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Want a fairer recruiting process? Assess skills at the top of the funnel

Objective skill assessment is an important part of eliminating bias in hiring – but should you ask candidates to take a test at the very top of the recruiting funnel? Absolutely, say CodeSignal Co-Founders Sophia Baik and Tigran Sloyan. Read on to learn about:

  • The benefits of objective skill assessment for fairness and diversity
  • Why skill assessment beats out resume review in terms of candidate experience
  • How to implement skill assessment at the top of the funnel

For recruiting and sourcing teams, managing applicants at the top of the funnel can be a daunting task. In the tech industry, a single job posting can result in hundreds – sometimes thousands – of applications. Google, for instance, receives over 3 million applications per year and has a hire rate of just 0.2 percent

So what’s the best way for companies to deal with this huge volume of applications? Many companies choose to go with manual resume review. Recruiters read through each of the resumes submitted, spending an average of 6 seconds per resume, and pick out the 4 to 5 percent of applicants they believe are most qualified for the position. In this approach, resumes act as a proxy for candidates’ job-relevant skills.

Here at CodeSignal, we believe that actually measuring candidates’ skill is a better first step than reviewing resumes. Here’s why:

It’s the fairest way to handle a large volume of applicants

In an ideal world, recruiting teams would have the capacity to thoroughly review each resume submitted and hold a conversation with each applicant to gain a holistic understanding of their qualifications for the job. The reality, however, is that companies need to sift through a large volume of applications – fast – to narrow down their pool of candidates to interview.

Under these conditions, companies have a choice: they can quickly scan resumes to assess fit, or they can send applicants an automated assessment that measures skills relevant to the job. 

It is well documented that resume review is subject to a high degree of bias and subjectivity. Even highly trained recruiters have unconscious biases that may shape how they evaluate a resume. One example: people tend to notice educational institutions that are prestigious or which they themselves attended, opening up room for bias toward these candidates.

Skill assessment, on the other hand, provides an objective measure of a candidate’s qualifications, rather than a resume reviewer’s subjective impression. While bias can still creep into other parts of the recruiting process, objective skill assessment limits the extent to which unconscious bias can shape decision-making at the top of the funnel

It’s better for candidate experience

Some tech companies today have adopted the belief that, while skill assessment may reduce bias, it creates poor candidate experience. Asking candidates to take an assessment as their first step in the hiring process, they claim, may be seen as too “cold” of an interaction or require too much of the candidate’s time.

Baik and Sloyan take a different perspective. The worst candidate experience, they say, is for a candidate to apply for a position and then be told (perhaps unfairly) that they’re not qualified. “Everyone would take an assessment over a rejection letter,” Sloyan explains. 

Also – with a resume review process at the top of the funnel, most candidates who do not advance to the interview stage are not provided feedback. In some cases, candidates do not even receive a rejection letter. “It’s like their application just goes into a black hole,” says Baik. “And that’s not a great candidate experience.”

It’s adaptable to different types of teams and jobs

Another common misconception about top-of-the-funnel skill assessment is that it’s too black-and-white for many situations: candidates are simply moved forward or rejected automatically. 

Not so, say Baik and Sloyan. Companies can make their own decisions around where to set the threshold for skill assessments and customize these to each team and job opening. A team might create a “yellow zone” of assessment scores, for example, where applicants’ assessments go through a manual review process before a decision is made. 

Companies should consider three questions when deciding how and where to set the qualifying threshold for an assessment: 

  1. What are our qualifying criteria for this position?
  2. How many candidates can we afford to talk to, given the size of our sourcing and recruiting teams?
  3. What matters most to us – skills, personality, work ethic, other attributes? Specific job-relevant skills might matter less for a team with extensive training capacity and resources, for instance.

In general, Sloyan’s advice to set to the bar “as low as you can afford it to be, because you want to give as many people as possible a chance to move forward in the process.”

Learn More

Want to learn more about how you can build a winning organization through data-driven recruiting? Visit CodeSignal to find out how you can measure technical skills effectively and objectively with its automated assessment and live interview solutions.