Crash Course #6 – Assessment

In our previous guide we touched on the idea of assessment when it comes to your early talent pipeline. In order to make sure you’re taking on the best and the brightest, you will need to evaluate candidates in some way, whether it be for a placement year, an internship or for a permanent job.

We’ve talked a lot about how to attract the top talent, but there is no point in putting so much effort into getting students to see you as a great employer if you are not able to assess whether or not they’ll actually benefit your company. As such, these methods of testing and evaluation are a crucial part of a good early talent pipeline.

Testing for the right things

future leaderIt’s tempting to skip any kind of assessment and just pick up the students with the best results. However, this is not necessarily going to leave you with the best workforce in the future. Always remember that you’re not just recruiting people based on their knowledge or raw skills; there are a whole host of other qualities that your employees will need to have in order to succeed.

For example, if you’re looking to recruit a future leader, a report from the Corporate Research Forum (CRF) recommends you look for somebody who is conscientious, extroverted, resilient and open to new experiences. These so-called “soft skills” can be more important than intelligence alone.

In fact, after a certain point intelligence stops mattering all that much.

The CRF research found that the most valuable employees tended to have IQs higher than 70 per cent of the world. However, people in the top five or even the top one per cent did not have a distinct advantage over those in the top 30 per cent.

One thing to note is that out of all these soft skills, niceness isn’t among them. You’re not trying to determine whether or not you get on with the applicants – although that can be important – but if they have the potential to be the future superstars of your business. It might be worth hiring somebody who isn’t that friendly if their other qualities suggest they’ll be a huge benefit to your company.

Traditional methods

interviewThe traditional way of assessing potential future employees is with an application form and then a follow-up interview. However, this is not always the best method of going about things, especially with students. You must bear in mind that this may be their first professional interview, and a lot of the markers that indicate a good candidate come from confidence.

However, as long as you bear in mind that your applicants’ interview skills might not be up to scratch, you can succeed with this traditional method of assessment. For the best results, you shouldn’t rely too much on someone’s manner in an interview. Instead, be on the lookout for specific criteria.

For example, jobsite Monster recommends you prepare an evaluation form to rate candidates on the qualities you are looking for.

These could include “Time Management” or “Problem Solving”. For each quality, have the options of “Exceeds/Meets/Needs more/Doesn’t meet” for interviewers to indicate.

This will make sure your interviews stay on track, as well as adding a measure of consistency across multiple interviewers. If you are all looking for the same things, you can make sure you aren’t missing out on valuable candidates due to confusion about what exactly you want them to be like.


One interesting way of getting a measure of a potential candidate, recommended by eLearning Industry, is to give them some form of self-assessment task. This could be in the form of a questionnaire or a presentation you ask them to give, or you could even send them your feedback on their interview (with the name removed) and ask them to rate the candidate.

The point of this is to size up their weaknesses alongside their strengths. In typical interviews, candidates are aiming to be so positive about themselves that their flaws can be hard to spot. Nobody is perfect, and it is far better to work out what a candidate’s weakness will be before you hire them than it is six months into the job.

A self-assessment usually indicates strongly that the candidate is supposed to be honest and introspective. If somebody is too positive, you can assume they aren’t being entirely honest either with you or with themselves. It is far better to have an employee who knows what they’ll struggle with and is working to improve.

Peer assessment and real-life situations

peer reviewOf course, if you are planning on having students join you for an internship or placement year, you are going to be able to watch them in action before taking them on as full employees. You might find it beneficial to start a little earlier and invite candidates along for a week-long trial period to see how they act on the job.

Even if it’s just for a few hours, it is worth giving candidates a real-life task to perform to get an idea of how they will actually do in the job. However, you can’t be expected to observe them every minute of the day, so you will need to rely on other members of your team to carry out the assessments for you.

This method of peer-review gives you a much more accurate representation of what a student will be like to work with.

Your team might also be able to pick up on weaknesses or flaws and judge whether or not they will be a severe impediment to doing the job.

Strength-based interviews

Traditional interviews have always focused on previous experience, asking candidates to prove they are competent in certain areas. This is a fairly outdated approach, and not one that is likely to be that useful when assessing students, who typically won’t have a lot of experience to talk about.

Instead, you can utilise strength-based interviews. This approach seeks out candidates’ natural strengths by asking about what they have enjoyed doing. There is a lot of benefit to this, such as a happy workforce being more productive, while it also helps identify the areas your candidates are most likely to perform strongly.

Ask questions like “is there an achievement you’re particularly proud of?” or “what aspect of your course do you enjoy the most and why?” to uncover the areas students are strongest at, so you can assess whether or not they’ll fit in with your company.

Psychometric testing

Last but not least, psychometric testing has become more and more popular. In 2017, 82 per cent of employers are using them to find appropriate candidates, up from 77 per cent in 2016. However, the way in which this method of assessment is being used is changing.

Over the last few years, the number of employers using numerical reasoning tests has been declining, as has the number using personality/motivation questionnaires. However, the percentage using situational judgement tests has increased, from 30 per cent in 2014 to 49 per cent in 2017.

This shows changing awareness of how these tests can help choose the right candidate. If you are using psychometric testing, make sure it is geared towards testing for practical and applicable qualities. This way, you will ensure that a high score means a good employee.

Next guide: Retention

Another subject we touched on in our last guide was retention, but once again it is a topic too large for a single entry. As you will likely know by now, students are highly career-focused and eager to progress, so it can be easy to lose them if you aren’t meeting their goals. We’ll look at this next time.