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Finding YOUR Next - Michael Jordan - How New Technology-Driven Assessment Processes Will Improve Talent Acquisition
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Corporate Talent Acquisition.
Human capital is the most valuable asset of any organization. To remain competitive in today’s business
world, however, more and more organizations realize the need to embed customer service excellence,
culture fit, and work style across all job functions and levels within the organization. As a result, Human
Resources (HR) is charged with hiring the right people with the right skills and attitude to fulfill that
mission. HR faces internal challenges as well, since they are required to be more strategic, provide more
value rather than function solely as a cost center, and spend less time on managing processes. From all
perspectives, the conventional hiring processes that HR depends on to meet staffing objectives are ill
suited for the task.
This white paper will:
- Explain the practices that drive conventional screening models and what makes these processes
ineffective and inefficient in targeting candidates with the necessary skills and behaviors to help
an organization succeed.
- Explore workplace and workforce trends that require—even demand—a more efficient screening
model. A predicted labor shortage, among other factors, will make finding qualified candidates
even more challenging.
- Introduce a new model that integrates assessments in an automated screening process and, as a
result, helps HR effectively and efficiently yield consistently higher-quality candidates with the
demonstrated skills, behaviors, and work style that are required to succeed while moving
employer involvement further back in the process.
When weighing the efficacy of this model, organizations should consider benefits derived from reductions
in staffing-related headcount, administrative overhead, and the overall cycle-time of the hiring and
screening process. In addition, moving assessments upfront improves the candidate experience,
increases the overall candidate pool with no incremental employer intervention in the screening and
review stages, and improves the quality of hire…which ultimately makes the objective of embedding
customer service across the organization a reality.
Changing times and evolving needs require a new recruiting and screening model. And, as this white
paper will illustrate, at the core of this new model rests the principle that it’s about “recruiting people, not
Scenario: A Short Trip to the Immediate Future
Susan Armstrong responded to an ad for an open call center position.
She is among several hundred candidates who have applied. Susan is
immediately directed to a Web page where she is whisked through a
brief interactive prescreen process. She is then moved to an assessment
phase that uses integrated Web and phone capabilities to simulate and
replicate the procedures associated with the call center position. Actual
data entry screens are replicated on Susan’s browser window
whereupon a call comes in—Susan is prompted to respond to the
simulated call and enter data in the appropriate places. The system
gauges Susan’s ability to handle both the customer and the data entry
process...in effect, evaluating her skills, behaviors, and exemplary
Without any employer intervention or requiring traditional, multi-phased candidate screening and
assessment processes, the employer has efficiently assessed Susan’s responsiveness, data entry skills,
temperament, and propensity to perform the job well; all in a single engagement.
To many, this may sound far-fetched…an enticing scenario available at some point in the distant future.
Not so! The technology exists. It is currently being used to help employers across all industries efficiently
and effectively find the most qualified candidates—across all job levels and titles—with assessments that
are seamlessly embedded upfront in the screening process.
Why “Screening In” Is Better Than “Screening Out”
The employment landscape is changing. A shrinking labor pool will make it increasingly difficult for
employers to attract, hire, and retain top talent. To remain competitive, more and more companies realize
the need to embed customer service excellence, culture fit, and work style across all job functions and
levels within the organization. Ultimately, this requires hiring the right people with the right skills and
Conventional screening processes are typically ineffective because they simply weed out unqualified
candidates who do not meet basic criteria, such as education or experience, usually based on information
obtained from resumes. However, an untold number of these seemingly unqualified candidates may
possess the skills, behaviors, and culture fit to succeed in the job and, equally important, within the
organization. That’s where assessments fit in. Integrating assessments as part of the process allows
organizations to focus on “screening in” candidates who possess the “right stuff,” as demonstrated by
their ability to master a job simulation, for example. At the core of this model rests the principle that it's
about "recruiting people, not paper."
