Top tips for interviewers - Part 1: Suitability Screening

Frank Newberryin Training & Education

frank NewberryI feel that I must start on a slightly serious note. All the evidence I have seen suggests that the most popular suitability test is (no surprise here) the job interview. However, I have also seen research that says that an untrained interviewer's success rate at getting the right person for the job is only 31%, and the success rate for trained and experienced interviewers is only 61%.

Despite this, many employers use only the interview method to test a candidate'ssuitability - whether the job is an operational or a supervisory one. Today, I want to encourage you to test suitability in other ways, i.e. to run a number of simple suitability tests - before you hold any interviews.

Tip 1: Base your tests on what you wan tthe successful candidate to be able to do for you

If you want someone, for example, to be able to hand cut grass with precision and pace, then arrange to have a test area set aside (at your facility or elsewhere) where you can test each of your candidates individually, privately and fairly. The more candidates you test the better the selection you will have to choose from for the next test in the sequence and, eventually, the interview(s).

Tip 2: Use multiple tests

You should devise a number of tests so that candidates are tested on the full range of essential skills they need to do the job properly.

There could be, for example, a ride-on mower test, a pesticide spraying test, a problem solving test, a 'working together' test and so on. For each test you should establish success criteria like accuracy, safety, an attractive result, harmony in the team etc.

Tip 3: Give all candidates the same information about the test

Write the essential directions for each test down, and then read them out clearly to each candidate or group of candidates.Taking care to do this should prevent anyone complaining that you are more helpful to some than you were to others. You might even say that you will be reading aloud the same directions to everyone.

Tip 4: Test your tests in advance

You can rehearse or test each of your tests in advance using your qualified staff. Testing will give you an indication of their fairness and effectiveness. If the current staff can do the test reasonably well, then it might be fair to assume that the successful candidate(s) should be able to meet the same standard.

Tip 5: Arrange tests in order of significance

To save time during the testing - and even more time at the interview phase - sequence your tests so that the essential tests are taken first. For example, manual dexterity tests and safe working habits. Anyone failing the test of an essential requirement need not be tested further. This screening, or elimination process and the pass/fail performance level, should be explained to everyone in advance, or at the outset, so that people do not get nasty surprises on the day.

Tip 6: Do not expect the best qualified -on paper - to perform best on the day

Aside from nervousness, which you can expect and make allowances for on the day, some fully briefed candidates will show a better aptitude for the skills and abilities being tested than their seemingly better qualified competitors. The evidence suggests that there is no correlation between academic qualifications and success in the workplace. However, a correlation has long been noted between suitability test achievements and success at work. It is, therefore, best to be cautious about rejecting those applicants who meet your qualifications standard but are not the best qualified.

Tip 7: Get the candidates to work together

A real bonus when you are inviting people for selection tests on a particular day is the opportunity to get them to work together. Assuming a key requirement is the ability to work well with others, you can invite a number of candidates to arrive at the same time. You should seek to have multiple testing personnel and different tests going on at the same time. You could schedule a couple of group working tests to see how well they work with others. You will have to rate them individually for these abilities.

Tip 8: Get the candidates to compete with each other

If the vacancy is for a supervisory position, you can test their skills by running a number of leadership tasks where each person has a go at taking the lead in a particular situation. The situations you use can be derived from the requirements of the job advertised.

Tip 9: Get the candidates to get the best out of each other

You could have a group problem solving task to test each candidate's problem solving skills and/or their ability to inspire others to solve work problems. If they will be required (amongst other things) to do budgets, negotiate with suppliers, give presentations or attend meetings, these can all be tested in a cost effective way on your premises.

Tip 10: Assess performance and suitability immediately

It is important to assess each candidate's suitability after each test, and not at the end of the sequence or at the end of the day. There could be a lot of candidates and a myriad of measurements and criteria. If the candidate fails an essential requirement of the job, you might wish to confer with a colleague to check your assessment before eliminating the candidate. It is important to remember that:
• The more people you test, the better your choice of people to interview later
• The more specific the tests, the easier they are to administer
• The more the tests are based on the actual job, the better the tests
• The better the tests, the better the successful candidate(s)

I wish you success with your suitability screening. If you need any help with test design, test sequence, test administration and the assessment of candidates prior to interview, do please get in touch (see below). In the next edition, I will look at (amongst other things) interviewing for evidence and how to probe those reassuring but dodgy candidate responses!

Contact Frank by email or by telephone via the contact tab of his personal website which is

Article Tags:
Training & education