SmartRecruiters Blog

The Science of Candidate Assessment

I don’t mean to question the predictive abilities of your gut, but I must say, candidate assessment is a science. When trying to figure out who would be the best hire, your key questions must be answered by reliable information. Is the candidate able to do X? How did the candidate perform in Y? Does the candidate really want to do Z?  Data analysis can give you more accurate answers, and has demonstrated to mitigate risk.

candidate assessments Assessment possesses a numerical connotation. Webster’s defines assess as “to determine the rate or amount of.” To assess, you need to put numbers to value. That’s it. In the case of recruitment, formulaic assessments will give you battle tested insights on behavioral tendencies, quality of past work, and level of existing skill.

There are thousands of assessments out there, but recruiting innovator Jerome Ternynck believes most can be divided into three categories: behavioral, reference check, and skills test:


  • Behavior Assessments measure personality. Yes, personality can be categorized and quantified. We’ve come a long way since Briggs Myers. In an interview you will learn anecdotal details of a candidate’s behavior. Behavioral assessments provide a more comprehension measure for job fit and company fit.  What personalities have thrived in your company culture? You need to know this. What personalities perform best as inside sales reps? Behavior assessments tell you.
  • Reference Checks measure the performance of past work. Reference checks should gather more points of view than the three phone numbers candidates have brought to job interviews for the last 50 years. In a phone reference you get the overarching impression by a fan of the candidate; there is conflict of interest. Top reference check assessments gather data from a more encompassing sources to share a 360 degree report of a candidate’s past work.
  • Skills Tests measure the level of a specific expertise. Try asking a candidate how good they are at PHP? All answers will range from OK to the best. There is no confirmation of their rank in the range of people with this skill. Skills tests quantify where their skill sits amongst everyone else in the market.  There are assessments for thousands of skills, from French to Python to Excel to Pattern Recognition to etc.; if it’s a skill, it’s quantifiable.


Notice a theme? Assessments measure. Assessments put analytics behind more points of views than just the interviewer to predict the likelihood of succeeding in any job for any company.

The Aberdeen Group found that assessment data – while crucial across many critical company decisions – was most crucial in the decision of “who to hire.” This is the point where you have a candidate’s basic professional information and have met with him or her for a short period of time. You need more reliable information to make such an important decision. The Aberdeen study found that assessment data was a better indicator of who to hire than it was in deeming who is high potential, who to interview, and who is promoted.

While the evaluation of candidates is both an art and science, there are cold hard facts on every candidate’s behavioral preference, reference checks, and skills test.  Candidate assessments, and in turn who to hire, depend upon measurement.  Investing a small amount to measure any of what a candidate is able to do, how a candidate has actually performed, and which tasks a candidate is motivated to perform, will go a long way toward increasing profit per hire.

David Smooke

David Smooke was the Director of Content Marketing and Social Media at SmartRecruiters and is the Founder of ArtMap Inc & AMI Publications.