Assessments have historically been used sparingly, if at all, due to their high cost, awkward integration,
and difficulty of interpreting results. They have been administered as a final step in the hiring process
after other processes (i.e., prescreens, telephone interviews, and face-to-face interviews) have been used
to narrow the list of qualified candidates down to a handful. In the days when organizations were
abundantly staffed by well-trained, experienced, and motivated employees, assessments were seldom
used since they were thought to be of little relative value. After all, if the new hire didn’t work out, there
was always someone else standing right outside the door ready to take his/her place. However, there are
a number of trends in the marketplace today that, taken together, are prompting a re-examination of the
place and importance of assessments.
Prevailing Screening Processes: Old and Outdated vs. New and Unimproved
Traditional candidate screening is a multi-phased linear process that usually spans several sessions to
cover a review of the candidate’s application or resume, a prescreen, an interview, and perhaps a skills
assessment. While each stage is interrelated, they are typically conducted independently. The process
proceeds in awkward fits and starts, is time-consuming, resource-intensive, inefficient, and cumbersome.
From the employer’s perspective, the process often requires intervention at the early steps (i.e.
prescreen) to determine which candidates should proceed to the next phase. Condensing all steps of the
screening process into one seamless process—including assessments—enables organizations to
efficiently, expeditiously, and cost-effectively recruit and retain a high-performance workforce.
Likewise, the candidate’s experience with conventional automated systems is unsatisfactory. While
automated technology has streamlined the job search, the evaluation process still requires several on-site
visits by candidates to complete each step (prescreen, interview, and assessment) separately. The
process can be very time-consuming, stressful, and inefficient. As such, otherwise qualified applicants
often drop out of the process from frustration. In addition, the non-interactive nature of conventional
screening processes and an over-reliance on resumes provides job candidates with little or no opportunity
to demonstrate their skills.
Why Retool the Process? Let Us Count the Ways
In the United States, the resume or application blank have traditionally been the starting point of the
employment process, which typically follows some variation of this model:
Many automated screening solutions are simply a funnel for resumes and allow only for basic searching
for job titles or other key words. Being resume-dependant means the search can be no more accurate
than the content of the resume. This process, commonly known as “screening out,” does little more than
identify unqualified candidates.
There are a number of reasons why this process needs to be revisited and retooled. The following
statistics are from the Human Resource Institute:
- There is a shrinking supply of workers.
In the United States, the long-term labor shortage
continues to be a threat—an estimated shortage of 10 million people by 2010 and 40 million by
2015. In addition, 43 percent of the civilian labor force will be eligible to retire in the next decade.
Finding a qualified employee will require a deeper level of vetting and evaluation—a resume is an
inherently limited “information delivery vehicle.”
- The pace of technological change keeps accelerating.
As late as the 1940s, the product cycle
(idea, invention, innovation, imitation) stretched 30 or 40 years. Today, it seldom lasts 30 to 40
weeks. A full 80 percent of the scientists, engineers, and doctors who ever lived are alive today—
and are exchanging ideas in real time on the Internet. All the technical knowledge we work with
today will represent only 1 percent of the knowledge that will be available in 2050. Employers can
no longer afford lengthy selection processes to hire the talent they need.
- There is a skill shortage.
The half-life of an engineer’s knowledge today is only five years. In
electronics, fully half of what a student learns as a freshman is obsolete by his/her senior year.
Our new “raw materials,” i.e., emerging new workers, lack employment readiness. For example,
even colleges often find themselves having to offer more remedial courses to incoming students.
Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate increased training
for virtually every worker. Training is expensive; does it make sense to focus on hiring people to
do for you what they’re already doing, with little regard for how well they might fit in or how long
they’ll stay with you organization? In the next 10 years, close to 10 million jobs will open up for
professionals, executives, and technicians in the highly-skilled service industries.
- There is a knowledge shortage.
Individuals between the ages of 35 to 54 are classified as
being the prime base of the workforce. In the United States alone, 10,000 people turn 55 each
day. By 2015, there will be a 15 percent decline in the prime category for those ages 35 to 54
while demand will increase 25 percent.
- There is a time shortage.
