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In Part 1, I explained that job skills walk around on two feet; past achievements are less important than the skills used to accomplish them; employers rent two-legged skills to do specific jobs; and headhunters produce about the same hiring quality as internal recruiters. I suggested readers Google “Principles for the validation and use of personnel selection procedures”and follow the SIOP.org link; and, read how applicants feel about organizations that follow best-practices.

In Part 2, I’ll continue the discussion.

Proficiency Test

If you want to learn whether HR is doing a good job screening candidates for critical job skills, ask the hiring manager. (more…)

cae-logoAs long as I have been in business, hiring managers have been trying to pin a magic number on job candidates in the hope it will indicate future job performance. Sometimes that number is a GPA, combined test score, or even past earnings. Now we have the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) … a test given to new college graduates and scored like the SAT. But guess what? Magic numbers are just that … magic!

Magic is the art of illusion. That is, a magician creates illusions using sleight of hand that deceives the audience. Hiring decisions based on a number are sleight of hand because they lead people to think everything about a person can be reduced to a few digits. But anyone with enough years on the job and the professional savvy to systematically compare job performance to pre-employment test scores (i.e., studies … not stories) knows this is only part of the performance story. (more…)

Letterman-BuildingIs a degree from Harvard worth more than one from Oklahoma State? By how much? A year at Harvard costs $52,650 versus about $9,000 at OSU. So is a graduate of Harvard almost six times better than one of OSU?

You may soon be able to tell, courtsey of a new test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment that supposedly provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical-thinking skills. (more…)

It’s a common mistake. Promote your best salesperson, gain a bad manager, and lose both. Why does this keep happening? Sales were great and his/her top performance attracted attention, but nothing prepared you for the bad manager part. Well, there are some very clear reasons.

Reason 1: The Ends Don’t Justify the Means

Sales are the end result of dozens of mini-activities: personal behaviors, motivations, dealing with customers, analyzing problems, making decisions, working with team members, solving problems, and so forth. Do enough of these mini-activities right and good things happen. Do them wrong and expect failure.

In my experience, top salespeople often fake their way to the top by over-promising, underpricing, over-shipping, sand-bagging sales, and so forth. I saw a great example of this firsthand when a salesman always encouraged my company to over-order product … and then later permitted us to return unused goods. He was so good at over-shipping and returning, his company eventually made him president (after all, a top salesman is qualified to be a company president, right?). The company tossed him out a few years later when they realized he was nothing but lies and promises. I wonder what that promotion decision cost them?

Reason 2: Know One When You See One

People naturally make decisions based on personal impact. For example, hundreds of hours of national attention was devoted to a 12-person shooting event in Colorado; meanwhile, in Detroit an average of 29 people are killed EVERY month (source: 2012 Detroit Police Department crime statistics). ‘Bet few people outside of Detroit ever heard of them. The news networks are masters at making a big event seem more important than dozens of smaller ones. So it is with sales.

Salespeople are skilled at managing the big event. It’s an example of the “empty suit” syndrome; that is, everything about them looks good on the outside, but there is seldom anything on the inside.  Sure, a sales manager needs to know about selling, but management requires more, and better, skills. Don’t make assumptions based just on sales. You have to verify whether he/she has skills to coach and counsel, make good decisions, analyze markets, plan strategies, and manage a variety of diverse activities. That’s the key to successful management.

Reason 3: Past Performance is Only Part of the Equation

If you ever took a course on behavioral interviewing you were told past behavior predicts future behavior. But, did they emphasize accuracy largely depends on whether the future job requires the same skills and motivations as the past one? Past performance cannot predict something the candidate has never done or experienced. Assuming he or she was not a total failure, basing a management promotion primarily on sales usually produces a manager whose idea of management is “watch me sell.”

Since new managers are often called upon to analyze more data, make more challenging decisions, organize the efforts of a large workforce, personally coach needy salespeople, and be motivated to do all the above, is it any wonder so many crash and burn? Training to the rescue? Forget the hype. We all know it is almost impossible to train a bad manager into a good one. Why not just hire a skilled manager in the first place?

Think carefully about this next statement: a good manager must know what to do, when to do it, and why. In other words, he/she must be fully aware of what to do in every situation and be able to communicate it to others. Many of the top salespeople I have seen run on automatic pilot … and that’s a sure predictor of a bad manager.

Reasons 4, 5, and 6: Faulty Tools

Examining past earnings statements?  … it indicates nothing about how they were achieved

Sell me the Ashtray? … it indicates nothing about rapport-building; fact-finding, and motivation (the three biggest sales de-railers)

Promise top salespeople management positions … well, we already talked about that.


