The goal is job-fit, not a letter grade
The Harvard Business Review recently published an entire issue devoted to human resources and human capital. It’s an excellent issue and a must-read for those of us in the HCM industry.
The article that first caught my eye is titled Ace the Assessment, written by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, the CEO of Hogan Assessments.
The first part of the article explains what assessments are, and why companies use them in the hiring process. Many articles delve into the intricacies of assessment science without covering the basics, and based on the conversations I’ve had with others in the industry, assessments are still largely misunderstood. The explanations in this article are easy to understand and serve as an excellent starting place for new practitioners, and also for HCM pros who are new to the field of assessment.
The next part of the article outlines ways in which job seekers can prepare themselves to take assessments. As the article points out:
“Even if you’ve never taken an assessment, chances are you’ll have to in your next job search.”
So, so true. And while there isn’t a specific study guide for most assessments, there are ways to prepare yourself. The article suggests taking a few GRE practice tests to brush up on your test-taking skills. It also recommends that you do some research on the company’s culture and values, and take the assessment (if you can) at a time of day when you’re most focused.
These are great tips from someone who definitely knows assessments, but I have two critiques overall. First, the article uses the word “test,” which generalizes the job-fit assessment, and second, the article falls short on its promise to teach the reader how to ace the assessment.
Do I need a Scranton and No. 2 pencil?
When people (and experts especially) refer to assessments as “tests,” they summon those awful memories we have of grade school. Beyond that, a test is known as the harbinger of The Letter Grade, which determines your personal value and worth. This is NOT what job-fit assessments are meant to do. After taking a job-fit assessment, you won’t get back a paper riddled with red X’s, and you won’t hear anyone ask you what you made—a 4.0 or a 100 or a 1600 (or is it 2400? Who can keep up?)
The job-fit assessment isn’t that type of test, so you don’t have to obsess over getting an A+ like Ralphie from the Christmas Story. The goal of a job-fit assessment is to uncover a candidate’s inherent behavioral traits and match those traits to competencies needed for the job. A close match means the candidate would be a good fit because he or she has the right qualities and potential to accomplish job-related tasks and thrive in that particular work environment.
The job seeker’s first priority is to land a job, of course, but more than that, they want an opportunity to contribute meaningful work, reach goals, and grow. So when someone accepts a job that isn’t right for them, it’s not a win on either side. Both the job seeker and the employer fulfilled their immediate needs to get or fill a job, but they now face the much bigger problem of poor fit—because the job requires that the new hire go against their natural style and tendencies. And poor fit usually leads to unhappy employees (or ex-employees) and wearied managers.
When you look at it like that, you can see that assessments aren’t some cruel trick that companies are playing on adults who thought their test-taking days were over. They’re a proactive solution to the bad-fit problem. Yes, job seekers want to show their best self to a prospective employer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when the job-seeker’s personality and natural tendencies align with the competencies that the employer is looking for, they will shine, even if they didn’t know how to ace the assessment.
No answer key after all
I’ll admit, by the end of the article I felt a bit duped. I was intrigued by the title, and curious to know what test-taking strategies the article would suggest to help people ace the job-fit assessment (again, not the point). But the article gave tips only on preparing for the assessment, the same tips that could help you prepare for just about anything: familiarize yourself with the material, create an environment you’ll perform well in, caffeinate (if that’s what you normally do), etc.
So, as I suspected, there’s no master answer key that will earn you the top score. There’s no “right” answer on a job-fit assessment because job-fit is relative (although you might also take a skill-based assessment that scores you in a more traditional way). And I don’t actually expect everyone to stop using the word “test” when talking about job-fit assessments. Full disclosure, I’m currently buying the word “test” as part of my PPC advertising strategy because it’s a term that people are using—doesn’t mean I have to like it, right?
Semantics aside, my hope is that as job-fit assessments become more prevalent, we work to re-frame the experience and distinguish them from those other types of tests we know and loath, since job-fit assessments serve a very different purpose.