Hiring 101: Part 4 – Skills Are Hard to Fake

By Melanee Cottrill, Civitas

In our last issue, we wrote about ways to overcome confirmation bias during the interview process.  In case you missed it, here’s a link to our last newsletter.

Once upon a time, a company wanted to hire someone with a natural talent for writing and proofreading. Recognizing that those skills are easy to fake on a resume, the company decided to give candidates a test. The test consisted of several writing and proofreading exercises.

The winning applicant? The only one who not only aced the test, but also pointed out the (unintentional) errors in the test instructions.

The moral of the story: skills testing will weed out the candidates who shine in the interview, but can’t back it up. After all the time you’ve put into finding candidates and interviewing them, a skills test will help ensure you hire someone who can do the job – not just someone who can do the interview.

The value of a skills test is unparalleled. “The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test.” Remember that an interview only explains 14 percent of job performance. Now, consider that a skills test explains 29%. We are more likely to hire the right person by testing them and skipping the interview than the other way around, yet so often the other way around is the only way.

When preparing a skills test, consider what the most important function of the job is. We had a client who, in hiring for an executive director, was originally focused on administrative skills. Making sure the books were correct, taking minutes, organizing the office. But upon deeply considering the position, they decided it was actually vital that the candidate be able to grow the organization through relationship building and vision. The resulting skills test was a mock business plan prepared and presented to the Board of Directors by the top candidates. And like our proofreading friend, the winning candidate clearly outshined the competition.

One note of caution: a skills test is a real-world work sample, but is not doing actual work without being paid.

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