If past sales performance has so many problems, what should you do differently? There is no Twitter-level answer. And the most reading a short article can do is raise awareness. It takes years of practice and knowledge to learn job-measurement skills; still, here is a list of things that need to be considered:

  • Be sure the candidate knows and can articulate clearly the entire sales process. He/she does not need to be the best salesperson on staff, just know what to do, when to do it, and why.
  • If the position actually requires management skills (i.e., not an honorary promotion) estimate the importance of each of the following skills: planning and organizing, analyzing markets, analyzing individual salesperson performance problems, decision making, coaching and counseling activities, developing sales, and account penetration strategies. Critical areas need special attention.
  • Next, screen each candidate by examining their past performance using behavioral interview technology. If you are not skilled at BEI, you are at a significant disadvantage. Find a course and send someone to get trained. It will take months of practice to get good. Of course, as we discussed, BEI may work better to disqualify candidates than qualify them.
  • Next, then find tests and exercises that measure each critical skill identified above. NEVER use a training test. Training tests are seldom if ever designed to predict job performance. You might get scores, but without performance evidence, they are generally worthless performance predictors.
  • Incorporate a few one-on-one coaching simulations. Like the tests I mentioned above, hiring simulations are another form of test … they are not training practices. They must have all the characteristics of tests: tightly controlled, trained role-players, and standardized scoring sheets. Why simulations? Ask yourself why athletic teams ask players to try out. Tryouts illustrate ability. Management candidates need to do the same.

A Final Note

No system is a perfect predictor, but accurately evaluating each critical managerial skill will eliminate candidates who cannot plan, organize, analyze markets, analyze performance problems, make decisions, coach, and develop penetration strategies. You have to admit, that will be considerably better than promoting someone whose only skill is selling.

I was cleaning the attic the other day when I discovered a book that Kevin Wheeler and I put together back in the fall of 2001. This dusty tomb provided me with a treasure trove of insight along with a good deal of food for reflection.

Our book, titled “ Screening and Assessment: Best Practices” includes a variety of information about screening and assessment tools including the results of a usage survey examining use patterns for assessment tools, a summary of best practices for screening and assessment, and predictions for the future.

While a full review of the information in this book is beyond the scope of this article, it provides some highlights that are worth sharing. This book simultaneously provides strong evidence for both some immutable laws around effective assessment usage as well as great insight into the changes that are driving the continued evolution of screening and assessment tools.

Assessment Usage

The survey summarized in this book is very important if for no other reason then it was the genesis of the Rocket-Hire assessment usage survey which had a six-year run here on ERE (and which will return in a new format in the near future).

In general, the usage data were not extremely surprising given the nascent state of on-line assessment a decade ago. Here are the highlights:

In the master-of-the-obvious category: Results indicated that a smaller number of companies reported using screening and assessment tools 10 years ago than they do today. Pre-employment assessment has, and will continue to become easier and easier to use. The newest technology based systems have created a situation where assessment is dangerously close to becoming mainstream. This was just not the case a decade ago when a handful of consulting firms and test publishers ruled the roost.

In the fear-factor category: Respondents indicated a general lack of confidence in screening and assessment tools and were very concerned about the security and legal defensibility of assessments, especially the online variety. The actual usage of pre-employment assessment in the real world has provided the data needed to assuage these concerns. We have fully embraced the unproctored remote assessment as a legitimate tool, and legal compliance has proven to be agnostic to the delivery method of an assessment.

In the solid-as-a-rock category: No matter how much technology and science have been able to support new models for screening and assessment tools, the four-step model that I preach with my clients today is just as relevant now as it ever was. The immutable laws of success with assessment mandate the following steps:

Step 1: Define – Create and document clear understanding of exactly what is required for successful job performance and fit with the organizational context.

Step 2: Measure – Choose screening and assessment tools that are reliable and valid measures of the things you have defined in step 1, and configure them into a sequence that creates a strategic hiring process in which the right information is collected at the correct time.

Step 3: Decide – Use the output of the measurement tools to support informed decision-making. Ensure that those responsible for making hiring decisions can access relevant information from the various steps in the hiring process to help them use their expertise and experience to make better decisions.

Step 4: Evaluate – Close the loop by collecting post-hire data that can be used to examine the impact of the measurement tools. This step can involve both qualitative in quantitative evaluations. The goal is to fully understand the value-add of the measurement and decision-making process.