Everyone is pressed for time. We place a premium on anything that
will save us time, and that includes seeking, or filling, a new job. The greatest challenge to
recruiting “passive” candidates, for instance, is finding those who are “active” enough to have
gone to the trouble of developing a current resume. Generally, that’s not really a passive
candidate, but rather an active candidate who is uncertain of what job/career change (s)he wants
to make. A true passive candidate is one who would consider a change, but has not gone to the
trouble of constructing or updating a resume. Without automated prescreening and assessment,
these passive candidates have no other way of applying…so they don’t. Now, with prescreening
and assessment tools readily available online and by telephone, candidates without resumes
have new and engaging ways to apply.
As Dr. John Sullivan, Professor of Management at San Francisco University’s College of Business and a
recognized expert on recruiting strategy, points out, requiring a resume as a precondition to applying is all
but a guarantee of not finding the best candidate. It’s tantamount to trying to hire Michael Jordan by
requiring a resume as the first step in the process. This is simply not realistic and, ultimately, is a
highly effective method for limiting your exposure to top talent. A faster, engaging processing system will
draw candidates to it—even if it’s automated—rather than drive them from it.
The work of staffing specialists has centered on a process of screening out applicants by focusing on
what they can’t do or what skills they don’t possess in order to get the pile of resumes down to a
manageable number for manual processing. Even the work of industrial psychologists has been
concerned with reducing false positives (“passing” someone who subsequently fails in the job) with little
regard for false negatives (rejecting someone who would otherwise have been a success on the job). This
approach depends on an abundant labor supply. With the emerging shortages, organizations can no
longer afford to focus on weeding out. The need exists to concentrate on screening in and identifying
candidates who will thrive in the culture, possess the required behaviors, and then training them for jobs
within the organizations. All of these steps can be accomplished with no incremental employer
intervention. Southwest Airlines said it well a number of years ago when they proclaimed “We hire for
attitude, train for skill.” No one can deny the success they’ve enjoyed as a result.
Time shortages can also be attributed to broadening access to the Internet and the ease of sending
resumes via e-mail. As a result, the number of unqualified responses to advertising and other sourcing
activities has increased tremendously, adding greatly to the workload of candidate evaluation. The nature
of work has become more complex today (fewer manual labor jobs, more knowledge workers), less reliant
on job skills, and more reliant on intelligence, relationship skills, corporate fit, behaviors, and interpersonal
skills—all capabilities that are impossible to glean from a resume; credentials only hint at competencies.
Today, resumes are recognized primarily as marketing documents and are therefore no longer suitable
for real candidate evaluation. Yet, many still cling to the practice of reviewing or key word searching all
submitted resumes, knowing full well the limitations and, all the while, wishing for a better way.
These trends clearly point to the need for a new selection model that is better able to efficiently and
effectively evaluate applicants and identify those who have the greatest probability of succeeding in the
job and within the broader company culture.
Defining Excellence and Hiring to a Gold Standard
Forward-thinking organizations, such as Southwest Airlines, understand the need to
combine skills with “culture fit” and define a standard of excellence for their hires. Most
important, they need a system that will enable them to hire to that standard. A model that
integrates a behavioral assessment tool in the process accomplishes that goal.
Employers can use embedded behavioral assessment tools to identify and define the
qualities a successful employee should possess and use that information to construct
preformatted interviews that screen and rank candidates based on their responses. In
short, having an assessment component provides employers with a superior way to set
standards for excellence, instead of conventional minimal acceptability, and optimize the
quality of hires.
A New Model for a New Workforce
The staffing model described earlier involves considerable human labor and decision-making. Even if
somewhat automated, human intervention is required at each stage, primarily to determine whether the
candidate is sufficiently qualified to pass to the next phase. The process is brought to a full stop at the
end of each phase as qualifications are weighed and decisions are made. In addition to lengthening the
hiring process, candidates might opt-out due to frustration or simply take another offer in the interim.
