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How do you measure skills?

This blog post is based on the third episode of the data-driven recruiting podcast hosted by CodeSignal co-founders Sophia Baik and Tigran Sloyan. You can find and listen to this specific episode here or check out the video version embedded below.

We know assessments at the top of the recruiting funnel will help you to identify the right candidates. But doing it wrong can backfire.  For example, frontloading a heavy assessment before candidates have done more than submit a resume is like asking someone on a first date to meet your parents. They’ll likely be thinking, “Um yeah… I was just hoping to see how dinner goes first.”

Don’t overwhelm your potential candidates or your team by diving too deep too early. Any initial assessment should be generic. You’re not going to capture everything in one fell swoop, and that’s ok. Start by evaluating something fundamental to the role, then customize as you go to gauge the candidate’s fit for the position. For example, if you’re hiring an engineer and expect them to have multiple skills as it relates to data and programming, start with something foundational – i.e., do they know JavaScript? You’re not asking them to recode a major project from scratch but you’re identifying that they’ve applied for the right job.

Once you confirm their core skills, what’s next when it comes to measuring talent, specifically as it relates to assessments? Taking aim. Drill down and choose an assessment piece that’s more targeted. At this point, you’ve both decided you want to make the relationship work (everyone is still answering each other’s texts so to speak), so this shouldn’t be unreasonable to the candidate or an unnecessary burden for the team. This can be done with an automated test if you have a lot of people you’re reviewing, or a phone interview if time allows.

Next, it’s time to take the relationship to the next step! An in-person meeting. This onsite visit will likely mean a bigger time investment for your team and the candidate. Here, it’s still essential to continue to focus on measurable data as opposed to feelings. As we already know, relying exclusively on how everyone felt about a particular candidate can introduce bias, which is what we’re trying to avoid!

Allow interviewers to ask their own questions, which makes each meeting unique. But start with everyone understanding the objective and what sections they’ll be covering. Couple the in-person discussions with objective assessments. When asking a candidate to complete code for example, have a recorded version of what they’ve done during the interview. It’s always a letdown if the team goes to review a candidate’s file together only to find that some interviewers took notes while others just filled a page with doodles. Keep data a part of the process from start to finish.

Here’s the takeaway – measuring skills and having a data-driven process isn’t a single event. Start with high level, standardized assessments and progress to more targeted, individualized reviews as candidates progress. Keeping that data-driven focus throughout the process will ensure that you’ll end up with the right hire (and have to rely less on notes that may or may not include pictures of a stick figure robot).