In the shame-on-you category – Unfortunately, the fourth step in my model — evaluation — was as foreign a concept a decade ago as it seems to be today. Our continued survey work reveals that very little has changed in the area of evaluation in the past decade; that is, companies just don’t get the importance of assessment program evaluation. This is a shame since such evaluation is absolutely mandatory for proving the business impact of the hiring process.

Dusting Off the Crystal ball — Decade-old Future Predictions

Perhaps the most interesting part of our 2001 publication is my predictions for what is to come in future of screening and assessment tools. I have edited the full list down to what I feel are the most relevant ones and present them below along with a few comments about the accuracy of my abilities as a clairvoyant.

Prediction 1 – Effective sourcing requires a unique employment brand effectively communicated to entice applicants to visit the employment portal.

  • True: While I did not forsee the rise of social media, increasing numbers of companies are working hard to create a brand that helps communicate with a targeted group of potential applicants. In short, employment branding is even bigger business then ever, and success in this area is essential for feeding a good hiring process because it increases the odds of making a good hire.

Prediction 2 – Introducing scientifically based measurement to selection systems will offer relatively inexpensive ways to increase their predictive ability.

  • True: The cost of assessments has come down significantly over the past decade. In fact assessment consumers can now get more for less. Technology and Internet delivery have provided two key things that drive commodotization, access, and data.

Prediction 3 – Systems using databases of job performance taxonomies will allow users to define one set of job-related competencies to be used throughout the selection process, improving ease of use and efficiency.

  • Kind of true: We still have not seen the level of integration between pre- and post-hire systems that is needed, but we have made significant strides over the past decade. Where the conversation was not even present a decade ago, nowadays companies are at starting to express a desire to figure this one out. It all starts with intention!

Prediction 4 – Future systems will in need to integrate the ability to process information into small amounts of data that is meaningful for making selection decisions.

  • True: One of the biggest reasons why assessment has become more popular is that technology systems have made it much easier to access relevant information to support decision making. In the past assessment reports often approached 20 pages or more. Now we have dashboards and other tools that make it even easier for non-psychologists to use assessment data effectively.

Prediction 5 – The future will see data collection and metrics become an integral part of system design. The more information demonstrating the effectiveness of these systems, the easier it will be to fuel investment in the development and implementation.

  • Kind of true: We are on a path toward technology systems that offer what I refer to as “closed loop validation.” This simply means that these systems capture a continual stream of post-hire data that can be used to understand the impact of the selection process in quasi real time. The first of these systems are popping up now and with the advent of big data, we can expect to see progress on this frontier.

Prediction 6 – Systems will have to consist to address customer concerns over legal defensibility accuracy and candidate honesty.

  • True: In most cases concern over legal issues, security, faking, and reliable delivery have been put to rest by the fact that millions of persons have participated in online assessment programs with very little evidence of malfeasance or legal complaints.

A Look at the Market

Finally, the appendix to our book, which contained contact information for leading screening and assessment providers, provides interesting insight into the assessment market. Of note is the fact that of the 22 vendors found in the appendix, only eight are still in business today using the same name and corporate structure as they were a bit over a decade ago. Another 6 of those 22 have either been acquired or merged with another company. Finally, eight, or over one third of the list of vendors, have completely gone out of business in the past decade.

A look at our decade-old vendor list definitely captures the fact that the assessment marketplace has been marked by a good deal of consolidation while it continues to see the tried-and-true companies that have been around for decades still holding a good deal of market share. This tells me that while there is plenty of room for new and innovative blends of technology and selection science, those vendors who base their business on the four steps for success are extremely relevant today and are providing a major influence on the future of assessment.

So what are my predictions for the next 10 years when it comes to preemployment assessment tools? Let’s just say I think it’s going to get a whole lot more interesting.

We are entering into a new era in which the data yielded from the talent acquisition and talent management process will begin to support new levels of insight that were previously not possible.

Stay tuned for a more detailed article covering the trends I expect to see in the near future. For those who can’t wait Here is a teaser in regards to what I expect the next decade to bring:

  • Integration of assessment into sourcing tools (job boards, social networking)
  • Lack of evaluation will be helped by big data and the technology created to harvest and manage it
  • Integration of talent acquisition and talent management (that is pre and post hire HR activities)
  • The creation of portable, verifiable credentials will provide the ability for job seekers to prove what they know and differentiate themselves easily during an online application process.

I can’t wait to fast-forward 10 years to see if I’ve still got it!