Technology now exists that automates the interaction between candidate/applicant and
employer/recruiter, conducts (delivers) the interaction over the Web and/or telephone, and makes many
of the more routine decisions that interrupt the conventional workflow. Such technology, coupled with the
changing importance of assessments, creates a model that can be illustrated as follows:
It is now possible to put the assessment ahead of any employer interaction, limiting the administration as
well as the cost of an otherwise labor and time-intensive process. Conventionally, employer effort is
heavily invested in all the steps leading to the administration of an assessment. With so many candidates
applying, a high percentage of whom lack sufficient or relevant skills, the cost of human effort to reduce
the number of assessments administered far outweighs the cost of the limited number of assessments
themselves. HR departments can now look to automation and embedded intelligence to save
administrative expense while enhancing their ability to consistently deliver high performing new hires with
Couched in a realistic job preview, the prescreen, interview, assessment, and scheduling activities can all
be accomplished in a single, smooth, uninterrupted engagement, while giving the applicant the option of
disengaging and later reengaging at the point (s)he left off. The decision to disqualify the candidate can
still occur at any point in the process. All applicants initially respond to a set of standardized core
questions to screen for basic requirements. The flow of questioning can then change according to the
way the applicant answers the questions; highly sophisticated branching provides an engaging and
efficient experience for every candidate. As a result, each applicant also receives a unique interview
experience customized on the fly to best suit his/her individual skill set, interests, behaviors, and
Reports that job seekers are becoming disenchanted with the job board experience attests to the fact that
no matter how easy it is to submit resumes, the process of guessing what should be put on paper and
often receiving no response, is a hollow and unsatisfying experience. A recent survey showed that a full
70 percent of candidates were dissatisfied with the effectiveness of job boards—one of the most
prevalent applicant recruiting technologies used today (Electronic Recruiting News). On the contrary, the
integrated Internet and telephone screening and assessment process described here is an interactive and
engaging experience that yields immediate feedback—both to the candidate and the employer. As quoted
by one applicant after the experience, “It felt and sounded just like a real interview.”
Synchronizing the Web and phone also gives rise to a plethora of job simulations, i.e., putting computer
code up on the desktop and then simultaneously engaging the applicant by automated phone to ask how
it might be rewritten for greater efficiency. In another scenario, the employer can have a customer service
simulation where several screens of information are available to the applicant on the desktop. The
candidate is then charged with negotiating the screens while responding to a variety of service calls.
Comparing this assessment and simulation technology to voice mail or auto attendants is like comparing
an RV to a covered wagon.
As previously discussed, the process of “screening in" candidates is preferable to processes that are
premised on screening them out. Assessments guide the “screening in” process by gleaning applicant
personality and other relevant applicant data (including an interactive process that is natural and inviting
as well as the types of questions that can prompt insights into personality). The result for the employer is
a complete, 360-degree whole-person applicant snapshot—one that assimilates an applicant's
experience, skill set, and behavioral characteristics, and provides a solid indicator of potential
performance and success within the organization.
For example, a position for a regional sales representative is open. Candidate A holds a marketing
degree and lists several sales positions in his employment history. Candidate B holds an English degree
and has spent his career in education, first as a teacher and later as an administrator. Candidate B will
likely be screened out as an unqualified applicant because he doesn’t meet any overt requirements for
the job. However, if Candidate B were allowed to proceed to a simulated assessment, the employer
would discover that he has excellent negotiation, listening, and people skills, which he honed from handson
and managerial experience. Candidate A, on the other hand, does not rate nearly as high for these
skills despite his impressive resume. In effect, conventional processes can lead to hiring decisions that
are based on job experience rather than skills assessment.
In addition, the process also integrates behavioral assessments that have been shown to be predictive of
job performance, job satisfaction, commitment, turnover, career satisfaction, and career success across a
wide variety of positions, organizations, industries, and countries. Such embedded behavioral
assessment tools address attitudes, competencies, and skills, revealing both whether a candidate can do
the job and how well that person will perform within a particular environment (i.e., culture fit).
