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6 Reasons You Might Regret Shortening Your Employee Assessments 

October 10, 2017

short employee assessments

In today’s labor market, companies are competing fiercely for high-quality talent. Several economic shifts in local candidate pools are creating unique challenges for recruiters. Unemployment rates have dropped significantly over the past 12 months and, generally speaking, turnover rates have increased. These challenges have led Talent Acquisition professionals to rethink their hiring processes. Oftentimes, the logical solution is to consider dropping well-developed and validated in-depth assessment systems in favor of shorter screening assessments. This is appealing because candidates might appreciate a shorter test experience, and a short assessment earlier in the hiring funnel may seem like it will reduce Time in Process – an important consideration when attempting to get talent onboard quickly. However, do short employee assessments accomplish these goals?

Just because an increase in applicant reactions and decrease in Time in Process seems logical, do the data support these assertions? Further, what sacrifices are made when you use a short assessment? While shortening the assessment might seem like a good way to solve some of the problems we face in the current labor market conditions, doing so may not provide the intended benefits and could potentially cause more headaches.

Here are some reasons why you might regret shortening your assessment:

1. Reliability 

Shorter assessments almost always include less item content. Fewer items mean you are either reducing the number of questions that are used to measure a specific competency or you are completely removing the measurement of a specific competency (to be discussed in point number two). Fewer test items in a scale will still provide an indication of a person’s level on a competency, but to get to the level of precision necessary to really understand someone’s relative fit for the position, it usually takes a fair number of test items to make accurate decisions.

2. Competency Measurement

Another strategy for creating a short assessment is to remove competencies from consideration in an assessment. If point one convinced you that measuring the same number of competencies with fewer items is a bad idea, your next strategy may be to measure only the most important competencies and save time by cutting out less important competencies from the assessment. The challenge with this approach is that you now know less about several of the factors that may determine a person’s success on the job. If you want to have success onboarding and retaining talent, it is important to measure as many of the competencies that determine success in your work environment as possible.

3. Validity

The validity (or predictive accuracy) of the decisions you make using your assessment is closely tied to the first two points. In order to make accurate decisions you need both precise measurement AND coverage of as many of the key attributes that lead to high performance and low turnover. So, you may be able to provide candidates with a shorter experience, but you are losing precision and coverage. This means that you are less able to pick the candidates who are most likely to perform at a high level without leaving.

4. Applicant Reactions

As HR professionals and recruiters consider short assessments, they often make an implicit assumption that short assessments are preferred by job candidates. Is this really the case? Actually, the opposite could be true. Research on applicant reactions over the past 25 years has consistently shown that candidates like processes where they are given an opportunity to “show their stuff.” Candidates react well to selection systems they feel have collected enough information to show who they really are. Our research suggests that because of this, candidates really do not prefer short assessments over assessments that they feel are collecting enough information to allow the organization to make an INFORMED decision. In a recent study, Select International investigated candidate reactions to various length assessments. Candidates preferred 30-40 minute assessments MORE than they liked 15 minute assessments.

5. Completion Rates

Conventional wisdom held by those considering short assessments is that candidates will drop out of the selection process if asked to complete a long assessment. The thinking in these times of low unemployment rates is that, since candidates have options, they will not invest or engage in a process that takes a lot of time to complete and instead will apply for positions that are “easier” to get. This assertion assumes that candidates are only concerned with “getting any job.” In reality, candidates often want to make an informed decision about you and vice versa. This idea is supported when we look at our completion rates across tests of varying lengths. When candidates start a Select International assessment, an overwhelming majority of them complete it regardless of length which supports the idea that longer assessments are every bit as engaging as short assessments. In the end, candidates just want the best fitting job available and they are more than willing to complete longer assessments if it helps everyone make the best decision about their future.

6. Job Fit/Retention

When applicants are sparse, keeping them all in the hiring process sounds like a great idea. However, there is attrition in all hiring processes. Some of this attrition is good. When candidates are asked to commit to the next phase of a hiring process and they don’t complete it - in this case, a longer assessment - that candidate might not have been the right fit for the job in the first place. Perhaps the candidate has determined that she or he is not a good fit. This is a valid selection decision and a process success, not a problem. Making it easier and less comprehensive allows candidates, who may have realized they are not right for the position, to stay in the process and could be hired only to turnover soon thereafter.

In these challenging recruiting times, organizations are working hard to increase candidate flow into the hiring process while simultaneously working to retain current employees. Often, the best way to do that is NOT to replace an in-depth assessment with a short assessment, but to adjust the way you make decisions with the in-depth assessment AND focus on how to improve job fit so that new hires will not quickly turnover. Keeping the in-depth assessment allows you to learn detailed information about each candidate which can be used to help with onboarding, development, and retention.

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Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Director of Global Innovation at PSI and an expert in the design, development, and validation of psychological assessment tools. She runs an innovation lab that is responsible for establishing PSI’s assessment technology roadmap and strategy. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous global assessments, including personality, situational judgment, cognitive, and interactive work simulations.