Candidates and hiring companies have at least one thing in common: Both are looking for the perfect match.

Skills, knowledge, and experience are the tangibles to determine a functional fit within an organization. Aspects of values and personality may determine one’s ability to adapt to an organization’s culture. Recruiters, human resources professionals, and hiring managers understand the value of assessing a candidate’s potential cultural fit. Poor cultural fit is something that cannot be resolved with training.

Cultural fit goes beyond simply getting along with fellow workers. For example, according to an Accountempts survey, “Nearly eight in 10 (79%) chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said an employee’s sense of humor is important for fitting into the company’s corporate culture.” That is important to the employer and the employee. If you are going to spend more than 40 hours per week working, you want to be with people with whom you can relate.

There are several methods that employers, recruiters, and candidates use to ensure a cultural match is made.

Job Posting

An employer can signal candidates by writing a detailed job posting including information about the company and its culture. The description will hopefully attract candidates of like mind and deter candidates with opposing values. Take a look at these sample postings — AppleKaiser PermanenteSolutions IQ. Can you determine if you would be a cultural match?


Just as an employer communicates their values through the job posting, a candidate can share their values through the résumé.

Candidates should be careful not to go over the top. For example, résumés should focus on skills, accomplishments, and knowledge. Through achievements employees can demonstrate values such as customer care, attention to quality, and on-time delivery of projects. Characteristics such as humor and honesty are not necessary to list on a résumé. A candidate can also show compassion through community and philanthropic roles.


Employers may ask questions to uncover a candidate’s work ethics, personal values, and work style. This may be achieved through situational questions in which the interviewer inquires about a choice a candidate may make or how they would solve a particular problem. To determine fit, often multiple team members will interview the candidate.


Some employers use psychometric tests to learn more about a candidate’s personality traits, and how they will interact with others in the company. According to Sanford Rose, “It has been estimated that 30% of all companies have incorporated some sort of personality testing into their hiring process.”

Internet Search

Employers can gain insight into an employee’s personality by reviewing a candidate’s postings on social media sites. Candidates can learn about a company by searching online and especially reviewing the corporate website.

Job Shadowing

A trial day or even few hours is a great way to for the candidate and the hiring company to evaluate each other.

It is beneficial to the employer and the candidate to be forthright and honest throughout the job/candidate selection process. Any manipulation or false representation can result in a mismatch, which is a setback for the employer and the employee. With openness during the process, a perfect match can be found.

About the author: Debra Wheatman is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). She is globally recognized as an expert in advanced career search techniques with more than 18 years’ corporate human resource experience. Debra is a featured blogger on numerous sites and posts regularly on her own site. She has been featured on Fox Business News, WNYW with Brian Lehrer, and quoted in leading publications, including Forbes.com, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. Debra may be reached at debra@careersdonewrite.com or you may visit her website at http://www.careersdonewrite.com.

The work we do with our clients begins with a focus on defining, in quantitative and qualitative terms, what constitutes success in the position. The result is the finalization of the position’s critical performance outcomes (usually somewhere between four and ten). This step must be properly accomplished before you can establish job-related, performance-based selection criteria. Once these have been established, you can move forward with the candidate assessment process.

For accurate assessment, properly constructed, behaviorally-based selection techniques may require you to use a combination of various interviewing approaches and questioning styles that will allow you and your client to evaluate not only the candidate’s skills and abilities but also the characteristics listed in the chart, and most importantly, Motivations.

Properly developed and utilized, behaviorally-based selection techniques will provide you with honest, accurate, and timely information on which to predict behavior and assess the candidate’s “can do,” “will do,” and “fit” for the position and for the organization.


The best indicator of future success is past performance. Although it is not the only indicator, as a predictive tool, past performance demonstrates the strongest correlation to future success.

Probing past performance behaviorally

Therefore, the most effective selection techniques tend to be anchored on an exploration, in behavioral terms, of the candidate’s past performance.

Evolving from this approach is the most efficient assessment technique: the structured, behaviorally-based, evaluation interview. It combines many different questioning techniques to accomplish its predictive objective. It is a flexible approach that must be adapted to each individual situation. However, in order to take full advantage of this dynamic approach, you must develop the appropriate skill sets for properly using various styles for framing, sequencing, and layering questions, and for interpreting and evaluating the responses against the predetermined job-related performance-based selection criteria.

The behaviorally-based questions must be individually designed to uncover the candidate’s experience in solving problems, handling challenges, and producing results. The answers must demonstrate their willingness and capability to meet or surpass the critical performance outcomes that have been previously identified for your client’s position. Herein lies the heart of the assessment process.

