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Pre-employment Testing in the Experience Economy

by Joseph Murphy

Charles Handler wrote about the movement from test to experience in his ERE article.  It was a great invitation to consider the candidate experience.  John Sullivan wrote a few years ago about how career web sites are boring candidates. It may actually be worse.  Applying may have total disregard or abuse in the candidate experience. While some corporate careers pages have added a touch of pizzazz with videos and testimonials, the actual application and pre-employment assessment components continue to be ignored by many, but not all.

I spoke on Pre-employment Testing in the Experience Economy at the SHRM Staffing Management Conference in Orlando this year.  The premise was that candidates expect more.  More information, more engagement, more use of multi-media, more insight into the job and culture.  More support to their decision making process.  Simulations offer the candidate a lot more of what they seek in learning about and applying for a job, or even better yet, a career.

 At Taleo World this week, I had a conversation with an individual who’s firm just implemented a long standing, yet very traditional assessment.  She recently completed the assessment herself and without all the emotional embellishments, this is how she described it: “The questions were stupid!”  “There did not seem to be any relevance to the questions.”    I asked her:  “How do you think your candidates will feel about completing the assessment?  It made her eyes pop out.  It was as if this was the first time anyone had invited her to consider the candidate experience.

Pine and Gilmore have been writing about the experience economy since 1999.   There is a lot business in general and recruiting in particular can learn from their research and point of view.  They suggest we consider and evaluate an experience with two continuum variables: interface and immersion.

Interface is the type of interaction the candidate is offered.  At one end of the continuum is read and watch, the other end comprise choices and interactions.  Examples would be reading a job description to typing, clicking radio buttons, dropping, dragging among options.

Immersion addresses degrees of cognitive, emotional, and physical engagement.

At one end is attending to, studying, absorbing information, at the other end is active processing, raised emotional and physical participation.   Examples would be examining a puzzle to racing to complete a timed exercise.

Creating a matrix that overlays these to continuum provides an evaluation framework to determine the nature of an experience.  The diagram below sets out four types of experiences: Educated, Entertained, Enthused and Engaged.

Educated – Traditional media, Web 1.0

Entertained – Video games and cut and paste, drop and drag

Enthused – Movies and Videos with a compelling message, realistic job previews (RJP)

Engaged – Challenging mental and physical tasks, Wii and other dynamic games

Simulations as pre-employment assessment draw the candidate immediately into a high interface, high immersion experience, thus delivering a cognitive, physical and most importantly, an emotionally charged experience.  

  • Selection assessment exercises that can be deployed in simulations include activities such as:
  • Situational judgment – listen and choose what to say next in a challenging conversation
  • Problem solving – information look-up task from an interactive information source
  • Diagnosis – use rule-based logic to determine fault or errors
  • Business acumen – reasoning with financial statements under time pressure
  • Keyboarding – data entry and accuracy, under time pressure
  • Visual estimation - quick calculation of quantities from pictures or illustrations
  • Productive thinking – idea generation capacity in finite time frames
  • Prioritization – compare and differentiate among competing resources

And the list goes on.  Web 2.0 and emerging interactive technologies affords companies the opportunity to deliver a candidate evaluation experience that engages, informs and satisfies their desire for more from the application process. Simulations make it easy to deliver a multi-measure evaluation. Therefore the power and accuracy of selection science available from simulation based pre-employment testing cannot be achieved with conventional assessments. The return-in-investment (ROI) from implementing a simuation can be huge.  Some approaches to project the impact can be explored with these ROI calculators.

Very few organizations evaluate the candidate experience. Candidates are not given a chance to describe their reaction to the application process.  However, they do think about it, they do have opinions about it and it does impact how they think and feel about your company.  Candidates who experience a simulation as part of the application process have a lot to say.  Read some of their feedback here.

Virtual Job Tryout is a simulation for pre-employment assessment.  Each is custom built and validated for a specific job. Candidates find this type of experience highly rewarding, very job relevant and are willing to talk about it in a positive manner.

If you would like to deliver a more engaging candidate experience and deliver a more results oriented recruiter experience, give me a call  216.292.0202