Talent selection refers to the process that companies use for identifying and hiring employees. The best and most effective talent selection processes involve applying a consistent set of structured, job-related tools (tests, assessments, interviews, etc.) in a specified sequence in order to accurately and efficiently identify candidates with the knowledge, skills, abilities and motivations required by the target job. Effective talent selection processes identify employees who add significant value to the organisation and in turn boost productivity, deliver quality, enhance employee engagement, leave a positive impression on potential employees and re-enforce organisational values.
Why is talent selection important?
An organisation’s employees are its most valuable resource. Selecting the right talent for the right jobs drives an organisation’s competitive advantage. An effective talent selection process means hiring individuals with the needed knowledge, skills, abilities and motivations for the job and culture. Effective talent selection leads to a number of benefits including: improved productivity, improved quality, better morale and higher levels of employee engagement.
Conversely, poor hiring decisions have a negative impact on organisations. The cost of a bad hire is estimated to be 30% of the employee’s annual wages, and that only accounts for the direct financial costs. In addition to the financial impact, poor hiring decisions can result in reduced team morale, disruption to projects and teams, lost or dis-satisfied clients and increased workload for managers and other team members.
How do organisations select the best talent?
There are four key steps to selecting the best talent:
The first is to understand the requirements of the target role as well as the knowledge, skills, abilities and motivations required to be successful in the job. Without a current and accurate understanding of these critical success factors, it is difficult or even impossible to accurately identify who would be the best talent for the job. The process used for understanding job requirements is called job analysis, which is typically underpinned by robust methodologies and techniques to accurately identify these qualities.
The second step is to identify valid, well-researched tools (pre-screens, tests, assessments, interviews, etc.) that measure the competencies, abilities and characteristics identified as being important during the job analysis. The key is to ensure that the competencies and skills are measured sufficiently and accurately across the proposed selection process.
Next, organisations need to implement the proposed talent selection process to ensure that there is an efficient, consistent approach to administering and utilising the assessments chosen. This includes training employees in HR as well as hiring managers in effective use of the tools. A well-designed tool that is not properly or consistently administered can lead to inconsistent or poor results as well as the potential for legal challenges. Depending on the specific tools, a validation study may be conducted at this stage to configure the selection process and maximise its predictive power for a specific organisation and job.
The final step is to monitor the process for enhancements. This includes examining pass rates, efficiency, accuracy and fairness. Metrics should be reviewed regularly to help identify any potential enhancements to the process.
What are the most common types of talent selection tests?
Some of the most common talent selection tools include:
Situational judgement tests
Also known as SJTs, these tests present hypothetical scenarios similar to those that may be encountered on the job.
Cognitive ability tests
These tests assess the ability to think and solve problems. Within the category of cognitive ability tests, there are several common sub-categories including: Verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and abstract reasoning.
These tests are used to identify key personality characteristics and traits that contribute to on-the-job success and can be used to understand an individual’s behavioural patterns.
Job knowledge and skills tests
These tests are designed to measure very specific knowledge and skills needed on the job.
These tests incorporate items from different types of tests such as personality, cognitive and situational judgement. Multi-method tests can provide a more holistic picture of an individual’s abilities. These types of assessment can also be referred to as modular or blended assessments.
What are the most common types of talent selection tools aside from tests?
Some of the most common talent selection tools are:
Basic qualification or eligibility screens
Basic qualifications are the minimum qualifications a candidate needs in order to be considered for a position. These types of screens are often included at the start of the selection process.
Structured behavioural interviews
This is an interview in which the interviewer asks each candidate a series of planned questions. The questions are designed to elicit specific examples of relevant things the candidate has said or done in the past. The questions target competencies and behaviours that have been identified as important to the job. The theory behind this type of interviewing is that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
Simulations/assessment centre exercises
Simulations require candidates to complete tasks similar to those they would perform on the job. These are typically set in a hypothetical work situation, reflecting some common work assignments and designed to measure behaviour. Rather than asking a candidate questions about how a person would perform a job-related activity or how they personally have performed it in the past, candidates actually perform the activity, and that behaviour can be evaluated.
What are the best interview questions for selecting talent?
The best questions for selecting talent are behaviour-based questions that target competencies identified as important to the target job. Fundamentally, the most effective interview questions are driven by accurate job analysis and eliciting the correct evidence from the candidate. However, the process by which they are asked is also critical to ensure the process is robust, fair and legally defensible.
In a structured, behaviour-based interview, the candidate is asked a series of planned, open-ended questions designed to elicit specific examples of things the candidate has said or done in the past. Interviewers then probe to ensure they understand the circumstances surrounding the example, the actions taken by the candidate and the outcome. The effectiveness of these answers is then evaluated against the required competency behaviours. Interviewers can also follow-up to collect motivational fit information based on the examples provided. Again, the theory behind this type of interviewing is that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
When should talent selection processes be reviewed?
Key performance metrics should be established for talent selection processes and monitored on a consistent, ongoing basis. The selection process should be reviewed when:
There is significant variation on one or more key metrics
There is a significant change to the job
There is a significant change in company strategy
How should Talent Selection change in a tight labor market?
Hiring in a tight labor market can be very challenging. However, the benefits of effective talent selection processes (e.g., improved productivity, improved quality, higher employee engagement) and the costs of a bad hire (e.g., disruption to projects and teams, lost or dis-satisfied clients, increased workload for managers, financial costs of hiring and training the wrong person) are the same. Regardless of the market, it is still important to hire employees with the right knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations that match both the target job and the culture.
Following are three actions that can improve Talent Selection processes in a tight labor market:
First, review the selection process flow. Are the steps in the most efficient sequence? Are there opportunities to speed up the processes through automation? Are all the steps adding value? Can cycle time be reduced in other ways without reducing effectiveness? While these are questions that should be asked and reviewed regularly, they take on even greater importance in a tight labour market.
Next, review your candidate communications. Are they timely? Do candidates know what to expect, how long it will take and when it will happen? Do they present a positive employer brand? Research shows that candidates expect to be assessed as part of a selection process and want opportunities to demonstrate their skills, but they also need to know what to expect so they can plan for it.
If you have already invested in validated, job-related selection tools, leverage that investment by keeping your assessments in place, but revisit your cut scores and decision criteria for potential adjustments. Carefully consider trade-offs that may occur if these are adjusted (e.g. more through-put vs. quality of candidate).
Technology and psychology in practice: a stronger way of assessing talent