How to Hire Good Employees: Scalable Talent Assessment

How to Hire Good Employees: Scalable Talent Assessment

The application process has changed dramatically throughout the years. Yet, some aspects seem eternal—like the fact that employers often start with lots of people at the top of their recruitment funnel and need to make sure they get the right people to the bottom.

But, the world is changing, and the pace of change is accelerating; candidates expect a simple, efficient recruitment process, and employers need workers who are digitally fluent and can adapt easily to change. Reskilling is also becoming even more important.

Plus, there’s also a strong focus on fairness, transparency and equality—with blind reviews of applications, diverse interview panels, and selection processes centered on the need to demonstrate competencies and alignment with the role.

Therefore, in order to adapt to today’s ever-changing landscape, it’s vital for employers to focus on a candidate’s potential to grow and adapt to future needs, as well as the skills and qualities they have today. To that end, throughout this article, we’ll share four steps for building a better assessment process—because not only is assessment the key to a more productive workforce, but it’s also essential to a workforce that’s more resilient and able to stand the test of time.

Step One: Shift from Experience to Potential

In a bid to prepare for the unknown, employers need to shift their focus away from candidates who have prior experience in a role and toward those who have potential. That’s because the employees who can demonstrate flexibility and resilience will be the ones who are best able to ride the wave of uncertainty.

Specifically, McKinsey & Company predicts that higher cognitive skills—such as creativity, critical thinking, decision-making and complex information processing—will be the most in-demand traits in the future. In fact, the need for these skills is predicted to grow by 19% in the United States and by 14% in Europe by 2030—up from already sizable demands. Furthermore, the same research also predicts the fastest rise ever in the need for advanced IT and programming skills, which could grow by as much as 90% by 2030.

As such, organizations that want to be at the forefront of innovation need to start thinking creatively about how they can tap into the vital perspectives of diverse minds. To lead a sector, outrun the competition, and truly innovate, employers need to stop looking for people who fit and start looking for people who add. Likewise, bias—conscious or unconscious—needs to be removed from the process. Besides, although they might seem like they come with a higher risk factor, people who do things very differently can create exceptional outcomes. So, instead of always asking, “Who can do the job?”, employers should be asking, “Who can take us further?”

Step Two: Reap the Rewards of Great vs. Good

Transforming candidate assessment and selection is an investment, but the business case has never been more important. Plus, many of the current processes and tools are subjective and don’t focus on differentiating between good and great hires. With this in mind, are organizations and hiring managers equipped with the tools they need to make the right decisions?

Additionally, better performance predictions will lead to better outcomes, and investing in the right tools can deliver multi-millions in cost benefits. In essence, an employer with a more agile and adaptable workforce is in a far better place to achieve competitive advantage—as well as the kind of employee satisfaction that attracts more high-achieving, agile candidates. In this way, quality hires have a substantial influence on business performance.

However, despite rigorous testing, chemistry sessions and multiple interviews, it can still be quite difficult for employers to understand whether an individual would actually be effective in a role—thereby making bad hires surprisingly common.

Nearly three out of four employers (74%) say they’ve hired the wrong person for a job.
CareerBuilder Survey

23% of workers regret switching jobs.
Go Banking Rates

The average cost of a bad hire is around 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

41% of companies estimated that bad hires cost them at least $25,000. And, for 25% of companies surveyed, that cost was at least $50,000.

The American Management Association says that, for some roles, the cost of a bad hire could be as much as 10 times an employee’s annual salary.

Conversely, getting great people—the people who go above and beyond the role criteria—is really good news because it has a profound effect on quality of output, which is truly beneficial to the business. What’s more, while great employees are valuable in and of themselves, they also drive wider team performance, inspire others and make it easier to recruit other great people.

Of more than 600,000 researchers, entertainers, politicians and athletes, high performers were 400% more productive than average ones. And, in highly complex occupations—such as software development—high performers were found to be an astounding 800% more productive. 
Report by McKinsey

High potential (HIPO) employees bring 91% more value to the organization than non-HIPOs and give 21% more effort than their peers. 
Gartner research

Step Three: Build Better by Thinking Bigger

So, if we’re going to build a better and fairer candidate assessment process, we need to find a way to:

  1. Measure potential, rather than experience, because we don’t know what the future looks like.
  2. Identify the behaviors that are required to separate those who will actually be successful from those who present well during an interview.
  3. Distinguish between good candidates who meet the criteria and great candidates who will take an organization further.
  4. Give candidates a clear and authentic picture of the organization and the role so that they can self-select out of the process if the opportunity isn’t right for them.
  5. Include candidates who might have non-traditional experiences or career paths and assess them equally.
  6. Assess candidates fairly and without subjectivity or bias.

