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High employee turnover? How to get interview tests right

High employee turnover? How to get interview tests right Drew McLellan

Hiring managers can be a little narcissistic. When interviewing job candidates, they favor people who remind them of themselves over those who are most qualified. They're not alone: Everyone's got a streak of narcissism to some degree. But hiring managers directly influence who works at your company, so it's a good idea to keep their self-love in check.

Yet the standard interview process does the exact opposite.

Unless you're Google, your hiring process probably looks something like this: Interviewers bring in candidates, ask a few questions, do way too much of the talking, and give jobs to the people they like the most (translation: the people most similar to them). Unsurprisingly, a high percentage of these "mini-me" hires turn out to be duds.

By the time you realize someone is a bad fit, you've wasted resources, upset clients, and frustrated your other employees. Fortunately, you can avoid all these problems by integrating screening and performance tests into the interview process.

Test drives for potential hires

Companies often rely on personality tests and social media screening to weed out lackluster candidates. But personality tests are poor predictors of whether people will perform well, and candidates know that potential employers scrutinize social media, so they craft their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles carefully. Their online personas may not align with who they are in real life. If you really want to know whether someone is a fit, you need to run better tests.

The first step toward identifying high-quality candidates is comparing them to the best people in their fields. My company does this by using a list of top performers in other agencies and assessing applicants alongside their standout peers. We analyze how similar their behaviors, motivations, and attitudes are. The results determine who makes it to the next round.

Once applicants pass the screening phase, you need to know whether they can perform. Anyone can learn to speak eloquently during an interview, but can he actually do the work? Does she handle the pressures of tight deadlines and client demands gracefully? Hands-on tests provide a clearer picture of candidates' skills, attitudes, and time-management capabilities. Use the following best practices to run your screening and hands-on tests effectively:

Administer tests in real time
In a perfect world, people would never cheat on performance tests or "borrow" ideas they found online. But until we reach that utopia, conduct performance tests that allow you to observe candidates as they work. Set time limits to get a sense of how they operate under those constraints. Timed tests are especially useful for positions in developing or graphic design. Workers in technical roles should be able to respond quickly to website problems or turn designs around on the fly.

Design and development jobs come down to good problem-solving skills, so assign projects that showcase their abilities to boil down abstract concepts into functional, clearly designed assets. The same goes for SEO and search engine marketing roles. Give candidates design elements to create a newsletter, or ask them to whip up an SEO strategy for a website riddled with errors. Pay attention to how quickly they can address the problems, and ask them to explain the logic behind their decisions.

Simulate the work environment
Hands-on tests are valuable only if they're applicable to the position. If you're hiring an account services manager -- or filling any job in which the employee needs to present projects to clients -- ask them to develop a preliminary strategy around a marketing or creative brief, then have them present their results to the hiring team.

This lets you see how they respond to feedback and how well they anticipate questions or objections. Simulating the work environment provides a clear picture of who candidates are, how they work, and whether they display the attributes necessary to succeed on your team.

Integrate screening tests with mobile
EREmedia reported that while 77 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 34 search for jobs on their mobile devices, only 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mobile-ready applications. That doesn't play well with tech-savvy candidates. A company that hasn't optimized for mobile looks out of touch, and no Millennial wants to work for that kind of organization.

Make your application accessible via mobile, especially when collecting data for the initial screening tests. If you force people to set the application aside until they're on their desktops or laptops, there's a good chance they'll become frustrated and move on to another opening. You don't want to lose good recruits because of a lagging mobile strategy.

When you execute interview tests well, you make better hiring decisions. Good tests will help get the right people in the right spots, and that's one of the most valuable things you can do for your company.

For nearly 30 years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. For 20 of those years, he has owned and run an agency. Additionally, Drew leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small- to medium-sized advertising...

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