How to use assessment tools to win in an employees' market


By Nathan Blain and RJ Heckman

This year’s officially released jobs reports have shown a consistent theme. It’s an employees’ market out there. The number of job openings is near a record high, and the unemployment rate is 3.9%, the lowest in more than a decade.

In response to skill shortages, some employers have begun downgrading specific job requirements from “mandatory” to “preferred.” Firms are filling roles with candidates who don’t have the experience or qualifications of previous hires, whether they are recruiting senior managers, junior level talent or anywhere in between.

Should you follow suit? Potentially, yes. Relaxing the necessary degrees or work experience can make business sense. But only if your screening and assessment practices make the grade.

Does downgrading mean reducing quality?

Not necessarily. In many roles, the credentials listed in a job description are a proxy for skills and competencies. Someone doesn’t need a degree to demonstrate that they have the skills required to do the job. For example, if a sales manager can find candidates who are energetic, articulate, persuasive, and driven—the skills of a good salesperson—then he or she can overlook the fact that the candidates have no prior sales experience.”

Does it make business sense?

If you are struggling to find talent, absolutely. Moreover, it can help keep hiring costs down if you don’t have to compete dollar-for-dollar with competitors, or invest as much in retraining existing staff. In one move, you can increase the supply of talent and decrease the price you pay for it.

Why does assessment matter so much?

Compromising on experience or formal education is one thing. Scrimping on skills and competencies is another story. If you are putting people into roles that are pivotal to your business, then relaxing essential job requirements could damage your productivity, reputation or service levels. Customers are usually the first ones to notice, and tell others, when product or service quality has dropped off.

How can technology help?

Many of the latest hiring platforms and Applicant Tracking Systems have advanced screening and assessment features. By deploying a technology solution, you can automate the process and save considerable time and expense (especially if you expect a higher volume of applicants having downgraded requirements).

Of course, once you’ve screened initial applications, you need to evaluate candidates effectively face-to-face, particularly when they don’t have relevant experience. If you don’t have the expertise in-house, then it makes sense to turn to best practice guides and resources. You can then create a robust interview and appraisal process that tests skills and behaviours. You may even choose to build, role plays, group exercises and situational judgement tests into the mix.

Ultimately, it is the strength of this assessment process that will determine if downgrading job requirements is a success.