HRis under pressure to recruit more wisely, and an increasing number oforganisations are now using assessment tools to make better informed decisions.Nic Paton reportsLondon-basedmarketing firm Chemistry Communications Group has been tightening up itsrecruitment practices of late. According to HR manager Denise de Rozario, thecompany – which employs about 90 people in two offices in the capital and onein Southampton – has hired around 15 people since February, and now usespsychometric testing as the norm. “Ourline managers have found it incredibly useful because it gives them an insightinto how they might shape their qualities,” she says. “We are doingmany more psychometric profiles than we were three years ago.”Theyare not the only ones. In a survey of more than 250 HR professionals and 8,000jobseekers by recruitment firm Reed, more than half (55 per cent) of thosepolled said they were using assessment tools more when recruiting now than theywere three years ago. Testsand presentationsPresentationsand psychometric tests were embraced by more than half the survey’s sample,with competency-based interviews also in the top three of favourite assessmentmethods. InDe Rozario’s case, potential candidates have a first interview with her, thenfill in a personality profile, which is followed by a second interview.”It is so hard to recruit, and there are so many variables,” shesays. “Testing helps us tell whether someone is going to fit into theorganisation. Candidates like it too; they say it seems much more professional.”Increasingly,it seems the days of relying on gut instinct when appointing candidates aredisappearing. That type of subjective decision-making can still have its place,but testing and assessment brings an extra dimension and sophistication to theprocess. TheReed survey also shows some interesting differences when it comes to sectors.The public sector, for instance, makes much more use of presentations, groupexercises and work simulation tests, although overall, the top three remain thesame.Themanufacturing sector, by contrast, is less keen on work simulation tests, whilethe service sectors are less interested in working through a series of tasks inan allotted time, otherwise known as ‘in-tray’ exercises.Amongjobseekers, 76 per cent of those polled agreed that employers were usingassessments more now than in the past.Fewerthan one in 10 had experienced in-tray exercises. But all the other categoriesof assessment – competency-based interviews, personality questionnaires,psychometric tests, presentations, work-simulation tests and group exercises –had been experienced by more than one in three jobseekers.Othertests cited included role play, verbal comprehension, IQ and intelligencetests, maths and logic tests and graphology and handwriting analysis. Themost popular tests among jobseekers were competency-based interviews (37 percent), followed by work simulation tests (23 per cent), and personalityquestionnaires (12 per cent).Bycontrast, psychometric tests were believed to be the worst at identifying theright person by more than one in five jobseekers (22 per cent), followed bypersonality questionnaires (18 per cent).Athird said that undertaking assessments made them feel better about theorganisation they were applying to, whether or not they got the job. This wasdouble the number who said assessments made them feel worse. Theascent of assessmentsSowhy the need for change? The Reed survey points to the tougher jobs market,meaning firms have more candidates to choose from for fewer jobs, and so theneed for more tools to select the best and weed out the worst. But there may beother factors at work too, suggests Stephanie Peckham, lead consultant at HRconsultancy DBM.”HRdepartments are under a lot more pressure to make the correct decision onrecruitment, because it is so expensive and reflects on the company. There ishuge pressure to get it right,” she explains.Ascompanies increasingly want to use tests in the recruitment process, it isgoing to become necessary for HR to take a bigger role in educating peopleabout what assessment can bring to the table and, crucially, what itslimitations are. “Theimportant thing is for HR to know what it is measuring in the firstplace,” Peckham adds. “Job analyses need to look at what sort oftraits they are looking for.” Similarly,argues Laura Frith, chartered psychologist and head of Reed Consulting,managers now have a greater appreciation of what assessment tools are availableto them.”Atthe moment, many organisations are going through restructuring programmesthat involve changes in organisationalculture. At such times, the ability of assessment tools to assess intangiblessuch as attitude and cultural fit becomes more important than ever,” shesays.Therecan also be the brand benefit that can come from carrying out well thought out,rigorous and effective assessments. “A good assessment programme actuallymakes people feel better about the organisation they have applied for, even ifthey do not get the job,” says Frith. “In today’s competitive times,where employer brand and consumer brand are frequently indivisible, building agood impression with the thousands of candidates who are turned away can be avital benefit to the organisation.”But,De Rozario warns, it is important HR remembers that testing, for all itsmerits, remains just one element of the recruitment process. “Youwant something that is just going to be part of the process – it is importantthat you don’t just zone in on these things,” she says. 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