Human Resources
Assessment and Selection

Why Assessment?

Assessment is at its core a measurement of talent. It is any methods used to evaluate the degree to which an individual has the knowledge, skill and/or ability required for success on the job. This includes:

  • Skill, ability or personality testing
  • Education and experience information
  • Multi-rater (360) feedback
  • Interviews
  • Work samples
  • Simulation exercises
  • Work history records

Employment-related assessments and procedures are used to help make employment decisions. These decisions could include: hiring, promotion, demotion, membership, referral, retention, licensing and/or certification.

Why Focus on Talent Assessment? | Best Practices in Assessment 
Choosing the Right Type of Assessment | Tools and Techniques | Determining ROI

Why Focus on Talent Assessment?

Labor is one of the largest components of total operating expense—20-80%— across various industries. However, talent is often viewed as a cost rather than an investment, especially for front line employees. The quality of talent acquisition process has a far greater impact than is often realized and can be a sound, strategic investment. Some of the benefits of talent assessment include:

  • Accelerated learning speed
  • Quality output
  • Improved safety, reduced workers compensation cost
  • Teamwork
  • Dependability
  • Potential for promotion
  • High retention
  • Reduced legal costs to defend

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Best Practices in Assessment

Assessing and selecting the right candidates can be difficult. Failure to properly assess candidates can lead to higher training costs, errors, accidents and injuries, employee relations issues, absenteeism, limited potential for employee advancement, high turnover and legal challenges. Some of the best practices in assessment include:

  • Linked to business strategy. The assessment process must support the overall business and talent strategy
  • Directly tied to current and/or future job requirements. A thorough job analysis should be conducted to determine the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics that are most important to job success. The tests should then be chosen based on what best measures the characteristics of interest.
  • Accurate in predicting job performance (valid). Validity is the degree of accuracy of interference made on the basis of the selection tool. Validation approaches include: content, criterion-related and transportability. Assessments, which don’t have validity, are ineffective and a waste of resources.
  • Legally compliant. Assessments should have a thorough and well-documented job analysis based on appropriately determined job families, a chosen combination of selection tools that minimize adverse impact on protected groups, a study of validation, a consistent application of tools and a monitoring of passing rates and adverse impact rates.
  • Accepted and supported by users. When introducing assessments to an environment that previously relied on manager’s judgment or preference, it is important to employ effective change management strategies, communicate and engage stakeholders at every opportunity.
  • Palatable to those being assessed. Candidates’ reactions to selection procedures are important and can be influenced by: perceived validity/job-relatedness, perceived intrusiveness, perceived opportunity to demonstrate skills, prior experience with assessment method, consistency of use and information candidates have about the job and organization.
  • Administratively efficient and effectively—integrated with overall hiring process. The assessment should appropriately sequence various selection tools (i.e. use highly-valid, less expensive tests with high volumes and more expensive, time-consuming methods for finalists), use technology appropriate for the situation and have an appropriate administration time.
  • Demonstrates ROI and intended outcomes. There should be adequate resources to track needed outcome data, including both quantitative and qualitative information. Evaluated ROI can secure the buy-in of those who may be resisting the implementation of the assessments.

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Choosing the Right Type of Assessment

Consideration in Selection Assessment Tools

When selecting the right type of assessment to use, it is important that the assessment chosen is valid and measures the correct set of skills, knowledge and abilities needed to fill the position. Choosing the wrong assessment can put you in as much risk as having none with the additional expense of having paid for the tests. There are numerous considerations that should be taken into account when selecting an assessment.

Type of Competency Measured

Depending on the competencies you are looking for in job candidates, there are different types of assessments. For example, if analytical skills are applicable to the position, a cognitive ability test would be well suited as an assessment; however, if interpersonal skills are most important to a job, a role-play exercise assessment is more applicable to the position.

In addition, different assessments are more effective at measuring particular characteristics such as “can do”, “will do” and “able to” abilities. Below are some examples of the types of test that would be best at assessing those characteristics:

Can Do Will Do Able To
  • Applicant screens
  • Structured interviews
  • Basic skills test
  • Computerized assessments
  • Technical knowledge tests
  • In-basket exercises
  • Reasoning skills tests
  • Job situations tests
  • Structured interviews
  • Behavioral simulations
  • Biographical inventories
  • Personality inventories
  • Team exercises
  • Video-based tests
  • Role plays
  • Performance assessments
  • Work sample tests
  • Physical ability tests
  • Certification exams

Level of Fidelity

Different assessments have various levels of fidelity or realism.*******Specific tests are listed by degree of fidelity from least to highest:

  • Paper-pencil personality measure
  • Paper-pencil ability measure
  • Career directions interview
  • Video simulation/test
  • Paper in-basket exercise
  • Role-play
  • “Day-in-the-Life” exercise
  • Multimedia business simulation

Administration Method

When considering assessment tools it is important to consider how the test will be administered. Will it be a low-tech test with paper and pencil or a face-to-face interview? A medium tech test that is phone or video-based? Or will it be a high tech test requiring internet/intranet, computer, video-conferencing, multi-media, or interactive voice response?

