People are the faces, hearts, and hands of a customer-facing business. When your competitive key is your customer experience (by customers we include patients, clients, or any stakeholders in a service-driven role), your hiring process, and how you integrate any hiring assessments and tools within that ecosystem, directly impacts your ability to achieve your intended results.
We’ve shared common, understandable, reasons leaders hesitate to use hiring assessments, but if you’ve made the decision to include assessments, let’s talk about how to select the best assessment for these key roles.
First, let’s talk about how we define best assessment. The primary goal of a pre-employment test or assessment (which I’ll use to refer to a battery, or combination of tests) is to predict performance. Our ability to predict performance can be measured. Validity refers to the accuracy of the judgements and information provided by the assessment. Next, we want to make sure the test is consistent. This consistency of the information provided by the assessment is reliability. If we have five questions, or items, measuring a trait, reliability helps us understand how well they converge. We can also examine reliability over time. If we’re measuring mood, for example, we might expect to capture different values over time within a person. However, if we’re measuring our ability to troubleshoot and problem solve, within-person scores should be relatively stable.
A third, and equally important, part of the quality of assessment are the candidate and hiring team experiences. An assessment will only drive results if it is completed by most candidates, sustains their commitment to the opportunity, and the information from their experience is used by the hiring team (hiring managers, recruiters, trainers). This piece is especially salient for customer facing roles which are frequently high volume.
In this guide I’ll share a process for customer-facing industry leaders, like retail, restaurants, or any service business with frontline roles, to select and implement hiring assessments in your hiring process.
1. Determine technical job requirements for assessment
Create a realistic process for understanding the specific knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) necessary for success in your service-driven business. When we partner with an organization, we go about this through job analysis. This can be done quickly (one to two weeks) and can involve interviews with subject matter experts, reviewing data and information on pain points, and reviewing job descriptions. When this is complete you can group roles that are similar and can use the same assessment (or same tests but different scoring).
We have a number of restaurant clients and frequently leaders need host candidates assessed using the same tests but with lower benchmark, or cut-off, scores than servers. This increases the probability hosts can grow into server assistant or server roles. If you go about job analysis yourself, you may discover roles you thought were similar are not and require different assessments.
For example, a cashier at a big box retail store may require higher attention to detail, speed, and conscientiousness, than an associate in a department. Associates, however, as we’ve seen from our partnerships in retail, may be more successful and stay longer if their pre-hire tests include relational skills and sales acumen.
2. Assess your culture
Your culture is your definition of success and how you seek to achieve it. In recruiting, and increasingly for frontline service roles, candidates are seeking clear communication about your vision and values. The customer experience is grounded in how we make others feel. For example, we’ve partnered with healthcare organizations focused on preventative healthcare with the goal of continuity of care for each patient. The path to this goal is achieved through each touchpoint in the patient’s experience (the customer) supporting continued care and this is more likely to happen when Medical Assistants, Nurses, Billing Clerks, and all frontline employees are energized and connected to this mission and vision. In practice, this could mean including situational previews that place candidates in common critical events that give candidates feedback on how their behaviors and preferences connect to your culture – and also highlight candidates that will thrive and strengthen your culture.
3. Determine what to assess
What qualities are more amenable to coaching and training? What qualities are more enduring and required on day one? Keep in mind there are a broad range of types of tests. This includes cognitive ability, personality, situational judgment, work samples, and integrity, among others. This is best considered in tandem with time to complete and the candidate experience. How long of an assessment is too long? Data supports, contrary to what many expect, that customer-facing individual contributor candidates will stay engaged and motivated to continue with your opportunity with an assessment around 15 to 20 minutes. Candidate abandonment is mostly at the beginning of the assessment: within the first few items or on the first page. Managerial assessments can reach up about 30 minutes. When selecting tests consider the content and whole experience.
