ADVENTURES in Online Testing (Volume 7, Issue 1)
by Chris Dalessandri, Managing Member, OWL Testing Software
Faced with today’s challenging economic climate, recruiters can feel like they are walking a tightrope when it comes to managing the candidate selection process. This is particularly true for international recruiting where there continue to be more applicants applying for fewer openings. At the same time the stakes have never been higher. While amounts spent on recruiting very greatly from organization to organization; there is little debate that recruiting is an expensive undertaking. According to a NACE Research Survey of 268 large multinational companies the average spent on each new hire was $5,054 for the 2010-11 recruiting season.1 Recruiters for both businesses and colleges must maintain a difficult balance between controlling the current costs of recruiting and guarding against the actual and opportunity costs of making the wrong selections. These competing factors make it more important than ever to find an efficient way to quickly narrow the pool of candidates to those applicants who are most qualified.
Rising Unemployment and Job Mismatch place Major Pressure on Recruiting
Recruiting challenges are further exacerbated by the global economic situation. Unemployment in developed nations, both in absolute terms and as a percentage, has seen double digit growth over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, this problem is predicted to grow worse over the next several years. The International Labour Organization's report on Global Employment Trends 2013 states, “the number of unemployed [in developed nations] is expected to rise further by about 5.1 million in 2013, to more than 202 million in 2013 and by another 3 million in 2014.” 2 In other words, there will be more applicants applying for fewer job openings.
What's more, it is expected to be even harder to find candidates who are qualified. The 2013 ILO report goes on to explain that, “As economies are restructuring, a mismatch may therefore arise between the supply of skills that is available in the large stock of unemployed created by the economic crisis and the demand of skills, in particular in developed economies. Such a mismatch hampers the reallocation of labour and will put upward pressure on unemployment rates.” 2 Simply put, there are more people applying for fewer jobs and fewer of those candidates will be qualified.
Repercussions of Poor Candidate Selection
The potential long-term negative impacts of selecting the wrong candidate can be severe. The results of a recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 25% of employers indicated the costs of a bad hire exceeded $50,000. The respondents reported that a bad hiring decision can affect a company's bottom line in a variety of ways as shown here.
Candidate selection is also a problem for learning institutions. Particularly when it comes to screening for ESL capabilities. It is not hard to find an American college graduate with an anecdote about struggling through a first year class led by a teaching assistant who had trouble communicating in English. It is almost a rite of passage. But that is not the only shortcoming of poor candidate screening in a collegiate environment. Improper student placement also can lead to “false beginners” being placed into entry-level classes. Conversely foreign students may suffer because they lack the requisite communication skills to succeed at their level of knowledge.
Screening Tests Provide a Reliable Indicator of Future Performance
No one tool can fill all recruiting needs, however; professionals in business and education know that screening test results are one of the most reliable indicators of future performance. By their nature, computerized screening tests have several factors which make them superior to other types of screening. Computerized tests are more consistent and eliminate many of the possible biases introduced in face-to-face interviews. Screening tests can also produce a more accurate assessment of skills than responses to application questions or anecdotal descriptions of prior experience that applicants might provide on their resume. Finally, screening assessments can cover a broad spectrum of evaluations that are not realistically possible in other more cumbersome processes. A few examples of screening assessments include: personality tests, cognitive tests, talent assessments, tests of emotional intelligence, assessments of specific job tasks, cultural, communication and language proficiency assessments.
One potential benefit of screening that is often overlooked is the cachet that a rigorous screening process can bring to a product or service offering. By branding the screening process, an organization can document and promote their commitment to selecting students and employees of superior quality. This is a strategy that has been effectively used by ivy league schools as well as Fortune 100 companies. Technology companies have led the way by creating multi-phased certification requirements for their candidates. But virtually any company can take advantage of this differentiation strategy. By creating a unique screening test, an organization can document and market the fact that its employees or students are only of the highest caliber.
4 Major Challenges presented by Candidate Screening
So the answer is simple, include screenings in the application process and improve recruiting results. Of course, nothing is quite that simple. Candidate assessments can increase recruiting efficacy, but it is prudent at this point, to proceed with caution. If screening tests are not handled correctly, human resources departments or placement offices can quickly become over burdened. Left unchecked, resources can be rapidly consumed. For example, maintaining the extensive computer information systems necessary for effective program management does not typically fall under the budget or the expertise of human resources or placement offices. And information management is only one challenge, simply managing the logistics of scheduling, delivering, scoring and sorting large numbers of tests is a daunting task.
- Handling an Overwhelming Volume of Testing – As the volume of candidates continues to increase so does the need to compress the selection process timeline. It becomes vital to eliminate the unqualified candidates as quickly as possible so that an organization’s recruiting resources can be focused on those candidates with the most potential. It is often necessary to deliver thousands of screenings simultaneously or over a very narrow window of time.
- Managing Escalating Costs of Employment Screening – The potential costs of worldwide testing can be limitless. Hiring and training proctors, managing testing centers, configuring computers, coordinating applicants, logistics and communications with stakeholders can all be expensive and time consuming. The more flexibility that is built into your screening tools. The more ready you will be to take advantage of cost savings opportunities and capture additional efficiencies.
- Utilizing Legally Defensible Methodologies – Candidate screenings must be delivered consistently and in an unbiased manner in order to create a testing atmosphere that is free of discrimination. Not only is consistent delivery important, but so is data maintenance. In order to defend against future challenges, an organization needs to capture and maintain an accurate and accessible record of the responses -- both in the aggregate and at the individual examinee’s item response level.
- Maintaining the Integrity of Testing Results – Finally, the farther flung the recruiting process is, the more chances there are for individual manipulation of the results. Safeguards must be put in place to ward off indiscretions and ensure testing integrity across remote locations or in high-volume proctored situations. Features such as user account creation and verification, form randomization, item timers and option shuffling become critical.
Even though these challenges can seem overwhelming, the rewards of utilizing screening tests make this a task worth tackling. This is where a test management system can provide an affordable alternative to outsourcing. A well-built TMS allows an organization to manage this process efficiently while maintaining the desired level of control. By combining a variety of question types, the OWL Test Management System offers companies the ability to create a customized assessment program branded to meet their organization's needs. With the OWL Test Management System organizations can evaluate speaking, reading and listening skills, as well as utilize more than 12 different question types to assess the technical knowledge and communication capabilities of applicants. The OWL Test Management System also offers several features to help manage testing remotely or in high-volume proctored situations. For example test security features include: randomization of items; shuffling of multiple choice options; thinking and response timers; and multiple unique test forms delivered to applicants at random. Administratively, OWL can make the process more efficient with automated features like: account creation, scoring, and dynamic notifications.
1. National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2011 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey Executive Summary, November 2011. www.naceweb.org
2. International Labour Organization, Global Employment Trends 2013 “Recovering from a second jobs dip” January 2013. www.ilo.org
3. CareerBuilder, “Nearly Seven in Ten Businesses Affected by a Bad Hire in the Past Year, According to CareerBuilder Survey” Chicago, December 13, 2012. www.careerbuilder.com