Predictive Assessments: The key to success?

By Vincenzo Di Pietro

We all know that appointing the wrong person at the top of an organisation can generate a lot of damage. Choosing the right person may be the most important task for a leader, but we know it is certainly not the easiest task. Conventional methods of personnel selection and development, such as classical unstructured interviews between decision makers and candidates, are visibly reaching their limits. If not tended to properly, hiring an unsuitable person can be a costly decision.

So how do you make sure you give your company, and your candidates, the best assessment experience that result in you selecting the right person for the job?

I was recently in a discussion with a CEO who is facing a challenging change process. The success of this company, just as many others, is depending on the employees it consists of – especially on their commitment and engagement during the time to come. My client asked me the following questions:

  • How do I make sure that the employees with the right personality are in the right place?
  • How do I select the leaders who will bring success and especially are a good fit to my team?
  • Do my employees also fit with the future set-up of my company? Are they flexible enough to go through a change process?

My answer? Conventional methods of recruitment and selection are not enough.

"The good feeling"

After many years within Executive Search and selection, my experience is that more and more often executives and leaders have started to realise that their previous rather conventional selection and development procedures are not working anymore. Their base procedure includes an unstructured interview mainly focused on the candidates CV and track record. Decisions are partly based on the chemistry in the room and how "good" it felt during the interview combined with described record of accomplishment. Traditionally they have not invested enough time, or money, on the selection phase but kept to the mentioned conventional methods.

So what does that mean? Track record is of course important, but only looking at the accomplishment of employees and candidates in the process is ultimately not a guarantee for future success. It is important yes, the right experience may qualify people to get to the starting line, but it is their character that will enable them to win the race. Aspects like personality and potential for future success are decisive: e.g. flexibility, development capability, capacity, team and conflict skills and generally the ability to work with increasing complexity and the connected uncertainty to deal with them.

The impressive and strong CV, the personal performance or past results will unfortunately only present limited information about what achievements someone really can reach in a new role.

The Interview

A conversation in an unstructured format will not give you the answers you need to be able to answer your key questions; Can and will the candidate do the job? Will he or she stay in the job? In a predictive assessment and in-depth interview, the difference is that the interviewer exercises control and has specific aims. Especially to evaluate the candidate towards pre-defined goals and criteria's in order to decide if the candidate should be selected or not. The sole purpose of the assessment is to match the person to the situation and thereby predict most likely behaviour and performance in the specific job.

A good personality test does not give you answers –
but it does give you some very good questions!"

Whether or not the structured interview is combined with evidence based and certified psychometric tools and/or personality testing, the interviewer enters the assessment with a set of questions – hypotheses - that the interview should aim to answer. Different tests will provide more details to base those hypotheses on, but no test is completely true or false. It is therefore mainly in conjunction with an intelligent and diligent interview process that the full and true value of additional tools becomes apparent.

The Benefits

Professionally conducted assessments help to clarify questions in a greater depth and hence offer a support for you to make the right decision. We all know that the wrong personnel decisions can be very costly (at least 1.5 x the annual salary) and, if you are not careful, have a huge impact on the business culture which might damage deeper than the actual cost.

By adding a professional predictive assessment and structured interview process to your recruitment or development efforts is, according to me, the most effective and efficient way of securing your investment, limiting uncertainty and ensuring objectivity.

  1. You make sure you base the interview on accurate and specific demands of the job against which to measure the candidate and his/her potential for success in such an environment
  2. By identifying key areas to address during the interview, you can develop hypotheses that steer the questions during the interview
  3. You get an overview of the candidate's educational and career achievements

If viewing the short term vs. long-term effects of a wrong selection of employees, the costs of an assessment are comparatively very low. This means, if done right, you can be confident that a professional predictive assessment is a good investment.

In conclusion

Since I am working for a company that is a pioneer in assessment services, being the first international company to be certified in ISO 10667-2, the strongest international standard for assessment services, it comes as no surprise that I believe in the power of predictive assessments. Investing in a professional and thorough assessment to determine more precisely which person you would like to employ or develop in a given role, is the recipe for success in this story. It will by far be the most effective way of making sure your organisation recruits the most suitable person, and not the least, by not investing in the "wrong" person you will save both time and money.


Do you want to discuss the topic further? Please reach out to Vincenzo di Pietro, Partner & Director at Mercuri Urval´s office in Lucerne