In addition, it is also important to determine the who, what, when, where and how of the administrative requirements:

  • Who—Which people will be assessed? How will they be identified?
  • What—What type of results is needed? Narrative developmental report? Pass/fail score?
  • When—At what point in the career/promo process will the assessment happen?
  • Where—What location? Centralized? Decentralized
  • How?—How will the assessment be administered? How will the process and results be communicated? How will the process be tied to other systems such as training?

Level of Validity

Assessment procedures can “look good” and “feel right” even when they are ineffective. Ineffective assessments don’t provide benefit to the organization in making good decisions, are dangerous from a legal standpoint and are a waste of resources. Validity is essential because it represents the accuracy of inferences that are made on the basis of assessment information.

Degree of Job Requirement Coverage

An effective assessment process will cover all or most of the critical job requirements. From a legal defensibility standpoint, it is good to demonstrate attention to all important job characteristics. It is also important to consider job coverage and choose methods demonstrated to have less adverse impact on candidates.

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Tools and Techniques

There are four main types of assessment: work history/experience data, tests, interviews and assessment exercises and simulations. Each type of assessment has different techniques for administration and offers different advantages for various assessment situations.

Work History/Experience Data

Work history/experience data is typically administered via paper-pencil, internet, face-to-face, phone or interactive voice response. These types of tests are beneficial because they are cost effective for pre-screening and/or placement assessments. Often they are accompanied by a Realistic Job Preview and are efficiently scored via job-related scouring methods and guidelines. Work history/experience data assessments must be developed carefully to ensure legal defensibility. Work history/experience data assessments include:

  • Structured biodata inventory
  • Structured application bank
  • Accomplishment record
  • Skill and experience checklist


Tests are typically administered via paper-pencil, internet, computer, video or interactive voice response. They are beneficial because they are efficient, cost-effective, can have a high validity and are a lower fidelity option. There are a variety of tests available, which cover a range of competencies and job types, that can be used in isolation or combined. Some tests allow for “quick implementation.” Similar to the work history/experience data assessments, tests must be developed with care to ensure legal defensibility. Tests assessments include:

  • General mental ability
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Personality and motivational characteristics
  • Specific technical knowledge areas


Interviews are typically administered in-person, on the phone or via video-conferencing. If structured appropriately, interviews have moderate validity; however, they are also more-labor intensive than tests or work history/experience data assessments. Interviews may be focused on relevance of training and experience, teamwork/leadership, work orientation/work ethic or problem solving/decision making. Interview assessments include:

  • Career directions interviews
  • Structured, behavior-based interviews
  • Panel interviews

Assessment Exercises and Simulations

In assessment exercises/simulation assessments, candidates must demonstrate competencies in a simulated work situation. These assessments require trained assessors to evaluate behavior using  checklists. They are beneficial because they have a higher fidelity and are engaging; however, they are also more time consuming than other assessments and costly. Exercises and simulations can be high-tech or low-tech and are not typically used for pre-screening until later in the assessment process. Assessment exercises and simulations include:

  • Role plays
  • Day-in-the-life exercise
  • Video simulation
  • In-basket exercise
  • Presentation
  • Group exercises
  • Multimedia simulations

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Determining ROI

It is not enough to just develop and implement a sound selection system. A measurement of bottom line impact is required to show desired organizational improvements. Selection systems impact the bottom line in two ways: process measures and outcome measures. Process measures are evidenced by increased positive work behaviors and employee skill levels. Outcome measures are evidenced by improvements in productivity, turnover and retention. These measures justify investment and demonstrate selection systems contribution to organizational goals.

Aon Hewitt has conducted over 1,000 research studies documenting the effectiveness of our assessments across a wide range of jobs. More specifically, the data indicates that candidates who perform well on job-related tests are more likely to help impact:

  • Performance through higher skill proficiency
  • Ramp to proficiency through reduced time and greater impact from training
  • Safety through reduced accidents and less lost time
  • Tenure though reduced turnover and higher engagement

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