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Identifying hiring needs: How talent assessments help you understand what to hire for


You’ve just hired a great new receptionist: He’s punctual, friendly, and organized.

But there’s a problem. Half of your clients speak Spanish, and your receptionist only speaks English.

You could have tested for Spanish language ability during hiring if you had recognized your clients' needs. But now you’ve made a mis-hire, worsening 50% of your customers’ experience.

Understanding your hiring needs before you start recruiting is crucial. 

A good hiring-needs analysis makes the difference between a great hire and a mis-hire. It clarifies which skills and abilities you need in your recruitment strategy.

However, identifying hiring needs is tough without a repeatable process powered by reliable tools. That’s why you must use talent assessments to understand your business’s recruitment needs and assess your candidates against them.

In this guide, we explore everything you need to know about identifying hiring needs: why it matters, some common pitfalls, and the best practices for analyzing your needs early.

What are hiring needs?

Hiring needs are the requirements for a new hire to be effective in their role.

Here are a few hiring needs examples:

What is the importance of forecasting hiring needs? 

Understanding and anticipating your recruitment needs is important on several levels.

First and foremost, it reduces the risk of mis-hires by enabling you to hire based on clear criteria. 

Remember, a bad hire isn’t just disruptive to your organization’s culture and morale. It’s also expensive. Research shows that the average cost of a mis-hire ranges from $17,000 to $240,000.

Knowing your hiring needs in advance increases your organization’s hiring efficiency. It makes it easier for recruiters to source quality candidates quickly because they know exactly which skill set and qualities to look for in prospective new hires.

Plus, it decreases turnover costs and speeds up your time to hire, increasing your company’s overall productivity.

Those productivity gains also continue long after the hiring process is complete. A good hire improves employee morale and engagement throughout your company, leading to a 22% increase in profits and a 21% increase in productivity.[1]

how good hires benefit the hiring process in the long run chart

Lastly, a good hiring needs assessment helps inform your hiring strategy more broadly.

It identifies skills gaps within your organization that could limit your opportunities to grow and stay competitive.

From talent pool management to employee training and development, a hiring needs analysis tells you exactly where to focus your attention.

The difficulties with identifying hiring needs

The benefits of identifying your hiring needs are clear – but assessing them can be challenging, especially if your company relies on traditional hiring methods.

Not knowing your hiring needs affects employer branding and reputation

As we’ve seen, not knowing your hiring needs leads to time-consuming, costly bad hires

That’s also true if you identify your hiring needs incorrectly. Evaluating your hiring needs using unreliable methods is just as bad as not assessing them.

If your other employees leave because a mis-hire negatively impacts your workplace culture, it could wreak havoc on your employer branding

Remember, your former employees have more avenues than ever to tell the world what they think of your company. Sites like Glassdoor aggregate reviews of businesses from former employees – and 86% of job seekers use them to decide where to apply.

If your former staff comment negatively about your company culture or hiring practices, it could further shrink your candidate pool, reducing your access to top talent.

They’re hard to assess with traditional approaches

The biggest challenge is that it’s easy to get tangled up in traditional approaches to hiring when assessing your hiring needs. 

For example, a hiring manager thinks a particular role needs a traditional qualification, like a bachelor’s degree. That approach excludes candidates who have all the skills necessary to succeed in the role – but not a college degree.

When you focus on qualifications and background over skills and abilities, you risk excluding diverse candidates from your talent pool. 

Taking a skills-based approach is an important part of diversity hiring, which gives candidates from all walks of life a fair chance at a job.

But most significantly, relying on old-school qualifications means you risk missing out on great human resources because they don’t tick those arbitrary boxes.

How talent assessments help with identifying recruitment needs 

Talent assessments are the way forward if you’re ready to move past old-fashioned hiring practices and get a handle on your hiring needs.

They offer real, practical advantages for companies looking to identify hiring needs. 

Here are the main benefits.

Provide objective data matching skills to roles

The biggest advantage of talent assessments is that they provide objective, quantifiable data measuring candidates’ abilities and skills.