In no particular order and not necessarily related to any specific position, the following questions will provide you with examples of this assessment technique. Remember, the questions you develop must be directly related to the position you are trying to fill and the critical performance outcomes that must be reached in order to achieve success in the position.

Example 1: Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a particularly difficult obstacle in order to achieve results.

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • Why did you choose that approach?
  • What were the results?
  • How did you feel about that?
  • It you had to do it all over again, what if anything would you do differently or what would you change?

Example 2: Tell me about a time when you went beyond what was expected of you on your job.

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • What prompted you to do this?
  • What were the results?
  • How did you feel about it?

Example 3: Give me an example of a recent conflict you had with a coworker (manager, customer, vendor).

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • What were the causes of the conflict?
  • What specifically did you do to handle it?
  • What was the outcome?
  • How did that make you feel?

Example 4: You have just provided me with a listing of your strengths. How did you develop those strengths?

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • In specific terms, how do you use each of these strengths in your present job?
  • What value or benefit does this bring to your company (job)?

Example 5: From a business perspective, tell me about the last time you or one of your ideas or suggestions was rejected?

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • How did that make you feel?
  • What role did emotion play in how you handled it?
  • What were the results?
  • Did you consider alternative approaches?
  • If you had to do over again, what if anything would you have done differently?

The above questions illustrate various examples of behaviorally-based assessment techniques. In order to be effective, questions of this nature must be individually tailored for each client and position. Otherwise, it will be difficult to interpret and evaluate the answers against the previously determined selection criteria.

Sound like a lot of work? Indeed it is. However, as you develop your skills with this assessment technique, you will greatly increase your ability to identify, qualify, interest, and deliver to your clients employees who will achieve the critical performance outcomes required for success. More importantly, they will be enhancing the performance capacity of your client’s organization. Ultimately, this will define the measure of value your client places on the services you provide.


If 70% to 90% of a manager’s ability to succeed in their position is determined by the processes they use to hire their staff, anything you can do to improve that process will provide confirmation of your worth to their organization.

By developing your skills and abilities with behaviorally-based assessment techniques you will gain the single greatest advantage over the competition (particularly technologically-based competition). Additionally, having the capability to deliver this form of service will increase your effectiveness in both developing clients and recruiting candidates. In this manner you can secure your future as a true professional in our industry.

As always if you have questions, comments, or would like more information on how to become an expert in utilizing these assessment techniques, just let me know. Your calls and emails are most welcome.

About the author: Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry’s leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or email him at Terry@tpetra.com.

As I continue to attend conferences and hear awesome speeches about analytics such as the one by Josh Bersin, I am thoroughly convinced that talent acquisition (testing and assessment included) are at the beginning of a new era. The coming decades will represent not just a new era for testing and assessment, but rather its “golden era.” I began talking about this trend almost a decade ago, and I continue to watch for signs of the major transition that is currently underway.

Way More Insight

The past decade saw Internet technology freeing employment testing from the shackles of paper-based administration and reporting. As it got easier to do tests, there was a big increase in the use of pre-employment testing and the testing industry changed. A byproduct of this shift was a veritable cornucopia of data that has better allowed us to understand the factors that predict performance in almost every job and industry.

The coming decades will be all about the ability to use data and technology to gain incredible new levels of insight around people and their relation to the workplace — and to use this insight to realize new levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

Here are some of the things that will provide unprecedented ability to understand the relationship between people and jobs both in the near and the not to distant future.

Closed loop analytics: Businesses can now set up their hiring technology system to continually collect data related to job and/organizational performance (i.e., sales revenue, customer service scores, absenteeism, store or unit-level performance, etc.) and stream it back into a platform that will compare it to pre-hire data in order to determine the impact of hiring tools on real, live performance outcomes … in real time!

Such “closed loop” analytics systems go well beyond the classic concept of “validating” tests and assessments, instead providing a better understanding of the impact of a wide range of data collected in as part of the hiring process on real outcomes. This allows for a dynamic picture of the impact of pre-hire assessment on real business outcomes as opposed to the more common and less-effective static snapshot of these relationships. Companies such as Furst Person and Evolv are leading the way with the first real closed loop analytics systems on the market.