Enriching the Candidate Experience: Or, “I’m Amazed At How Different This
Process Is From All the Others”
We all have come to appreciate the convenience and accuracy of automated services we use everyday,
from ATMs to booking flights online. Indeed, many vest a great deal of trust and satisfaction in such
systems. For example, since implementing an automated voice response system in 2001, Amtrak has
reported customer satisfaction rates in the 80 to 85 percent range. In addition, the automated system has
increased customer satisfaction by 53 percent over its previous touch-tone system. The point is that we
will gladly trade human interaction for convenience and efficiency, once we get used to this new—and in
many ways, improved—mode of transaction. The same applies to automating the evaluation process and
making the assessment phase the first point of candidate contact.
When properly formulated and conducted, applicant interest increases in a company using automated
prescreening and evaluation. Applicants appreciate the convenience and the opportunity to respond to
questions directly related to their ability to perform the job (as compared to guessing what they should
include on a resume), and they welcome the immediate feedback (as compared to sending their resume
into the big black hole known as cyberspace). Applicants are also impressed with an organization’s use of
this emerging technology.
In fact, HRMC has tracked candidate perceptions to our automated interactions. HRMC has consistently
found that when implemented correctly, candidate perceptions of the process actually improve. For
- 89.9 percent of applicants think the automated evaluation process is fair.
- 84.6 percent of applicants think the automated interview (where they answer questions about
background and experience) was relevant to the job they applied for.
- 86.7 percent think the Workstyle inventory (where they answer questions about likes and
behaviors) was relevant to the job applied for.
- Finally, and perhaps most telling, 76.1 percent said they were more interested in working at the
client company now than before the process began.
The Ultimate Assessment: Validating ROI
Top management is expecting a greater contribution from HR. Today’s HR organization is required to be
more strategic and tie in to an organization’s bottom line. HR costs have grown an average of 6 percent a
year in the last five years and are currently calculated at $2,436 per full time employee (Hewitt
Associates). In addition, HR is now spending nearly half of its time (43 percent) on administration and
service (Hewitt Associates). The screening and assessment model outlined in this white paper delivers
significant, quantifiable returns:
- Reduces administrative overhead.
While applicant tracking systems (ATSs) that are used to
house, track, and retrieve resumes play an important role, consider the relative value of
maintaining resumes (most of which are either outdated or off-the-market by the time an opening
occurs) compared with a fluid candidate evaluation process that provides “just in time” position-tocandidate
matching—it’s faster, more convenient for all parties, and more accurate. Moreover,
deferring employer intervention to a later stage frees up valuable time and resources that can
now be spent on more strategic HR functions.
- Increases cost-effectiveness.
The cost of assessments today is much lower partly because
automation has been applied to the development and validation efforts, which were previously
performed manually by highly educated industrial psychologists. Mechanisms for the
administration of assessments make them more convenient for both employer and candidate, and
faster to score. Automating assessments as part of an integrated process increases efficiencies—
and lowers associated costs—further by reducing the need for dedicated professionals (i.e.,
industrial organizational psychologists) and eliminating the bottlenecks manual assessments tend
- Reduces time to hire.
Reducing a process that normally spans 6 to 8 weeks to an unattended
15 to 30 minute experience has obvious advantages. Not so obvious are the advantages of
quickly processing ideal candidates and getting them hired off the market before competing
employers even receive a resume. Offering a progressive, more convenient way to apply can also
enhance an employer’s reputation in the labor market.
- Improves quality of hire.
To compete successfully in today’s business climate, organizations
need to look beyond resumes and skill sets to identify the characteristics and behaviors that will
indicate whether a candidate will succeed. The consistency of the quality of new hires yielded
from a model with integrated assessments is far greater than a system based on an unstructured
conventional process without assessments. This new process also lends itself to Six-Sigma
principles, where organizations progressively refine their techniques, leading to better,
repeatable, and more reliable results.
- Improves employee retention.
