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Size Up Your Candidates With Pre-Employment Assessments

January 10, 2019

This is an excerpt from “Keep Your Candidates Engaged,” an eBook from Wonderlic and Jazz HR. Download the full eBook here, and be sure to save the date for our joint webinar January 17 at 2 pm EST.

Hiring costs time and money. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost per hire in 2015 was $4,129 and the average time it took to fill a position was 42 days.

Combine that with a 19% annual turnover rate, and mistakes in the hiring process becomes even harder to swallow. That’s where assessments start to make a whole lot of sense.

When used properly, pre-employment assessments provide a less biased, legally sound method to screen candidates in and out of the process. And the data says they’re rising in popularity.

Talent Board’s 2016 Candidate Experience Research report finds 82 percent of companies use some form of pre-employment assessments. Once largely used for executive and other leadership positions, assessments are now commonly used across all levels of hiring.

A pre-employment test that measures cognitive ability – the top predictor of on-the-job success – is the most common, but employers are expanding their repertoire. The Talent Board report finds that 51 percent of companies are using assessments that evaluate cultural fit – such as Wonderlic’s Wonscore®, which measures candidates based on cognitive ability, motivation and personality. Two years ago, just 29 percent of companies were evaluating for fit.

Pre-employment assessments can be used early in the hiring process to compare candidates (screening in) or later in the process to weed out (screening out), offering a pretty clear value to HR departments and hiring managers.

But pre-employment assessments also need to be candidate-friendly. With unemployment at record lows, top talent is at a premium. The best of the best tend to come off the market within 10 to 15 days in many industries. Wait the six weeks of the average time to hire and you’ll likely find yourself picking from leftovers. Providing candidates the option to take the test on their terms, rather than immediately upon applying, can decrease drop-out rates that some see as a negative stigma with assessments.

At the end of the day, you’re probably not going to choose a new hire solely based on pre-employment assessments. But let’s crunch one more number. A 2014 study appearing in the Harvard Business Review analyzed 17 studies of applicant evaluation, showing that a simple algorithm outperforms human decisions by at least 25%. That effect stays the same in any situation with a large number of candidates, whether they’re entry level, middle management or executives.

Using a machine to screen keywords in resumes might still work in some instances, but pre-employment assessments can help you get a fuller, clearer picture of candidate competencies and narrow your pool of applicants significantly.

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