Tighter integration between talent acquisition and talent management: We are moving toward technology backbones that integrate data feeds from “pre-hire to retire.” Different systems like performance management, talent acquisition systems, and HR management systems will be better integrated, allowing for deeper insight into all sorts of decisions related to talent. It’ll soon be easier to measure the impact of long-term individual and group performance on key business outcomes. When it comes to testing this means that the impact of pre-hire assessment data on post hire talent management will become much more clear, allowing it to add more value.

This trend is just really beginning in earnest right now as companies are starting to understand that pre-hire assessment data has value for post-hire activities. For decades pre-hire assessment data has been essentially thrown away once an applicant bas been hired. We now know that this data has tremendous value in helping to effectively onboard new hires and manage their performance. Beyond this, pre-hire assessment data is also a key part of a long-term view regarding the impact talent has on organizational performance.  Companies such as DDISHL, Taleo, and Kenexa are all helping their clients to gain long-term insight into the impact their talent acquisition process has on their talent management process. We are in a relative state of infancy with regard to comprehensive data systems that will provide the levels of insight I am talking about, but rest assured it will be a reality in the decades to come (see Oracle’s purchase of Taleo, and SAP’s purchase of SuccessFactors).

Expansion of the data used to make predictions about job applicants: The overall look and feel of assessment tools will continue to move away from the current standard of boring radio buttons. I’m not just talking about slick simulations either. While there is no doubt that assessments will become more engaging, I’m actually referring to the use of real-world data that does not look like an assessment to be used to support prediction about job performance (social networking activities, purchasing behaviors, etc.).

In some cases this could get somewhat sinister (genetic information that will provide insight into applicants who represent health care risks, for example. While in others (such as the impact of a social media profiles on job performance) it may actually have some merit. I am not saying that we should start using Facebook as a predictive tool, rather that the data is out there and the exploration of its impact on job performance is just getting started.

The ability to collect data and analyze an inconceivable amount of data from myriad sources in order to make employment predictions has placed us on a collision course with a new set of legal and ethical issues related to what information will be allowed into the equation when it comes to pre-hire predictions. The battles that shape these new standards will help testing by drawing the line around acceptable methods and helping to clarify a more modern set of legal standards (the current ones were created in 1978!).

While this collision could be more than a decade away, it will result in a new set of rules for what can and cannot be used to make employment decisions, and hopefully we will arrive at a good formula for balancing rational ideas with empirical data. For instance, it makes sense that online profiles will become the new resume and that this transformation will see these profiles being used as a predictive tool. The information contained in profiles will be verifiable and transportable, allowing it to be easily shared and compared (almost like a digital passport or portfolio). Exactly how far companies will go in the use of unsolicited social networking profiles (as opposed to an applicant actively submitting a LinkedIn profile) remains to be seen.

Sourcing will change: Social media and analytics combined will lead to new models for sourcing, making it much easier for people to find jobs (and vice versa). One thing that will definitely impact sourcing will be a paradigm shift in the concepts of jobs and careers. We will see a trend toward constant movement of individuals between opportunities as the workforce becomes increasingly able to match their interests, skills, and abilities with their ambitions in a much more fluid manner then has ever been possible. A cornerstone of this fluidity will be the ability to accurately measure an individual on constructs that are critical for job performance (i.e., cognitive abilities, personality, career interests, work motivators, etc.) and to break jobs down into these same components. The ability to fluidly match people to job openings based on credible and reliable data will depend on quality assessment tools that provide a standard language for employers and job seekers.

Imagine a time when everyone browsing the web could view their “fit” with a given company simply by visiting their website for other reasons (product research, e-commerce, etc).

Companies such as Talent Technologies are beginning to create systems that are using sourcing and candidate communication to allow companies to fluidly source and communicate with candidates in ways previously not possible.

Companies like BurningGlass are starting to analyze millions of resumes and job postings in real time to begin gaining insight into the overall labor force and the skills needed to support career progressions, making it possible to predict what skills are in the most demand and what skills are needed for someone to move from one job to another.

Eventually assessments will enter into the equation and when mated with new ways for people to find jobs (and vice versa), they will provide a new language of opportunity for persons who do not wish to waste time working in jobs for which they are not suited or where they do not fit in.

The relationship between higher education and jobs will change drastically: As the price of education continues to skyrocket and the ranks of unemployed college grads swell, pressure to find new ways for individuals to demonstrate their suitability for the workforce will cause major shifts in the current system. One emerging trend that promises to be huge is the ability to self-educate using the Internet.

Companies like Coursera are making legitimate, free online education a reality and are on the forefront of a major paradigm shift in the academic system. Other companies like Pathbrite are allowing individuals a way to track and share their online learning.

