Do Pre-Interview Tests help you attract the top talent on the market?

Whilst browsing Linkedin the other day I saw a post from a long term connection and regular contributor to my feed. The post was complaining about how organizations found it necessary to test candidates, regardless of role, prior to even meeting them. He, and many of his audience, agreed it was ridiculous how an organization should ask the individual to take time out to prove themselves as worthy to that business, without the organization themselves having to take any steps to build a positive impression. Indeed, it was suggested that this was entirely unethical and would deter many of them from even continuing with the process.

This got me asking the question that ‘if we work in candidate driven market and we want to engage the top 20% of talent for our clients, as an Agency, or for your direct organization, does a test improve your pipeline by improving quality or does it reduce the pool?’

The first fact to consider in this debate is that it undoubtedly reduces the pool. This is unquestionable. Certain individuals, as highlighted with the post above, will not be happy with the request and the pool will reduce.

However, does the test improve the quality?

It is clear that the organizations advocating these tests want their candidates to work and think in a particular manner. I would assume moreover, that they have profiled their top performing employees and the test is being utilized to assure they replicate that success to a degree.

Furthermore, I believe that HR units that utilize such testing, prior to the interview process, are actually trying to reduce the pot and ensure that they are not interviewing individuals who are 100% bought into the vision of the business and meet the bare minimum in terms of ability for the role.

As a consequence, when they do have an individual in the interview process, they meet the key criteria of the role and no time is wasted.

Streamlining interview processes, especially when there is considerable volume, is something that is vital in all businesses as you don’t want your key contributors spending all of their time in interviews, especially if it won’t be time well spent, with potential candidates that don’t meet the key criteria.

Key Executive time and their overall effectiveness is essential to the business, so these measures help reduce their time spent interviewing during key hiring processes.

Nevertheless, I see some major issues with this approach to the recruitment process:

You will alienate some of the best talent on the market with such an approach. Yes, you can argue they are not bought in to vision of the business, but who can sell this better than you as a key component in that business. An ‘Employer Brand’ is built on what people are saying about you on the market after all. With a potentially negative impression from part of the market with this approach you may be unable to even ‘attract’ talent.’

As your business expands, if you continue with this approach, and you are hiring Mid-Senior Level Management, you will experience issues. Recently, a client of ours was hiring a VP of Product, with the view to an IPO in 1-2 years’ time. The vision was clear. Let’s beef up our management teams and have a more structured approach for the IPO process and consequent IPO to maintain and increase revenues. However, they were expecting people, at this level, to conduct tests, even before they were interviewed. Moreover, it was an Analytics test. They actually asked all potential VP candidates, across the board, to conduct such a test. You can imagine the reaction and the size of the pool after the request was made. The hire was never made coincidentally.

It increases the length of the process. Now, undoubtedly a process can be too short and I advise clients against this on a daily basis. Yet, if the process lasts longer than 6-8 weeks, you have issues. The process needs to be dynamic and each point needs to highlight a purpose. A test as the first point of interaction does not do this for me and it also places the length of the process firmly in the hands of the candidate. Is this your intention?

In a candidate driven market, you will lose out on candidates. Of this, there is no doubt. The top candidates know they are in demand and if they believe they are being asked to ‘jump through hoops’ even before they have managed to hear the vision from the horse’s mouth, you will drop potential talent.

Overall, I believe there is a place for testing in the interview process, particularly in IT and Data Science, with resources such as Codility. There is even a place for Psychometric testing in client facing roles and management positions. It help us all understand the potential candidate that little bit deeper and perhaps even use the results of the test to form a conversation round the final interview and understand exactly how they think and work when presented with problems.

Testing before the process starts in earnest however, denigrates what is trying to be achieved and can have a long term negative effect on the ’employer brand’, and your organizations ability to attract the top talent. Have you considered that as an impact on such a decision?

This was written by Martin Collins, the Founder & MD of Red Executive

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