Finally, employers need to be able to identify and select candidates who are motivated and energized to be productive at work. And, the way that we do all of these things is by assessing for passion, purpose and mindset.

Assessing Passion, Purpose & Mindset

Traditional assessment processes assess for capability, behavior and results. These terms are defined as:

Capability: A candidate’s core intellectual ability and capacity.
Behavior:A candidate’s past behavior and personality-based behavioral preferences, which work relatively well to predict performance.
Results:What a candidate has already achieved in terms of the knowledge, skills and experience that are required to deliver in a role.

Then, when these aspects are combined with new measurements that focus on purpose, passion and mindset, we can better predict the success of candidates and determine the candidates who are more engaged and likely to be a better hire for employers.

Let’s dig into those new descriptors and what they mean.


Purpose is a candidate’s alignment with and willingness to contribute to the vision and values of an organization. For example, one study reported by McKinsey found that, out of 100 variables, employees reported that seeing purpose and value in their work was their most motivating factor—even more so than compensation. Notably, this is especially important for younger workers.

Clearly, ensuring that applicants understand the organization’s purpose and consider how aligned they are with that throughout the assessment process engenders a sense of belonging and partnership that underlies both great performance and job satisfaction.

In this way, assessment tools can be built around the organization’s vision and values so applicants have a chance to form an appreciation of them from their earliest contact with the organization. Then, if they don’t share the same values, they can choose another path. However, applicants who see an affinity with their own values will begin to feel the engagement and inspiration that will drive job success and satisfaction—even before they’re hired.


Passion is a candidate’s enthusiasm, enjoyment and commitment to mastering the requirements of a role. When an employee is passionate about a role, they’re engaged. Even so, most employers don’t have a method to effectively understand what a candidate is passionate about.

For this reason, during the assessment stage, employers need to find ways to reveal an applicant’s natural passions—which are often in the form of strengths—and find out if these are aligned with the role requirements. Then, they’ll be able to determine whether the candidate is likely to be a high performer who will want to commit the effort needed to succeed in all aspects of the job. Interviews, assessment center exercises, and immersive online assessments are excellent vehicles for exploring and observing applicants’ innate strengths in relation to the role. Similarly, self-evaluation tools can also be used to help applicants consider their own strengths and whether the role will offer sufficient opportunity to use and demonstrate them.


Mindset is a candidate’s belief about themselves and their basic qualities, although these beliefs are rarely measured by employers. The two types are defined as:

Fixed mindset: The belief that one’s talents are innate gifts and not malleable.

Growth mindset: The belief that one’s talents can be developed through education and effort.

It’s thought that people with a growth mindset achieve greater success because they’re focused on learning and believe that they can get better and develop new skills. It’s worth noting here that organizations can have a growth mindset, too. For instance, organizations with a growth mindset are more likely to fill vacancies internally, whereas organizations with a fixed mindset automatically advertise in the external market.

When assessing mindset, we’re looking to understand a candidate’s strengths and attitudes in relation to learning, feedback, resilience and adaptability. Of course, there are many ways to do that; just keep in mind that it’s less about what candidates may have done in the past and more about how they approach their work and develop and broaden their competence. 

Step Four: Think Outside the Checkbox

By focusing purely on the capability, behavior and results of candidates as they’re presented in front of the recruitment team, today’s more traditional interview and assessment process can be challenging for both candidates and employers. That’s because, while these measures can predict the future success of certain candidates in specific roles, change is now constant—which means that better, more well-rounded assessments are a must.

For instance, a more blended assessment during the pre-screening allows employers to shortlist candidates based on several different attributes at the same time. The candidate can then forego multiple stages by demonstrating different attributes at the same time. This way, employers can get a clear picture of the different strengths and weaknesses of the entire group of candidates in order to make informed decisions about which candidates are best to bring forward to the interview stage.

The talent landscape and the world around us renders current assessment processes ineffective. As such, employers need to embrace a new approach that both ensures that candidates are assessed appropriately and also empowers them to make good decisions.

To that end, passion, purpose, and mindset can have as much influence on performance as a candidate’s core intellect, achievements and behaviors. And, by building these factors into the assessment of a potential employee, employers can select from a diverse pool of candidates based on each individual’s potential, as well as their current performance.

Unfortunately, most employers aren’t assessing for all of these factors, so they’re missing out on a comprehensive look at candidates. In the end, the question your organization needs to consider is this: In a rapidly changing world, what is the cost of maintaining the status quo?

Post by Simon Wright and Amanda Callen