Is Considering Culture and Job Fit in Hiring a Proxy for Bias?

The cost of a poor hire, or the positive impact of a new strong performer, can be hard to quantify, but it is substantial.  When estimated, frontline/entry-level employees cost upwards of $5,000 to replace, while leaders and experienced individual contributors can cost more than $15,000.

At the same time, organizations are seeking to increase diversity and fairness, and are rightly considering how each component of the hiring process affects inclusivity.  Leaders and the general public have deservingly questioned how culture fit is evaluated and affects equal opportunity.  Indeed, when judgements of fit are based on your personal preference of who you’d like to chill with at happy hours (while now perhaps virtual), we agree.  However, unlike other strategies, validated hiring assessments provide unique value to consistently and empirically evaluate fit with your core values and ability to execute your definition of success, and while mitigating bias. Organizations leverage assessments every day for hiring, and development, to understand and evaluate candidates for entry-level roles through senior executive level positions. In fact, the Talent Board’s 2016 Candidate Experience Research report found that 82 percent of companies are using some form of hiring assessment. This number has only grown in recent years.

Assessments are used widely not only for senior level roles, but also for the start of talent pipelines: entry level (and even hourly) roles. One of the biggest challenges with hourly and frontline roles is holding candidates to consistent standards across locations, regions, or even countries – and assessments increase time-to-hire and equip leaders with evidence-based information on tens of data points and questions before an interview.  Assessments also ensure each new hire has the potential needed to perform and thrive within the culture, increasing readiness for promotion, and stable growth, in the future. Given the ever-increasing use of assessment tools, it’s critical to integrate the assessment effectively in the hiring process to garner the full utility of the tool.

The ultimate goal of an assessment is to assess fit. We can think of fit as a candidate’s potential to be successful on the job by matching the unique knowledge, skills, abilities, interests, and mindsets that drive performance.  Related to this, we can assess how their values support the core beliefs and definition of success we’re seeking to achieve: culture-fit. Coupled with other pre-screening activities (i.e., interviews, resume reviews, etc.), recruiters and hiring managers can use this information to make data driven hiring decisions.

In most cases, the candidate’s assessment data is synthesized and hiring managers and recruitment team members receive an assessment result or report. These reports review the candidate’s strengths as well as their potential developmental gaps and vulnerabilities that might help or hinder their success on the job. Corvirtus reports also include questions to probe deeper into the potential vulnerabilities discovered by the assessment.

In addition, if desired, our assessments aggregate insights from a personality assessment, culture fit assessment, or other pre-screening tools to deliver an overall hiring recommendation (e.g., Recommend or Do Not Recommend).

So, what goes into these recommendations?  Fit scores.  On a numerical scale, the algorithms driving the assessment calculate the candidate’s alignment with the competencies and/or skill sets related to being successful on the job. Candidate performance on the assessment is evaluated consistently and with fit scores determining the assessment recommendation.  Though fit scores have valuable utility when assessing candidates, there are specific contexts that should be considered to optimize their value.

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Pre-Hire Assessments: Saving Resources and Ensuring Consistent Standards for High Volume Roles

Assessment results driven by measures of fit deliver an evidence-based means to prioritize candidates and decrease the burden of trying to evaluate dozens of candidates in a meaningful and consistent way. They allow you to easily select candidates for further review based on traits linked to their ability to perform. As you keep using assessments, you may find that you’re confident in not considering candidates that score below a set threshold.  How would this happen?  Well, we collaborate and actively check in with you to understand both applicant flow and performance so we can set an effective benchmark for each fit score. For high volume roles, the earlier you can administer the assessment to candidates the more time savings – and performance dividends – you will achieve.

What about measuring fit with hiring assessments for high level roles?

Often, for higher level positions (i.e., Sr. Leadership/Executive roles), candidates have more than proven their competence.  In this case, you may want to seek to understand how each candidate will support the core values that ground your culture.  Culture is both a shared definition of success and expectations for how that result is achieved.  For example, we work with companies that emphasize success within the organization as a meritocracy, while others place a stronger emphasis on the success of the team.  When selecting or promoting for these roles, fit scores and assessments focus on highlighting potential vulnerabilities and understanding the candidate. This information can be particularly valuable for guiding interviews.  Indeed, our assessments come equipped with probing questions and the opportunity to couple the assessment with a structured, position-specific interview guide.

What are your goals? Building strong tools for employee development.

Assessments driven by measures of fit (with job demands or your culture) are most powerful when used in conjunction with other data sources such as interviews, situational judgment exercises, and even an evaluation of their previous experience. It might go without saying, but a hiring assessment should be used for that purpose alone.  New hires are affected by their experience and respond differently than candidates to a hiring assessment.

A common joke within management consulting is that our favorite answer is, “it depends.”  With hiring, and developmental assessments, seeking to understand potential and ‘fit’ those two words could not be truer.  Fit indices and assessments provide exceptional value to understanding and evaluating candidates but starting with your ultimate end goals and objectives gives you the greatest probability of success.

Do you have a detailed understanding of your culture and how to hire and develop people at all levels to strengthen it?  Our culture e-book is especially helpful with defining your unique definition of success and the means through which it should be achieved – and building commitment to that vision throughout your team.

Download Your Free eBook: How to Build a Strong and Healthy Organizational Culture

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“Zuckerberg’s New Leadership Style Sparks Turmoil at Top,” screamed a large headline on the front page of a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal, based on the CEO gathering his 50 top execs together and telling them that Facebook Inc. was at war and he planned to lead the company accordingly, “causing unprecedented turmoil atop Facebook . . . and driving several key executives from the company.” For many, a comment like this would elicit a “Ho-hum” from any executive hearing it. It may be that the article’s author confused leadership style with a crude attempt at culture change.

One of the big things that culture does is to make an organization a more predictable and safer place for its members. What Zuckerberg did was to step all over Facebook’s predictability and safety. Zuckerberg told his execs that “during times of peace, executives can move more slowly and ensure that everybody is on board with key decisions.” An alternate interpretation of Zuckerberg’s awakening to “war” is that he had discovered that it is a whole different game swimming downstream in a fast-growing company and swimming upstream in a company challenged by competition, regulation, and public criticism. Organizational cultures form an answer to a single question: What does it take to be successful? And when the answer changes, the culture has to change or fail.

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