As persons self-educate using the Internet, we will see a time when one can take tests that will provide certification of a specific skill set or competency without the formality of a degree. These tests will actually offer an improvement over the current system in some ways since a college diploma is not able to offer precise prediction of specific competencies or skills. Standardized, high-stakes certification exams will allow employers a much better level of insight into the match between an individual and a given job. It wont take long until the data collected from this process will provide the ability to predict both job and career performance (using the various things discussed above).

All of the factors I have discussed here are actually interrelated and the result of their evolution will be nothing less then a series of major shifts in the relationship between humans and their work. In one way or another, assessment (or the concepts it is based on) will be a big part of this evolution by providing increased ability to help individuals and organizations come together in order to provide a psychological contract that will benefit both parties.

As we gear up for the upcoming NFL draft this weekend, teams (and their fans) are studying, analyzing, prognosticating, and deciding which talent they should hire to help them achieve their goals.

In my preparations for the draft I recently ran across a really great article by Field Yates about the role of cognitive testing as one of the many pieces of predictive data used to help teams make player personnel decisions.

As a rabid fan of both testing and football and a self-proclaimed expert in each, I feel we can all learn a lot from the situation discussed in this article.

The article uses the controversy around the fact that Morris Claiborne, a cornerback who is projected to be a high first-round pick, did very poorly on the Wonderlic Exam (a cognitive ability test that all draft entrees are required to complete). The author suggests that Claiborne’s seemingly impossibly low score may actually be the result of a learning disability that will likely not hamper his on-field performance and uses this story as a lead-in to discuss the issue of using tests as a surrogate predictor of on-field performance.

I really enjoyed the author’s take on the importance of testing as a predictor of performance.

Just like a near-perfect score doesn’t equate to guaranteed success, a far-from-perfect score does not signal impending failure.

The point is — and this is what has been lost in the recent Claiborne headlines — the Wonderlic exam will always be a part of the draft equation, at least until a better metric is derived to replace it.

The premium each organization places on a particular Wonderlic score will inevitably vary; consensus is a rarity in personnel evaluation.

But what will always remain true is that every available tool to measure a player’s ability — the Wonderlic, 40-yard dash, bench press, and most importantly his film—is a piece of the draft puzzle.

I could not agree more with the author’s take on the value of testing as one piece of the bigger picture, the value of which is determined by the situation and the goals of the individuals who are responsible for making decisions. In my own work with testing and assessment I tend to recommend a model that focuses on the collection of a variety of data points. They all tap into different things that are important for success. Some can weed applicants out at key points in the hiring process; collectively, they can be “added up” at the end of the process to provide the data needed to make an informed final decision between candidates.

Here are a few more thoughts about the parallels between the article’s main points about predicting success in sports and my own insights around predicting success in the workplace.

  1. The “whole person approach” is important: The Wonderlic is a test of basic cognitive ability and a very tried-and-true one. There is no doubt that it is provides very valuable information, but that there are other traits and abilities that are important too. It is often not a good idea to base all hiring on one test; understand what success looks like and build a measurement model that includes tools to measure all of the key things required. Just as the 40-yard-dash time is a critical component, so might be typing speed or skill with Java.
  2. Understand the characteristics that are most valued by key stakeholders: When designing a selection system I am always delighted to have the chance to start at the top and let the organization’s strategic goals drive the process. The more all stakeholders are given a say in what they value and see as critical for success, the better. The combination of traits that are valued will likely be different in different situations, and this is what should drive the development of selection tools. An organization that prides itself on defense may look at the draft and its data differently then one that is more offensive-minded. Similarly, one firm may value innovators, while another firm may value experience, or free-thinking, or raw ability, or people who can follow a traditional path.
  3. Provide applicants with a strong connection between the test content (or the hiring experience) and the real job: Tests are nothing but proxies for measuring an individual’s ability to perform in real situations. Real situations are often hard to model and evaluate, and thus we dissect the real experience into the basic traits required to perform, and then create tests to measure these things. The closer one is able to replicate the real situation, the more confidence one can have in its ability to identify those who will be successful in that situation. Tests that do not appear job related often require a leap of faith. In the world of sports, this is somewhat taken care of for us, as the author suggests film study of actual real-life situations is never going to take a back seat to a test score. The value is not in abstract skills like analytical ability, but in how those abilities are applied on the job (reading defenses when a giant lineman is trying to remove your head). While there is value in testing, there is even more value in making your test look like the job. The less it does so, the more its value may be questioned.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of training and experience: While natural ability sets some individuals apart (Barry Sanders, Lynn Swann, etc.), there are plenty of regular Joes (and Janes) out there who have some innate gifts but who also can be developed into champions. We strive to identify the best talent and make the best predictions, but there are only so many persons who are operating on an exceptional level. Hiring for basic ability and coachability is a fine strategy as long as you know what you are starting from (the correct level of raw talent) and have good coaches on your staff. Sometimes you hire someone for the intangibles and work tirelessly to coach the other stuff (think TimTebow) to a useable level.
  5. Cast a wide net and don’t believe the hype: My favorite team has found some of its very best players in the furthest corners of the lower divisions of the NCAA. The moral is that raw talent is not always operating in the limelight. A good evaluation process will help mitigate the biases in perception about where one finds it. We have all lived through the many busts that have occurred when an individual is overly hyped and then fails to live up to expectations. A good evaluation process can also help cut through the crap and separate the pretenders from the contenders.
  6. No matter how good you are, you will never be right all the time: Get over it already.Humans are extremely unpredictable and our behaviors and choices often defy all logic and explanation. The best NFL scout and the best hiring managers and recruiters all share the burden of the imperfection inherent in predicting human behaviors. Failure is part of the equation. It’s how you deal with failure and what you learn from it that will make or break you.