4. Evaluate assessment reliability and validity
How will the assessments you're considering measure the qualities driving performance? As you're evaluating assessment providers, seek evidence of reliability and validity as we talked about earlier. Reliability refers to the consistency of the assessment results over time, while validity relates to the extent to which the assessment measures what it claims to measure and predicts job performance. With assessments that are new, or built specific to your organization (e.g., situational job knowledge and skill tests), you may make initial decisions based on how well the solutions map on to the nature of the roles at hand.
5. Plan for a positive candidate experience
What do you want candidates to think, feel, say, and do after experiencing the assessment?
We build assessments with the objective of making candidates feel they were treated fairly, the test items were job-related, and they had the opportunity to perform. In other words, the assessments were a positive contribution to the hiring process. In practice, this involves considering time to complete, the nature of the tests within the assessment, and the broader ecosystem where the assessment lives. For example, let's think about communication. Candidates need timely and clear communication on the why, what, and how of the assessment. How will their information be used? What is the goal of the assessment? How soon after they complete the assessment will they know next steps? How close are they to a final decision? These are helpful questions to address to ensure the success of the overall assessment.
6. Plan for a diverse and inclusive experience
Before implementation, how will the assessment support your goals for diversity and ensure equal opportunity? In addition to test validity, reliability, and return-on-investment evidence, assessment providers should be able to provide assurances that your ready-to-implement, or custom, assessment will provide equal opportunity for protected classes like like age, gender, and race. Establish a process for evaluating pass rates by protected class regularly - both for the hiring assessment scores themselves as well as your end hiring decisions. Corvirtus conducts systematic reviews of our assessments to ensure they exceed EEO standards.This will ensure that the assessments comply with applicable legal equal employment opportunity (EEO) guidelines and can also provide an opportunity to strengthen diversity.
7. Plan for implementation
Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to pilot the assessment within a few stores, departments, or locations before launching company-wide. This allows you to discover unexpected obstacles to using the new assessment solution before launching with a live audience. When we use this strategy there’s often an influential regional, multi-unit, or department leader that can support the initial launch.
Next, consider your training plan.What are the distinct groups that will be using the assessment? For example, recruiters, the hiring manager, and trainers may use the assessment result, or report, at some point in the hiring and onboarding process. A recruiter, or general manager, may need deep knowledge, understanding, and buy-in, with the assessment and hiring process. A trainer, however, can gain useful background and information for supporting learning and onboarding, but will not be using the report and profile to make a hiring decision.
When we support customer-facing leaders with assessments and implementation, we connect the specific reasons for implementing the assessment to training. We can also customize the mode of training to the user. For example, a trainer could use a 10 minute video overview, while general managers and hiring managers will likely benefit from live training with specific examples and even exercises.
8. Monitor and evaluate
Once the assessment is implemented, regularly monitor its performance and evaluate its effectiveness in predicting job success. What should you be reviewing? We recommend considering, for each job group, the key performance indicators and outcomes, the assessment should influence. Some examples from our work -
9. Continuous improvement
Keep abreast of developments in hiring assessments and talent acquisition in general. Assessment solutions for frontline customer-facing roles are continuously evolving as technology and the science of performance and assessment advance.
As your business grows and changes the assessments will need to adapt with you. Changes in technology and operations, new concepts, changes in the applicant pool, and evolving customer needs necessitate adjustments to the assessment process.
10. Maximize assessments for growth
Frontline employees are the faces, hearts, and hands of your customer experience. What would make your customer experiences even more remarkable and how can you support that with hiring for your frontline? What's more, today's frontline employees are tomorrow's future trainers, shift leads, general managers, recruiters, support center team members, area leaders, and CXO's. Consider what essential qualities for your culture and operations will spark growth from the frontline through leadership.
Explore how that can happen with our assessments eBook — the what, why, and how of assessments. Or, connect with us below to continue to receive useful and practical resources on hiring, developing, and retaining remarkable people that achieve your intended results.
Bring your intended customer experience to life. Learn more about driving your intended customer experience.