The World of Pre-Employment Assessments is Changing

Up until fairly recently, candidates for jobs at Procter & Gamble had to drive (or in some cases fly) to testing centers in order to complete the company’s required pre-employment assessments. Today, however, they need look no farther than their phones to complete the tests.

Moving from paper-and-pencil assessments to a new, mobile-enabled one that utilizes gaming and artificial intelligence has not only greatly improved P&G’s candidate experience, it’s also given the company greater access to diverse talent, says Dan Bologna, P&G’s global assessment leader.

“We’ve been able to make faster, more tech-enabled assessment decisions,” he says.

These are interesting times in the world of pre-employment assessments. Thanks to advances in tech and AI, a wide range of assessment products are available that can make life easier for candidates while improving HR’s ability to determine whether they have the skills and culture fit necessary for a mutually beneficial employment relationship.


Vendors such as Jane AI, MapRecruit and ThriveMap offer tools designed to help HR determine whether candidates are right for the job and the organization via simulations and “sentiment analysis” designed to see how well they can adapt to change and work with others.

These sorts of capabilities are more important than ever before, says Tom Schoenfelder, chief scientist and head of academic research and partnerships at Caliper, an assessment and consulting firm.

“The world of work is being redefined,” he says. “Employees must be able to keep themselves relevant in a constantly changing business environment. Determining someone’s ability to be adaptable, open and flexible plays a much bigger role than it used to in understanding whether they’re going to thrive.”

Personality assessments no longer play the prominent role that they once did, says Schoenfelder. These days, companies are more intent on assessing candidates for qualities such as learning agility and adaptability.

“The business environment in most industries is changing so much that you almost have to be in a constant state of continuous development and skills acquisition,” he says.

The so-called “flattening” of organizations also means the ability to work effectively in a non-hierarchical setting is becoming more critical, says Schoenfelder.

“Hierarchical organizations aren’t as conducive to success as they once were—the ability to collaborate is becoming so much more vital,” he says.

Emotional resilience is also more important, he says. “The ability to bounce back from rejection, communicate your emotionality and manage stress effectively has always have been important, but it seems to matter more than ever now because the world is becoming so complex,” says Schoenfelder.

The rising importance of soft skills may also be a factor. A recent survey of 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of recruitment-outsourcing firm Yoh found that, if hiring for a job and the perfect candidate didn’t exist, 75 percent of Americans would most likely hire a job candidate who has soft skills vs. the right experience or qualifications.

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report: The Rise and Responsibility of Talent Development in the New Labor Market, the No 1. priority for talent development, according to the 4,000 learning and development leaders, executives and employees surveyed, is to focus on soft skills training.

Naturally, HR leaders should proceed cautiously when deciding which if any of the new assessment products is right for their organization.

“Sometimes the hype over what some of these tools can do outstrips their actual capability,” says Aaron Crews, chief data analytics officer at law firm Littler. The best plan of action is to have a clearly defined idea of what you’re looking for, which will quickly narrow down the “large pool of sparkly stuff” in the marketplace. Next, get someone with technical expertise to take a deep dive into the technical underpinnings of the product—how it actually operates vs. how the vendor says it will operate, he says.

It’s also crucial to pay careful attention to bias testing and disparate impact testing—and finally, says Crews, consider pilot testing the product first before rolling it out to the wider organization.

At Procter & Gamble, the company decided to break with tradition and turn to an off-the-shelf assessment product from outside vendor—Aon Consulting’s Global Assessment and Talent Engine.

The decision wasn’t greeted with open arms by everyone at P&G, says Bologna.


“There was some internal resistance,” he says. Specifically, some managers were concerned that turning to a tool that’s in use by other companies could undermine P&G’s differentiation in the talent marketplace.

“We addressed that by explaining to them that although pieces of the assessment are adopted from an off-the-shelf product, the overall sweep of our assessment—including the way we leverage it to our culture—is unique,” says Bologna.

Timeliness and flexibility were also factors in P&G’s decision, he says.

“Historically, P&G would build their own assessments from scratch, but that could take as long as three years,” says Bologna. “Given the speed of today’s market, we can’t afford to be a slow-moving, clunky company.”

Turning to an assessment built on an off-the-shelf product not only saved time but also will allow the company to swiftly pivot its focus should conditions warrant, he says.

Although P&G has only been using the new assessment for a few months, the response from candidates so far has been positive, says Bologna.

“We introduced a net promoter score in which we ask candidates how likely they are to speak positive about us after taking the assessment,” he says. “So far, 93 percent are saying ‘neutral’ or ‘positive.’ That’s phenomenal, because assessments typically aren’t a great part of a person’s day.”

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