How to predict job success

6 min read

Hiring new employees can sometimes feel like a high-stakes game of chance. You screen a resume, conduct an interview, call a few references … and hope for the best.

The good news is there’s a way to better predict job success—and it’s fairly easy to do. In addition to the resume, interview, and references you usually include as part of the hiring process, you just need to add a few additional objective data points.

Here are a few of the data points we recommend collecting during the hiring process:

Cognitive assessments

Cognitive assessments help you gauge an individual’s capacity to learn quickly, grasp new concepts, adapt to changing circumstances, and understand complexity in the workplace. It’s empirically the best standalone predictor of training success and job performance. 

The cognitive requirements for a role will depend on the needs of the organization and the needs of the role. For example, an organization that works in a rapidly-changing industry—such as technology—will likely require higher cognitive ability. This is because employees will need to keep up with changing market trends and technologies. On the other hand, a role in an industry that doesn’t experience as much disruption might have a lower cognitive threshold. Positions that have a greater deal of complexity—including leadership positions—often require higher cognitive ability.

The PI solution offers a Job Assessment you can use to set a cognitive benchmark to compare candidate results to, as well as a cognitive assessment for measuring cognitive ability.

Behavioral assessments

Behavioral assessments—such as the PI Behavioral Assessment™—help you identify what drives employees at work. The results of these assessments can help you determine if a candidate is the right behavioral match for a role, or if they’ll struggle to succeed.

Think of it like this: If you’re a right-handed person, it’s easiest to write with your right hand. But what if someone asked you to write with your left? While you could learn to do it, it would feel unnatural. It’s the same with behavioral misfits at work. While an employee might be able to accomplish their responsibilities in a role, it might be a stretch for them.

Steve hard at work

Although personality and behavioral assessments aren’t quite as predictive of job performance as cognitive assessments, they can help predict other important behaviorally-driven measures that affect culture, engagement, morale, and productivity at a company.

For example, knowing people’s behavioral drives can inform management strategies. The 2019 People Management Report found that managers who use behavioral assessments with their teams are rated more highly by their direct reports. These behavioral insights allow managers to tailor their leadership and communication style to fit the needs of their employees.

Similarly, knowledge of behavioral drives can support and improve team dynamics. Every time a new hire is made, a new team is formed. Knowing how a new hire will fit into—and change—the existing team dynamic can help you make better hiring decisions.

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Resumes

If you’ve ever spent hours rifling (or clicking) through endless applicant resumes, take note: Not all parts of the resume will help you predict a candidate’s future job performance.

For instance, you may look to someone’s education first, but there’s little to no relationship at all between years of education and job performance. Research has shown that when combined with cognitive ability, years of education only adds a 1% gain in validity of predicting on-the-job performance. This is largely because many candidates for a given position will have similar levels of education.

Job experience is a little stronger of a predictor than education, but it’s really only a useful predictor for people who are early in their careers. According to researcher Frank L. Schmidt, combining cognitive ability with years of job experience can account for about 5% gain in validity when predicting job performance, but Schmidt also explained that job experience is a useful predictor for people who have between 0-5 years of experience. After five years, the amount of job experience no longer serves as a useful predictor of job performance. Schmidt hypothesizes this is because, after five years, a person’s job knowledge cannot increase at a high rate.

director analyzes people data at work

Don’t skip the resume screening process but do make sure you do it right. Focus on the areas that matter the most to the job at hand, which differs depending on the job and industry. Try these tips from the Society of Human Resource Management. They explore some great strategies you can use in the process.

Interviews

There’s still debate over how useful interviews actually are. Although Schmidt found that three different types of interviews (structured, unstructured, and phone-based) account for 18%, 13%, and 9% in predicting job performance differences, other research—such as this study on Google—found no relationship between the two measures.

It’s advisable to use multiple interviews in varying formats to really get a feel for the person you’re considering hiring. If you get stuck—or if you think your interviewing style could use some improvements—consider using one of PI’s Behavioral-Based Interview Guides to increase your ability to identify top candidates through interviews.

structured vs. unstructured-1.png

Collect a variety of data points.

When it comes down to it, there’s no one predictor that can tell you who would be the best hire. As predictive as cognitive and behavioral assessments are, they don’t paint the whole picture of who someone is—and neither does a resume or an interview. Instead, focus on combining as many of these elements as you can. Other, more job-specific measures—such as skills assessments—can help as well. The more measures you use in the hiring process, the better your odds are of predicting performance and making your next great hire.

Final note: You might notice we skipped references—and that’s for a reason. References are often carefully cultivated to tell the story the candidate wishes to tell you. And the reality is that most former managers or employers can only give you confirmation that an employee worked there, not insight into their performance.

Guardian

Sarah is a science product manager at PI. She spends most of her spare time caring for and riding horses.

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