Finding great talent for your business is no easy task.
Even if you find a candidate who ticks all the traditional boxes – like years of experience and great references – it’s no guarantee that they’ll succeed as part of your company.
After all the work and expense of hiring them, you might find they were only a high performer in their previous role due to specific skills and cultural alignment. It’s a costly, frustrating mistake to make.
But there’s a way to identify quality candidates quickly and simply during the hiring process: talent assessments.
More and more businesses are using pre-employment skills testing to evaluate candidates’ skills against the needs of open roles, making finding a quality candidate easier than ever.
In this guide, we explore why it’s important to identify good qualities in a job candidate. Then we cover how to measure candidate quality using talent assessments, including actionable best practices.
A quality candidate is a candidate who has the right combination of traits to succeed in a role at your company. Because each role demands a unique combination of skills, the exact definition of a “quality candidate” varies between companies and jobs.
The highest quality candidates usually have a strong combination of:
Quality candidates may have prior experience in similar roles, but that’s less important than the qualities listed above. We dig into that shortly.
Why it matters
Relevant hard skills
These skills measure a candidate’s fundamental ability to meet the needs of the role
Culture add tells you whether a candidate will contribute to a good company culture in your workplace
Teamwork and collaboration
Most jobs require some teamwork, and candidates who lack that skill may damage the morale of other workers
Willingness to learn
Candidates who are enthusiastic about learning are more receptive to employee training and development
More motivated candidates are likely to be more engaged and enthusiastic about their work
It makes financial and cultural sense to hire candidates who are keen to stay with your business in the long term
It stands to reason that you want to hire the best quality candidates. But why does candidate quality matter in practical terms?
First, quality candidates are more likely to be productive. Research shows that top-performing employees are between 400% and 800% more productive than average workers, boosting your company’s efficiency and profits alike.
Plus, quality candidates tend to be highly motivated and enthusiastic about their work, so they have a knock-on effect on morale and engagement among your other employees.
People like working with people who pull their weight – and high-quality candidates, by definition, do just that.
That increased engagement translates directly into productivity. Engaged business units saw an 18% increase in productivity and a 23% increase in profitability relative to their less engaged counterparts.
Lastly, the highest quality candidates for your business are the ones who are most likely to stay in their jobs for the long haul. This commitment helps to reduce employee turnover and the associated costs, and it avoids the negative impact of turnover on morale.
The benefits of finding quality candidates are clear, but so are the challenges.
Here are a few to keep in mind as you recruit:
The most obvious difficulty is that there’s no universal scale for defining candidate quality. It isn’t enough to rely on an abstract idea of “quality.” You have to spend time figuring out what quality candidates look like for your business.
That process takes time and could reduce your hiring efficiency. In turn, that’s likely to drive up your cost-to-hire, making hiring a good candidate more expensive.
Plus, because “quality” is often an ambiguous concept, there’s a high risk of mis-hiring if you don’t correctly evaluate what it means to you. If you rely on traditional ideas about what signifies quality, such as degree requirements, you may even risk bias in hiring.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s also crucial to remember that a high performer from another organization may not reach the same heights of quality with your company.
Their motivation and culture add may be a great fit for other businesses – but not yours.
If you aren’t careful, you could end up with a new hire who looks great on paper but drags down morale and engagement in practice.
The biggest challenge when hiring quality candidates is accurately assessing your candidates’ quality.
Traditional hiring methods don’t provide a reliable way to gauge a candidate’s personality, culture add, or critical soft skills during the hiring process.
Relying on interviews to measure these qualities doesn’t work unless you’re highly intentional about it.
But all those traits are crucial in distinguishing a quality candidate from an average candidate. If you don’t have the tools to assess them accurately, you could hire the wrong person for the role.
Here’s where talent assessments come into play.
Talent assessments help you measure candidates’ hard skills, soft skills, personality, and motivation early in the hiring process. This makes them the ideal tool for measuring candidate quality.
Here are the benefits of using talent assessments to assess the qualities of a good candidate for a job.
Talent assessments provide hard data on candidates’ skills and abilities, but that’s not all. They also make it easy to quantify soft skills, personality traits, and even a candidate’s potential to add to your culture.
With the right combination of skills tests, getting a 360-degree picture of a candidate’s quality is simple.
From there, you can compare candidates directly to one another and to the requirements of your open role. A good talent assessment software package enables you to see candidates’ scores side by side:
This shows you the strongest candidates at a glance, making hiring quality candidates a cinch.
It’s easy for a bad hire to devastate a company. The average cost of a mis-hire ranges from $17,000 to a staggering $240,000, depending on the role and the business.
But talent assessments limit the danger of mis-hires considerably. Our 2022 State of Skills-Based Hiring report found that 92.7% of surveyed companies using skills-based hiring methods reduced their rate of mis-hires as a result.
Talent assessments are the way to go for a more reliable hiring process and a serious reduction in unexpected hiring costs.
That isn’t surprising: Talent assessments give businesses a reliable, data-driven way to evaluate candidates’ skills, capabilities, and personality.