Recent research confirms that top performers ranging from managers of major league baseball teams to customer service reps on the store floor have one thing in common: they are Deciders. And there are plenty of them out there just waiting to be recruited.

In the last decade, renowned industrial psychologist Timothy Judge at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business has discovered a set of four characteristics that are found in high performers in virtually every industry, every job level, and every variety of circumstance from boom to bust. Together these four characteristics make up a sort of super trait called a “core self-evaluation.” As Judge describes it, the core self-evaluation is a person’s fundamental bottom line evaluation of their abilities. That self-evaluation has an enormous impact on their job performance.

The Decider Advantage

In one fascinating study, Judge and his team tracked the progress of more than 12,000 people from their teenage years to middle age. He found that core self-evaluations predicted who did and who didn’t capitalize on the advantages life dealt them. With only a bleak view of their capacity to handle life’s challenges and opportunities, even the brightest kids born to executives and doctors failed to reach as high an annual income as their less fortunate classmates.

By contrast, the supremely confident sons and daughters of roofers and plumbers who had only mediocre SAT scores and below average grades earned a 30%-60% higher income than the smart kids with dreary views of their abilities. And those kids with all the advantages of intelligence and pedigree plus a firm belief in their competence earned three times as much money as their equally blessed peers.

I refer to people with a high core self-evaluation as “Deciders.” Deciders have such a firmly rooted belief in their ability to shape the events more than events shape them, that they aren’t afraid to make decisions. That simple willingness to make a call gives them a tremendous advantage that snowballs throughout their life. As the 13th century Turkish sage Nasreddin said “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.” People who simply make more decisions — both good and bad — develop good judgment faster.

For example, let’s say you’re interviewing Matt and Jen for a job. Both Matt and Jen have seven years of experience in their field, but Jen is a Decider and Matt is a Drifter. Matt’s MO is to drift through each day deferring decisions to his bosses and his colleagues. Jen, on the other hand, makes decisions all day, every day. Even if they began their careers with equal abilities, seven years later Jen’s judgment will be far sharper than Matt’s simply because she has made more decisions. That’s why Timothy Judge’s colleagues have found that Deciders sell more than other employees. They give better customer service. They adjust better to foreign assignments. They are more motivated. They experience less stress. They like their jobs a heck of a lot more.

Spotting the Next Superstars

Unfortunately, judgment is a squishy concept that you won’t find on a resume. But spotting Deciders is much easier. Judge’s simple 12-question “Core Self-Evaluations Scale” is free on his website. In the meantime, here’s what to look for during the recruitment process:

  • Self-efficacy: People who believe they can overcome challenges are more successful in virtually every sphere of life including work.
  • Internal locus of control: Does this employee take control of his work, or does he always point to outside circumstances when his projects go astray?
  • Confidence, not narcissism: There is an important difference between having a high self-evaluation and being a narcissist. Does the employee pitch in when teammates need help, or badmouth co-workers they view as a threat? Are they receptive or defensive when you receive feedback?
  • Emotional stability: Employees who aren’t easily discouraged are less likely to succumb to stress and burnout.

The competition for top talent is growing fiercer with each passing day. Hunting for Deciders might just give you the secret ingredient for success as a recruiter.