Use Assessments Cautiously

Woman reviewing assessment with coach

The woman I was speaking to on the phone was someone I knew.  I was planning to hire 7 people for a project and was in the last phase of the hiring process.  Betty was enthusiastic and up to now I was pretty sure I was going to hire her.

The last step was going over the behavioral style assessment that I had asked her to take.  Before the behavioral assessment I explained to Betty that if hired she would be administering this assessment to the clients she would work with as part of the project.  I wanted each of the job candidates to experience the behavioral style assessment before giving it to others.

As we reviewed the behavioral assessment report together I began to get a picture of Betty’s behavior from the report that was very different from what I had observed from our past interactions.   I shared my concerns about the accuracy of the report with Betty.

No assessment is 100 percent accurate.  I was used to having clients say that one piece of the report was not right.  I usually ask the client to talk with people he/she trusts to see if they see that behavior in the client.  Then if most agree that it is inaccurate, the client can just ignore that part of the report.

With Betty however the report was grossly inaccurate and Betty was obviously very uncomfortable with it too.  I wanted to hire her but how could she confidently use this assessment with others when hers was so messed up?!

After going over the full report Betty sheepishly admitted to me that she answered the questions the way she thought a person who was right for the project would answer.  In essence she gamed the system.

What surprised her was that the report painted a picture of a person who had very different characteristics than the ones she thought would come up based on her answers.  She admitted to me that she really wanted to work on the project and was afraid the assessment might show she wasn’t right for the job.  Needless to say she was very embarrassed.

Sometimes hiring managers use assessments to target a particular type of person that they know through experience is right for a job.  In that case while as the job seeker you might really want the job, you won’t be happy in the job if the company is looking for a different type of person.  You can alter your behavior to be what the manager is looking for but it takes a lot of energy and eventually you will burn out.

For my project however I was looking for a variety of styles.  Betty did not need to worry. Often managers are looking for that variety to insure that the members of the team complement each other.

Lessons learned:

  1.  Those giving assessments have to be very clear in their instructions.  I thought I was clear but obviously Betty didn’t hear me.  People tend to get nervous about assessments especially in a hiring situation. Those giving assessments need to be sensitive to this.  Saying something several times clearly in multiple ways can calm nerves.
  2. Those taking assessments need to be honest with their answers.  Getting a job that you are not a good fit for will come back to haunt you.  Get some practice taking assessments before a hiring manager asks you to take one so you will know what the assessment is going to reveal about you.
  3. No assessment is 100 % accurate.  You are the final judge in accepting or rejecting what it says.  If you feel something is inaccurate, let it go.   Use the assessment language of what you know is true to emphasize your strengths to the hiring managers considering hiring you.

Fast Tracl Job Search Guide If you are looking for a new job, you’ll want to read Fast Track Job Search Guide by Alvah Parker and Lenore Mewton.  In it you will find hundreds of tips and ideas for a successful job search.

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