The same SHRM survey found that in 23% of cases, candidate diversity increased as a result of skills-based hiring practices. Talent assessments make jobs more accessible to a wider range of candidates, making them great for diversity hiring.
Are you wondering how to measure the quality of candidates using talent assessments?
Follow these best practices to identify quality candidates reliably and efficiently, limiting your risk of a costly hiring mistake.
How it helps
1. Identify your hiring needs
Enables you to define the qualities you need in a candidate
2. Assess candidates for hard skills
Evaluates a candidate’s ability to meet the skills-based requirements of the job
3. Evaluate soft skills
Limits the risk of a mis-hire by assessing candidates’ ability to work effectively with your existing team
4. Assess personality and culture
Encourages the growth of a positive company culture that attracts top talent
5. Hire and upskill HiPo candidates
Promotes internal mobility and limits hiring costs in the medium- to long-run
6. Use talent assessments to boost your employer brand
Attracts top talent by delivering a great candidate experience
7. Continue to monitor new hire performance
Makes it easy to track employee quality on an ongoing basis
The first step to any successful hiring process is understanding your hiring needs. And the most reliable way to do that is to conduct a skills gap analysis.
A good skills gap analysis exposes your company’s current weaknesses and helps you shape your hiring strategy.
It’s useful in defining what a “quality candidate” might look like to your organization – specifically, someone who can mitigate those organizational weaknesses.
Here’s how to do it, step by step:
1. Define your company’s medium- and long-term goals.
2. Identify the skills your staff needs to reach those goals.
3. Set up talent assessments to evaluate whether your existing workers have these skills. For example, this is a test assessing a staff member’s attention to detail:
4. Using the results, identify skills gaps by comparing the skills you have to the skills you need.
That should help you identify the traits you need to see in a quality candidate.
Once you’ve set the benchmarks for a quality candidate, it’s time to assess your applicants’ skills directly.
The skills you actually need to assess vary from role to role. Some may be unusual niche skills, while others may be more general, like software proficiencies.
Before you start the hiring process in earnest, it’s a good idea to write a skills-based job description to pinpoint exactly what you need candidates to be able to do.
Using TestGorilla, setting up a skills assessment is simple:
Click “Create New Assessment”
Enter the name of your assessment and the job title you’re hiring for
Select the skills tests you want to add to your assessment
Add any custom questions
Send out the test link to all your applicants
When all your candidates have completed the assessment, compare their scores against each other – and your own standards – in the TestGorilla back end.
You should add their assessment scores to an Applicant Tracking System – along with other elements like interview results – to compare all candidates holistically.
Hard skills are essential, but don’t let that mislead you into overlooking soft skills. Research shows that 89% of hiring failures stem from a lack of all-important soft skills like:
Candidates lacking these skills are likely to struggle in any work environment, even if they have all the right hard skills to succeed. In fact, soft skills are also sometimes called power skills because they’re so critical to employee performance.
Fortunately, skills testing makes assessing soft skills simple. Incorporate relevant soft skills tests into your pre-employment talent assessments, making it easy to see each candidate’s results altogether.
For example, the Leadership and People Management test is ideal when hiring managers or executives:
Using tests like this alongside hard skills tests, you can evaluate each candidate’s overall potential. It’s a way to avoid being taken in by a candidate with incredible hard skills but no ability to communicate or manage their time.
A third crucial element you need to assess when hiring quality candidates is personality and culture add.
The latter is especially important because it’s easily confused with culture fit.
While culture fit measures how well a candidate fits into your company culture – risking a wide range of biases, especially when you’re reviewing employee referrals – culture add measures what a candidate can contribute to your culture.
Use a Culture Add test to keep your company culture alive, vibrant, and attractive to top talent.
Skills tests also enable you to evaluate a candidate’s personality. This lets you spot red-flag behaviors and limits the risk of hiring an asshole genius who could devastate your company culture and employee morale if left unchecked.
Gauge your candidates’ personalities with tests like:
The Enneagram test
The Big 5 (OCEAN) test
The 16 Types test
All these tests and more are available in our test library.
All of these steps are helpful in identifying high potential candidates, also known as HiPos. These candidates shine because they’re highly motivated and driven; they want to learn, grow, and develop within your organization.
That’s why HiPos are almost always quality candidates, though not every quality candidate is a HiPo.
The biggest advantage of identifying and hiring HiPos is that they have the skills and enthusiasm to progress. This makes them great candidates for training and development opportunities, such as leadership development plans.
As such, one way to spot HiPos early in the hiring process is to use tests like the Leadership and People Management test we mentioned earlier during the hiring process. This test helps to flag candidates with long-term potential in this area.
Then, once you’ve recruited your HiPo employees, invest in upskilling them to unlock their full potential in the long term. A good learning and development program makes your business extra attractive to these candidates.
According to a Gallup survey, 65% of workers consider upskilling very important when evaluating a potential new job.
The strongest candidates out there want their hiring experience to incorporate skills assessments. Our State of Skills-Based Hiring report found that 54.3% of candidates surveyed expressed a preference for hiring processes involving talent assessments.