A key component of this model is an embedded behavioral
assessment tool, known as Workstyle 5iTM, that address attitudes, competencies, and skills,
revealing both whether a candidate can do the job and how well that person will perform within a
particular environment or organizational culture. The ROI is easily validated by comparing the
average cost per hire, which was calculated at $7,123 for 2004 (Society for Human Resource
Management), with a model that consistently identifies top candidates.
- Establishes gold standard of excellence.
The behavioral assessment tools embedded in this
model can help employers identify and define the qualities of a successful employee and use that
information to construct preformatted interviews that screens and ranks candidates based on their
responses. In short, the model provides employers with a system to set standards for excellence
and optimize its quality of hires by producing repeatable results across the organization.
- Assesses broad competencies and specific job-related skills.
The model’s interactive Web
and telephone assessment capabilities allows employers to ask informed, job-specific questions
(i.e., computer programming, accounting principles) that will identify those applicants who can
demonstrate the practical application of their skills, knowledge, and experience. Typically, HR
lacks the job-specific expertise to ask probing, relevant questions at the earliest stages of the
Automating the process, if done correctly, can enrich the candidate experience and strengthen the
employer’s brand. Compare the ability to conduct a thorough evaluation for every interested candidate to
a well-meaning HR department that feels overwhelmed and frustrated trying to provide even just the most
highly qualified candidates with the time that they deserve.
Automating the process, if done correctly, can put the employer in front of an entirely new pool of
candidates—the other 80 percent of the workforce who do not have current resumes. A majority of
employers have neither the time nor resources to otherwise tap into this pool because they are requiring
resumes as a prerequisite to applying. Up to now, there was no way to consider a candidate without a
resume, so this huge pool was ignored and employers competed with one another for the remaining 20
percent of the market with resumes.
Automating the process, if done correctly, can significantly reduce staffing costs and time-to-fill while
consistently delivering high performance employees who can help your company succeed.
About the Author
Ron Selewach is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and has
dedicated his professional career to the advancement of the Human Resource profession. After a
concentrated career in corporate human resources, he founded Human Resource Management Center
(HRMC) in 1984 as a full service consulting firm, offering outsourced HR solutions. Today, HRMC’s fully
Web-enabled and IVR solutions conduct applicant interviews, pre-qualifies and rank-orders candidates,
and then measures the success of the assimilation of new hires. Through this automation, HRMC
interviews, without a resume as a pre-condition, more than 18,000 applicants per week for positions
ranging from production workers, CSRs, sales agents, IT professionals, engineers, and senior
management. HRMC has been chosen as one of the Top 20 new services in the country by a respected
Human Resources publication. Ron’s community involvement includes active participation in Chambers of
Commerce and Economic Development Organizations; Technology Education Advisory Councils; U. S.
Senator's Small Business Advisory Committee; and as past Chairman of the local Workforce
For more information, visit the company's Web site at www.hrmc.com,
or contact Ron Selewach at 1-800-
Founded in 1984, Human Resource Management Center (HRMC) is a pioneer in applying cutting edge
technology to solve business' most pressing human capital challenges. The company's flagship HRMC
AcclaimSM solution simplifies the management of all phases of the employee lifecycle, and the
identification of opportunities for improvement.
HRMC’s technology automates a range of interrelated processes within a flexible, user-friendly
framework, enabling organizations to streamline the acquisition and assessment of talent, evaluate new
employees' readiness to contribute, and analyze the impact of a company's culture on retention and
performance. Whether accessed over the Web or the phone, users—from job prospects to long-time
employees—are led through an interactive experience that approximates true human dialogue, resulting
in more effective interviews and employee surveys. HRMC Acclaim is easy to deploy and can be up and
running within two weeks. It can be integrated with and extend the functionality of existing applicant
tracking and HRIS systems, or provide companies with a complete, end-to-end automated solution from
the ground up.
Industry-leaders such as Capital One, HSN, SBC, Frito-Lay, Tropicana, and QVC have all used HRMC
Acclaim. HRMC is headquartered in Tampa, Florida and is privately held.
By Ron Selewach
CEO and Founder, HRMC