won’t feel upset or negative about the company. This is because they perceive the reason for not passing as external to themselves. Their non-selection is attributed to a truly hyper competitive situation, rather than a personal or company failure.

They are also more likely to see assessments positively when the company has career changing opportunities to offer employees.

After all, there are always more applicants than jobs for large organizations with respected brands and growth opportunities. Because of the intense competition and high value of the company’s brand, candidates are more likely to see the test as an acceptable part of the recruiting process.  

But, the perceived value of working for a HOT company, and what in-demand companies can do without facing rebuke, is very different than what the rest of us face.

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For the Rest of Us, There’s a Better Way

Now let’s imagine you’re like 95% of all software companies and you aren’t in the Rocket ship HOT category. Let’s also say that every strong candidate for your sales roles ultimately needs to be recruited from the passive talent pool because your hiring profile is prohibitively specific.

In this common situation, assessing candidates from the start, will leave even lackluster sales talent unimpressed.

Here’s a proposed interview schedule:

Call One: Phone interview the candidate –done by internal/external recruiter for 30-45 minutes.

Call Two: Candidate speaks with the hiring manager for 30 minutes. Discussions are centered around giving rather than getting information. Share insights about the company, the opportunity, and overall sales culture. Allocate enough time for candidates to ask questions. Mention the next step in the process is an assessment, to be followed by a more in-depth call to review specific sales achievements.  

Call Three: Recruiter calls the candidate and discusses assessment details and next steps in the process. Encourages all candidates to do their best and wish them good luck on the assessment.

Assessment given, results seen, next steps determined.

And the results?

This interview schedule isn’t the most expedient, but it prevents talented candidates from dropping out of the interview process too early. It saves the company from negative Glassdoor reviews and promotes a positive first impression.   

It requires companies to invest time in candidates who ultimately won’t pass, with the largest time investment in this particular sequence falling on the recruiter.

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Do Speedy Alternatives Work?

Some companies are tempted to emulate HOT companies and assess immediately. Of course, this saves time because it’s highly efficient. And corporate professionals are hardwired to love saving time and maximizing operational efficiencies.  

However, efficiencies don’t always yield the most effective results. Many top salespeople may not be willing to be assessed right out of the gate. Assessing too soon can send the wrong message to candidates. It can feel cold and impersonal. It can feel insulting and premature.

Alex MacDuff, a former job seeker writes—

“Now you want me to jump through some more hoops before I’ve even had a phone screen? Wowee, what an opportunity!

Congratulations! We’ve reviewed your resume and work history but despite these things, we’re going to assume that you’re a moron. We’re going to need you to go ahead and fill out this intelligence test now. Thaaanks.” (Check out his article for more thoughts on assessments HERE.)

Workforce mentions:

“Companies lose otherwise qualified candidates for a variety of reasons in the application process, but they frequently lose them at the assessment stage. Jobseekers exit out of the process if they view the test as too lengthy or time consuming. They also bail on a company if the assessment content is not perceived as relevant or if that content startles them.”

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Focus on the Candidate Interview Experience in Your Recruiting Process

The candidate experience has become a strategic differentiator in the recruiting process. And assessing too early can be detrimental to your brand and your recruiting results.

There are many ways to design acceptable recruiting and interview processes. But it’s important to keep in mind humans don’t enjoy feeling unimportant, in any situation, especially to potential employers.

Starting new relationships with several brief interviews as opposed to an assessment, will improve the candidate experience. Only a rare small number of super well known and quickly growing organizations won’t be hurt by immediately assessing applicants.

Interviewing builds connections. Starting the recruiting process with conversations rather than “tests” helps companies engage top talent and therefore benefits the employee interview experience.

Competing for top talent, in today’s marketplace, is exactly that, a fierce competition. Think about what assessing after the first hello says to some candidates, especially to candidates who have plenty of options.

Most will quickly move on to other opportunities, and you’ll find yourself missing out on top performers.

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