That’s because talent assessments:
Give candidates the opportunity to show off what they can do directly
Cut past the frustration of writing endless resumes and cover letters, which don’t reflect candidates’ abilities accurately
Speed up the hiring process, reducing the amount of time candidates have to wait to hear back from you
Promote equality of opportunity by bypassing traditional ideas about education and work experience
The positive feelings candidates have about talent assessments strengthen the reputations of companies that use them.
Those companies seem like more appealing destinations for top talent, improving your chances of finding quality applicants for your open jobs.
For example, TruTrip, a travel management company, found that talent assessments improved the employee experience of new hires, leaving them more motivated and enthusiastic to quickly become great contributors.
To make sure your quality candidates transition seamlessly into quality employees, it’s important to keep tracking their performance over time – especially in the early months of their employment.
Use your new employees’ initial talent assessment scores, drawn from the hiring process, as a baseline.
Then continue testing relevant skills at regular intervals, measuring how quickly (and how much) they improve.
This enables you to monitor metrics like time-to-productivity and measure the effectiveness of your training and onboarding processes. It also helps you target upskilling and development initiatives based on your employees’ strengths and weaknesses.
The monitoring process ensures that continuous improvement becomes part of your company culture, encouraging your employees to keep learning and developing based on their test results.
It’s easy to set up new talent assessments whenever you need them. Simply combine the tests you want your employee to take, then send out the link.
Talent assessments are a cornerstone of a good hiring process, but you don’t have to stop there.
There are other ways to find and recruit quality candidates, too.
In this section, we explore three of these strategies and how they help you hire quality candidates even more effectively.
Talent assessments shouldn’t fully replace interviews. They give great insights into candidates’ personalities and motivations, and it’s helpful for hiring managers to meet candidates face-to-face.
However, the effectiveness of interviews varies depending on how you approach them. If you treat an interview like a freewheeling conversation, for example, it’s harder to gather useful information about candidates and easier for bias to creep into the process.
That increases the risk of a bad hire – exactly what you don’t want.
Instead, conduct structured interviews by asking all your candidates the same pre-planned interview questions. Here are the important components of a structured interview:
Templates of questions agreed on in advance and asked in a fixed order
Questions focused on the core competencies of the role, usually behavioral or situational in nature
Metrics for interviewers to use when assessing answers
Structured interviews generate more reliable data, which can be incorporated into the hiring process along with talent assessment results to give a more holistic picture of each candidate.
This makes structured interviews much more likely to deliver reliable predictions of candidate job performance relative to unstructured interviews:
When it comes to assessing a candidate’s performance on the job, talent assessments are great, but they don’t always tell the whole story about how candidates perform in practice.
Job simulations and trials are a beneficial supplement to skills testing. They include approaches like:
Using take-home assignments to screen candidates
Live exercises during interviews and assessment centers
Paid trial shifts
You don’t have to choose only one of these approaches. Depending on the needs of your open role, it’s fine to combine them – and to use them with skills tests, too.
When preparing candidates for job simulations, communication is key. Make sure your candidates know exactly what to expect. Send over clear instructions, and take the time to explain what you’re aiming to measure with each job simulation.
This helps to mitigate candidates’ anxiety, which might otherwise impact their performance and skew their results unfavorably – preventing you from identifying quality candidates reliably.
Before you start assessing your candidates, you need to make sure they apply to your open positions in the first place.
That means looking at your candidate sourcing efforts: How well are you finding and engaging with the talent you want so they put themselves forward as candidates?
A good candidate sourcing strategy makes recruiting passive candidates simple.
And with 37.3% of US workers considered to be passive candidates – workers who aren’t actively looking for a job but who could be persuaded to leave their current role – you can’t afford to overlook this untapped pool of top talent.
Engage these candidates by:
Promoting your company culture and values
Using your employees’ positive experiences of your company in marketing
Advertising on a wider range of platforms and job boards (don’t feel limited to LinkedIn)
Using sourcing tools like AI in talent acquisition
Drawing on your employees’ social and professional networks to meet candidates
Remember, the broader your candidate pool is, the more likely you are to find a truly quality candidate within it.
Quality is subjective, which makes finding a quality candidate for your open role a real challenge. You need to understand your hiring needs, source great talent, and successfully engage the best candidates during the recruitment process.
But quality candidates are out there, and if your company delivers a great candidate experience during hiring, they’re much more likely to come to you.
So don’t rely on traditional ideas about quality. Use talent assessments to measure candidates’ skills, personality, and motivation, and make sure they’re the right fit for your open job in practice – and not just on paper.
That way, you don’t only stand a better chance of identifying top talent. You offer them a better experience, meaning they’re more likely to stay and grow with you and your company.
Once you’ve hired quality candidates, check out our guide to new employee onboarding and learn how to make a great impression on them from their first day on the job.
Keller, Scott. (November 24, 2017). "Attracting and retaining the right talent". McKinsey & Company. Retrieved September 25, 2023. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/attracting-and-retaining-the-right-talent
“The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow”. (2021). Gallup. Retrieved September 25, 2023.https://www.gallup.com/analytics/354374/the-american-upskilling-study.aspx
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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