They make testing candidates for role-specific skills like graphic design, language competency, and software proficiency easy.

TestGorilla’s State of Skills-Based Hiring 2022 report found that role-specific skills tests are the most popular form of skills-based hiring, used by 54.6% of companies surveyed.

Once you’ve assessed your candidates, you can make hiring decisions based on who fits the needs of your open role most closely.

It’s a fair and data-driven way to hire that reduces the risk of bias in hiring.

Help you identify and fulfill hiring needs

Talent assessments don’t just help identify your hiring needs before you make a job offer. They help you fulfill them.

In the first case, they make it easy to test your existing staff for the skills they have – as well as the skills they lack. It shows you where your hiring needs lie, informing your hiring strategy.

In the second case, they help you identify your candidates’ skills and abilities during hiring so you can match them to open roles.

Companies like Unilever, a consumer goods firm, even use an internal talent marketplace to enable workers with the right skills to move easily between projects – all driven by skills testing.

Reduce mis-hires

We’ve already covered the major drawbacks of mis-hires. A bad hiring decision risks affecting everything from your company culture to your employees’ morale and engagement.

But when you use talent assessments during hiring and onboarding, you reduce your risk of making a mis-hire. 

The same TestGorilla report found that 92.7% of companies using skills-based hiring methods reduced their number of mis-hires.

When you use talent assessments to gauge your hiring needs, you get an accurate picture of what candidates can do versus what you need.

That makes identifying and hiring the best candidate for the job easier.

7 ways to use talent assessments to identify hiring needs 

Now you know why talent assessments matter, but how do you use them when hiring? 

In this section, we cover how to identify hiring needs using talent assessments so you always know what you’re looking for in a candidate.

Identifying recruitment needs with talent assessments at a glance

Best practice

How it helps

1. Conduct a skills gap analysis to identify recruitment needs

Assesses your current and future recruitment needs, enabling you to plan your hiring strategy

2. Build a skills-based ideal candidate profile

Sets clear, objective requirements for candidates based on the needs of the open role

3. Create a skills-based job description

Empowers candidates from all backgrounds to apply

4. Drop traditional requirements

Maximizes your access to top talent, regardless of background or experience

5. Consider personality and culture add

Decreases the risk of hiring someone who makes your company culture less attractive

6. Evaluate candidates with talent assessments to ensure they meet your hiring needs

Compares candidates’ abilities and skills with your hiring needs and identifies the best candidates on that basis

7. Use skills tests to upskill internal staff that match your hiring needs

Promotes internal mobility and fosters a culture of learning

1. Conduct a skills gap analysis to identify recruitment needs

A skills gap analysis is the most efficient way to identify places where your organization needs to acquire new skills. It involves comparing the skills you expect to need in the future with your existing employees’ skills

That way, you get a clear picture of the skills you need to hire for in the future, clarifying your hiring goals.

Conducting a skills gap analysis is easy. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Set out your company’s medium- and long-term business goals. What do you want to achieve in the future?

  2. Identify the skills your staff needs to reach those goals.

  3. Create talent assessments to gauge whether your workers have these skills. For example, this is a test designed to assess a staff member’s ability with Microsoft Excel.

example of Microsoft Excel test in TestGorilla screenshot

4. Use the results to compare your employees’ existing skills with those you need.

Remember, a skills gap analysis can cover hard and soft skills. Don’t feel limited – any skill can constitute a hiring need because a role demands it.

2. Build a skills-based ideal candidate profile

An ideal candidate profile (ICP) identifies the qualities a candidate needs to meet the job criteria. It should include things like:

  • Hard skills

  • Soft skills

  • Motivation

In principle, an ICP can include requirements relating to a candidate’s past work experience, educational background, social background, or even age.

However, focusing on those criteria risks limiting your hiring team’s ability to find the best candidates. It could even escalate into hiring discrimination.

Ask yourself whether those criteria are relevant to the candidate’s ability to do their job.

By contrast, a skills-based ICP focuses on the competencies qualified candidates need to perform a role. This approach works better to meet your hiring needs.

