Is Your Hiring Process Stacked Against Good Candidates?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Is your hiring process stacked against good candidates? Several recent studies have highlighted the irony in the U.S. labor market for businesses that are hiring. They need to fill open positions, but they can’t find qualified candidates.

The Hiring Challenge

Last week, we noted that the unemployment rate for college-​educated workers is below 4%. Many of these individuals are highly trained. They’re accustomed to working in high stress environments and a tough interview process doesn’t deter them.

Businesses want to hire the best possible workers and they are using screening assessments to find them. But evaluations designed to measure critical thinking and problem-​solving skills can intimidate some applicants. Research spearheaded by Chris Parnin at North Carolina State University uncovered one negative outcome of these kinds of assessments: “Candidates often get so flustered from the pressure and the mechanics of the interview that their performance is significantly hindered.”

Parnin’s research centered on the hiring process to fill tech positions. However, it has broader implications for the use of assessments in the hiring process. During the study, analysts found that candidates became stressed when a proctor was watching them calculate solutions to complex problems. They didn’t perform as well on certain parts of the assessments. In addition, candidates from marginalized groups had a particularly difficult time solving problems when in the presence of a proctor. These candidates may have never encountered these situations in their previous academic or work settings. 

A challenging hiring process has long been a form of hazing in some hard-​charging organizations. However, this hiring attitude will prevent you from considering certain candidates: Those who may do very well at the positions they need to fill, but turn in a poor performance during some parts of an assessment.

Assessment Anxiety

Job seekers today accept that taking assessments is part of the hiring process. They want to do their best and they need to feel that the deck isn’t stacked against them from the start. Most hiring processes for sales positions won’t include an in-​person problem-​solving session that requires candidates to draw out solutions on the white board with no notice. However, candidates often must make a presentation or conduct a staff meeting, either in person or via a videoconferencing tool. In that context, the hiring team scrutinizes the candidate’s abilities.

Parnin encourages hiring organizations to reduce stress during these sessions. Otherwise, they’re likely to hire individuals who excel in a stressful situation. Those people aren’t always the same individuals who will do well in other interpersonal situations.

Hiring Process Stacked Against Good Candidates

Sales managers use the following tactics during their hiring process:

  • Interviews 81%
  • Sales skills assessments 59%
  • Behavioral assessments 42%
  • Critical thinking assessments 28%
  • Cognitive ability assessments 23%

As they determine who to hire, 68% say their top candidates must be a problem solver. A job applicant may be a very good problem solver, but could fail to demonstrate that ability during a stressful hiring process. You can avoid a bad hiring outcome by using a comprehensive sales skills assessment. When you combine those results with the impression you get during an interview and when the candidate makes a presentation, you’re likely to find the person who will succeed in your organization.