Everything to gain from personal assessments

What sort of memories do you have from the times you had a job interview? Do you remember how you perceived the situation and how you felt afterwards? Did you complete any tests and, if so, did you get any decent feedback on the results? Perhaps you reflected on what the interviewer actually knew about YOU when you were finished? Did the discussion lead to you learning anything new about yourself? Did you feel you had been treated fairly? And how did the interview itself affect your image of the company you had applied to?


EQ i blomlåda


Most of us probably have both good and bad memories of such encounters, and as an employer, you have everything to gain by ensuring that the situation is as stimulating and rewarding as possible. That way, you can be sure that you successfully recruit candidates that make a difference to your organisation and that candidates leave you with a positive feeling and a good image of your company.

As an employer, you want an idea of what it would be like to work with the intended person – not just in a general sense, but also in the specific department with the concrete objectives and challenges, together with actual colleagues and the actual manager. Who is best suited to the task?

The candidate, for their part, is trying to get a sense of a potential new workplace and will probably largely base their impression of the company on the values and attitude conveyed in these encounters. Will I feel at home and develop here, and what opportunities will I get to achieve my personal goals in this organisation?

There is, it appears, plenty to think about when working with recruitment and selection, and so it can be useful to get a little external help, for instance, by getting a professional and scientifically-based personal assessment. (An assessment can also be used for other purposes, such as part of a development process for employees or managers, or in connection with a reorganisation or group development.)

This is how we do it at Kandidata

An assessment is about understanding how a person will carry out their work in the workplace and how this matches with the needs of the organisation. It is different from a recruitment interview, which is usually more about professional skills and the right experience, something you have generally made a decision about before an in-depth assessment is carried out. My role during an assessment, therefore, is to act as an advisor to the client. This requires a relationship characterised by trust and openness, with the client also being prepared to talk about the challenges and weaknesses of the organisation. It is only then that the information about the candidate can add anything and I, as the assessor, can make an honest match.

A professional assessment is a thoroughly planned process with a clear picture of what information needs gathering. During the interview itself, I need to be well prepared and have an internal structure for the areas to be discussed. I can then follow the candidate, instead of interrupting the discussion with a pre-formulated question. Conducting this type of discussion is an art; knowing what to ask and why, daring to ask sensitive questions and judging the best time to ask. In order to succeed, you need to be creative and open to the possibility that the conclusion I just drew may be wrong, and quick at reformulating an idea about how things really are. An open, non-judgemental approach, great inquisitiveness and a genuine interest in people are obvious factors required for success.

All the information uncovered then needs to be put into context. What does it mean for a person’s work performance and behaviour at work if they expect a lot of themselves, love changes and challenges, had a difficult childhood, have strong self-esteem, think fairness is important or find it easy to empathise with others? As a personal assessor, I need very good general knowledge of psychology, and that’s why we see so many psychologists within the profession.

Of course, once this work is done, there is an enormous benefit for the company, which now has good information on how the new employee will work out. It ensures the initial phase is smooth and gives the manager a picture of how the person will need to be coached to adapt to their new position. In other words, a win-win situation for both the organisation and candidate!


The right test for the purpose

A personal assessment should provide information about the candidate’s background and current life, specifically the parts that may be relevant to work. In order to get a picture of who the candidate is more quickly, occupational psychology test tools are often used. These need to be scientifically designed and produced specifically for the assessment. Other test tools, such as measuring patterns of communication or professional skills, have too low a level of accuracy when in comes to providing an accurate picture in this context.
Here at Kandidata, we believe that an assessment should measure the applicant’s problem-solving ability, as well as their emotional and social skills. We want to understand, as quickly as possible, what motivates a candidate, and what their preferences are in terms of approach to work. Does this person prefer to work independently or in a team with others? Is it important to dig into the details or get a more general picture of the situation? Values are another important area to talk about because they often govern our thoughts, feelings and behaviours in ways that we might not always be aware of. What does it mean if I don’t want to be better than others, or that I do best on my own?

Many players market their personal assessments by emphasising their scientifically proven test tools. What they often neglect is the feedback and discussion of the test results. That’s a pity. It is actually during that part of the process that I have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and more nuanced picture of the candidate, which in turn helps me make a fairer assessment of the individual’s chances of proving a success for the client.

Free yourself of prejudices

You have a lot to gain by commissioning a professional assessment, perhaps mainly because it represents as close to objectivity as you can get during a selection process. Otherwise it can be difficult to be objective. For instance, we have a tendency to draw conclusions about how intelligent or sociable a person is based on how the person talks and expresses themselves (J. Wood, 2012; Hayes & Meltzer, 1972). We like to think that a person with extensive professional experience is better suited for a job, despite research showing that the link is actually rather weak (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). With knowledge of what information in both tests and the selection process is most reliable, you increase the likelihood of making a wise selection and drawing more relevant conclusions.

Objectivity is further increased by getting just one external party to perform the assessment, in part because I, as a third party, have no internal political interests in selecting one candidate over another. Nor is there any incentive to "sell” a person to bring the recruitment process to a close. Candidates often feel they have been fairly treated following an independent assessment. If the assessment is carried out professionally and ethically, it can also create an opportunity for reflection for candidates, which helps instil a positive first impression of the company they have applied to.


Don’t forget ethics

Getting to meet so many people who talk in such a personal way about themselves and their lives is a privilege. It is a huge source of knowledge and insight into how we, as people, work with all our strengths and shortcomings. At Kandidata, we try to handle that trust with consideration, in a highly ethical way and with great care for those we meet, both candidates and clients. It’s a professional ethic that we never compromise on.

So, the next time you are looking to recruit someone – if you want to be sure that your candidate has a good experience that is also characteristic of your company, and if you want to be sure you are being objective in your strategies for leadership and team development, then you need to include a personal assessment. And don’t forget to find out what kind of process you are buying and the skills of the person carrying out the process. That kind of preliminary work may well be the most important test for successful recruitment.


Author: Maria Lindskog