It sets clear, objective requirements for candidates based on the demands of the role you’re hiring for – all without getting bogged down in traditional requirements (more on that later).

3. Create a skills-based job description

Once you have your skills-based ICP, use it for a skills-based job description. The ICP should steer you toward writing a job description that reflects the requirements of the role you’re hiring for.

Several key differences exist between a skills-based job description and a traditional one. Here’s a quick guide:

Traditional job description

Skills-based job description

Focuses on relevant experience

Focuses on skills and abilities

Major reliance on educational qualifications

Limited reliance on educational qualifications

Lists strict requirements for the role

Lists the responsibilities of the role and the skills needed to complete them

Uses exclusionary language, whether intentionally or not

Uses inclusive language to attract more diverse applicants

Unsurprisingly, a skills-based job description does a better job of centering your hiring needs. 

It also offers clarity and transparency to candidates, helping them gauge whether they’re a good fit for the role and empowering them to apply regardless of their background.

4. Drop traditional requirements

If you still rely on traditional requirements, like a college degree, background check, or years of experience in a similar role, it’s time to let them go.

These requirements often end up on an arbitrary list of “needs” in the job description. But they usually don’t impact a candidate’s ability to do the job. On that basis, they aren’t hiring needs at all.

Big-name companies like Accenture and IBM are walking back their reliance on degree requirements. 

At the end of 2021, only 43% of Accenture’s IT job postings contained a degree requirement. At IBM, that figure was just 29%. Moreover, these companies’ job postings now focus on the actual skills candidates need, including a wide range of soft skills.

It reflects a shift in how major companies approach hiring to maximize their access to top talent, regardless of what resumes show.

5. Consider personality and culture add

Hiring needs don’t end with hard skills. If your recruitment team doesn’t pay attention to a candidate’s personality and potential to add to your culture, you risk hiring an asshole genius who could devastate your company culture.

Conversely, when you hire for culture add, you build a culture that can engage your staff and reduce employee turnover. Low-engagement teams see turnover rates ranging from 18% to 43% higher than high-engagement teams.[2]

Fortunately, testing for culture add and personality is easy. Tests like the Culture Add and Enneagram tests – available in our test library – help you measure whether a candidate can contribute to or detract from your culture during hiring.

Digital agency TakeFortyTwo started testing for culture add during rapid growth in 2021. It found that the tests were quick and easy to administer, meaning their HR professionals could focus on the best candidates early in the hiring process.

6. Evaluate candidates with talent assessments to ensure they meet your hiring needs

Now that you’ve assessed your recruitment needs and built your skills-based ICP and job description, it’s time to evaluate your candidates’ skills against your hiring needs.

This point is where talent assessments shine. Here’s how to use them:

1. Set up an assessment for your open role, incorporating talent assessments that reflect the needs of the job

setting up an assessment in TestGorilla screenshot

2. Incorporate any reasonable accommodations or extra questions you want to ask your applicants

3. Send the assessment link out to all your candidates and wait for them to complete the tests

4. Compare their results directly to identify the most suitable candidates

By this point, you should have done all the hard work, identifying and assessing your hiring needs. Your talent assessments should reflect those needs, enabling you to evaluate candidates directly against them.

Your hiring plan can now proceed to structured interviews. Picking the right interview questions in the right sequence can streamline the next step of the hiring process.

7. Use skills tests to upskill internal staff that match your hiring needs

If you already have existing staff that meet most of your hiring needs, it’s easy for you to upskill them without the hassle and expense of hiring new workers.

Over time, this approach can result in employee promotions that foster a culture of internal mobility.

Research from McKinsey shows that organizations participating in the Rework America Alliance – a group of major companies committed to skills-based hiring approaches – are increasingly enthusiastic about upskilling staff.

They subscribe to a four-step approach to enabling skills-based career progression for employees:

  1. Map out potential future roles for an employee based on your company’s hiring needs

  2. Talk to the employee about their interests and use that conversation to choose a path forward

  3. Ascertain which of the employee’s skills could be of use in the new role and which skills require further development

  4. Develop a training program to help the employee hone those skills

Beyond talent assessments: 3 best practices to remember for identifying recruitment needs

Talent assessments are fantastic tools but aren’t the beginning and end of your hiring process.

