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Recruiting and hiring new employees is complex and making a bad hire can be a costly mistake. Can an employee skills assessment really help avoid a mis-hire?

When recruiting and hiring new employees, your primary goal  is to find the best talent available for the job. That means identifying someone who has the skills to do the work, the aptitude to continue to learn and grow, and values that align with your company’s mission and culture. It’s a complex process. And most companies get it wrong from time to time. In fact, one Career Builder survey found that 75% of employers have made at least one bad hire. It’s an easy, costly mistake  to make.

Fortunately, there are tools and best practices that help increase the chances of making a successful hiring decision. As one example, especially as more companies are relying less on academic degrees and adopting a skills-based hiring process, more HR and recruiting experts are using pre-employment skills tests. Let’s explore: can an employee skills assessment delivered before you make a hiring decision really help avoid a mis-hire?

Who Is a Bad Employee?

To be clear, we agree with the adage, “there are no bad employees; just bad fits.” Sure, there may be people who are inherently lazy, untrustworthy, or even toxic in the way they interact with others. But those individuals are in the great minority.

When we say “bad employee” we’re talking about an individual who underperforms in the job, negatively impacting productivity. Or someone who does not align with your company’s culture and values, negatively impacting the work environment.

Cost of Hiring a Bad Employee

There are both direct and indirect costs of making poor hiring decisions. This article shares a U.S. Department of Labor estimate that a bad hire costs businesses 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. It also points out that, “Some human resources agencies estimate the cost to be higher, ranging from $240,000 to $850,000 per employee.” Higher costs are both a factor of high-level position salaries as well as the costs of onboarding, training, lost productivity, and employee turnover.

There are costs, too, for the individual. Leaving a job prematurely can cause someone to not only miss out on anticipated wages, but to lose confidence in themselves or distrust future employers or hiring processes.

Clearly, it’s better to identify potential “bad employees” in the recruitment process, to avoid the costs and disruption of bringing in an individual who is a bad fit.

What is a Skills Assessment?

A skills assessment is just what its name implies: a test of an individual’s current skills, competencies, and capabilities. The tests are specifically designed to assess whether individuals have the skills necessary to perform essential job duties.

Most people think about the commonly used web-based assessments to test writing, coding, or graphic design skills. But some employee skills tests happen “offline” to assess practical skills such as carpentry, plumbing, and driving competencies. Assessing soft skills like problem-solving, time management, and creativity may entail a mix of online assessments, recruiter questions, and input from references.

Best Practices for Using an Employee Skills Assessment

While tests and tools vary, what’s most important is that your assessments are sound and consistently used from one candidate to the next. Here are some best practices.

  • Create your competency model. Your custom competency model will be your master library of the specific skills and competencies you need across your organization.
  • Refresh your skills-based job descriptions. Well before you post a job for hiring, review and update the job description to ensure it identifies the specific skills that are needed for the job.
  • Choose proven skills assessment tools. There are many factors that can make or break the effectiveness of skills assessments. Rather than creating your own, look for ones that have been created and tested by expert sources to ensure you don’t introduce bias or overlook essential elements that could skew your results.
  • Build a collection of skills assessments. Be sure you have a ready set of skills assessments that will support the range of jobs and skills you need in the company.
  • Assess both technical and soft skills. For each job opening, assess the relevant professional, leadership, and occupational skills that will determine an individual’s success in the job.
  • Invest in technology. Employee skills assessment software, such as Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™, can be a valuable investment to support the delivery of the assessments, collection of data, evaluation, and reporting of individual, team, and company skills.

How Using Skills Assessments Can Help Avoid a Mis-Hire

What is it about skills assessments that help you find the right candidates? There are multiple ways they help.

  • Alignment. When skills assessments are aligned with skills-based job descriptions, candidates and hiring managers have a shared vision of what skills are needed to  do that job well.
  • Effectiveness. Proven, consistent skills assessments are more effective for evaluating candidate fit than resume review, educational background, previous job titles, or reference checks alone.
  • Data. Skills data provide an impartial evaluation of someone’s skills and abilities, to inform hiring decisions. Results will also give you and your new employees a clear baseline, so you can identify skills to develop next once they are on board.
  • Diversity. By minimizing bias in the hiring process, skills assessments may identify candidates that might otherwise have been overlooked, resulting in a more diverse workforce.
  • Speed. Pre-employment skills assessments to screen candidates can help identify the most qualified candidates faster, reducing the number of interviews needed and speeding the time between job postings and a new employee’s first day.

So, can pre-employment skills assessments really help avoid a mis-hire? Yes! In fact, we’d say that employee skills tests are essential to hiring “good” employees – those with the skills and aptitudes to succeed in their jobs at your company. And, taking it one step further, we recommend using skills assessment throughout the employee lifecycle, to provide the data that can shape career paths, learning plans, and other workforce programs.

If you’re looking to introduce or improve a skills-based hiring process with employee skills assessments, read the Competency Management Toolkit for information to help guide your next steps. Or contact us to see if Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems may support your team.


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