Remember to use a wide range of approaches like these to clarify and understand your recruitment needs.

1. Set clear, fair hiring budgets and salaries

It’s no secret that hiring a new employee costs money. Many employers estimate that the cost of making a new hire is three to four times the position’s salary.

And then, of course, you must pay your new hire a fair salary or risk losing them to a competitor.

A manageable cost to hire is a hiring need in its own right, and you should appraise your hiring costs – from the costs of the process itself to your new hire’s ongoing salary – honestly and clearly.

When setting your recruiting budget, make sure you take all of the following costs into account before you start your interview process:

  • Marketing your job openings

  • Sourcing software

  • Recruitment process outsourcing

  • Applicant tracking systems

  • Employer branding

  • Public-facing recruitment events

  • Pre-employment testing software

When setting salaries for open positions, take a similar approach: Stay grounded in data and research. Consider the role’s job title and the skills it requires – including any niche skills that could command a higher price.

You should also factor in your location, its cost of living, and your industry’s average rate of pay.

Once you’ve determined the salary for your open role, advertise it transparently when you post the job. Employees value pay transparency, which means your role stands to attract a broader range of potential candidates.

2. Consider alternative workers for open roles

You don’t have to hire a full-time employee for every open role. Consider hiring a contractor or a temp. Depending on the job, even hiring interns could be an option.

These workers don’t necessarily carry the same long-term costs as current employees. Interns, in particular, are often cheaper to hire because they don’t have much work experience.

And because you usually hire contractors temporarily, it’s easier to retain them for as long as you need them and part ways with them when the need for their skills has ended.

It makes them ideal if your work is largely project-based and retention is not an issue. Just bring on the workers you need for specific projects on a short-term or fixed-term basis.

It’s important to know your legal obligations when you hire a contractor, temp, or intern. But the extra research and care are worth it: The flexibility these workers offer makes them a worthwhile alternative to hiring a full-time worker.

3. Get creative with candidate sourcing

Candidate sourcing isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It demands flexibility depending on the kind of worker you need to hire.

For example, if your hiring needs indicate that you need to recruit a tech professional, don’t rely on platforms like LinkedIn. Post your job on tech-focused job boards and social media to maximize your chances of reaching top talent in that specific field.

And if you’re looking for a freelancer, role-specific job boards like ProBlogger are the way to go. Freelance workers often use them to identify new opportunities, over and above larger, less specialized job-searching networks.

Staying flexible about candidate sourcing increases your chances of effectively meeting your hiring needs. It broadens your candidate pool, boosting your odds of sending an offer letter to the best candidate.

Skills-based hiring shows us that top talent isn’t always in the first place you look for it. Keep that principle in mind as you promote your job opportunities.

Evaluate and fulfill your hiring needs with skills-based hiring 

Knowing your hiring needs is the first step in any successful hiring process.

When you understand what you’re hiring for, you put yourself in a great position to hire the right candidates and offer a great candidate experience – avoiding expensive, damaging hiring mistakes.

And it’s never been easier to ascertain your recruitment needs. By using talent assessments to perform skills gap analyses and evaluate candidates against your findings, you encourage a more reliable, data-driven approach to talent acquisition.

With tests ranging from the Culture Add test to the US Criminal Law test, it’s never been simpler to assess the skills candidates need to succeed at your company.

Don’t leave something as important as recruitment down to luck – or, worse, guesswork. Take steps to understand your company’s needs and reap the benefits of meeting them well into the future.

Ready to broaden your talent pool even further? Read our guide to recruiting passive candidates with the help of talent assessments.


  1. Sorenson, Susan. (June 20, 2013). “How Employee Engagement Drives Growth”. Gallup. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx 

  2. “The Benefits of Employee Engagement”. (January 7, 2023). Gallup. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236927/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx


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