June 15, 2021
Hiring 27 February 2020
How to Evaluate Candidates Before Hiring
Dillon Chen

We surveyed hundreds of recruiters, asking them how they determine skillset before hiring, and many say they use reference checks, phone screens, and panel interviews. Most companies often do not test candidates’ knowledge before hiring them. Recruiters merely ask for experience verbally or go over what’s written on a resume one by one.

Why should you evaluate candidates before hiring? Well, you wouldn’t spend money buying a car before trying it out, right? Hiring people to be a part of your carefully selected team should be no different! 

It’s important for companies to find and hire employees that are well-matched for the organization. Employees that are better matched for specific positions are more likely to be happier with their job and less likely to quit. Hence, it’s important to evaluate a candidate thoroughly before hiring them. 

Since some job positions are highly dependent on their technical skills and abilities, it's best to make sure candidates will be able to do the work required of them before making the final hiring decision. 

How Do You Confirm Potential Candidates Have the Needed Skills?

You need to evaluate them by testing them on the hard and soft skills that they will need on the job. Candidates should expect to show you what they can do, not just tell you about it. Evaluating candidates allows recruiters to differentiate between candidates who have the necessary technical skills and cultural fit from those who say they do.

Pre-employment tests, or what we like to call projects, can be used to screen and evaluate job candidates. These types of evaluations are becoming more common and used by big-name companies such as Facebook to help identify quality workers. 

Evaluations can include testing of cognitive abilities, soft/hard skills and even emotional intelligence. Companies use testing to find candidates most likely to succeed in positions and to screen out those who are unqualified or not a good fit for the company.

By helping companies identify the candidates that are most likely to perform well on the job, projects can lead to additional company benefits, such as saving time and cost in the selection process, decreasing turnover, preserving good company culture and even improving morale. 

How to Have a Successful Evaluation Process

The first step in the evaluation process is defining the ideal employee profile you are looking for according to the job description. Make sure you understand the position's responsibilities and requirements. Start putting together a list of essential or "must-have" behavioral skills and technical skills. 

After defining the ideal profile, the next step is to decide how you will evaluate candidates for those essential skills. Establishing measurements and analyses will let you know more accurately what to test in potential candidates and how to test. Gary Cubeta, Founder of InsuranceForFinalExpense.com shares his experience when test-driving candidates:

As a telemarketing company, what we do is test job applicants for two hours on the phone before we finish the interview process. We study their body language to see how they react to the stress of the job. We can teach anyone who wants to be taught, but they must have the correct physical and mental karma for it all to come together.

Once your candidate profile and evaluation measures are complete, all that's left is to attract candidates and implement the evaluations! The best way to evaluate a candidate thoroughly is to work with them firsthand.

Finding the perfect candidate and gauging talent can be proven to be a very difficult task. It's important to be transparent and train your recruiting team so that they are prepared to evaluate candidates properly. The science of identifying the right required skills so you can find the right candidates and the ability to measure an applicant's results can be practiced and learned over time. 

Once implemented, the entire hiring process will go more smoothly and the quality of your hires will increase.

How Will Projects Help You Evaluate Candidates? 

At ProSky, we believe the best way to implement evaluations is through projects. Projects are 3-5 week commitments (flexible) designed by your company, set in place to evaluate candidates for the skills that are required for success. Projects can be customized consist of whatever you want and be designed how you want them to. 

Consider projects as a way of inviting your most promising candidates in for a short period of time to work with the team and show what they have to offer. This will let you evaluate cultural fit as well as technical competency. Maksym Babych, CEO of Spdload.com shares how he tests candidates over a period of time:

We carry out 2 test drives. In the first one, we invite the employee to work in our office for one day and give an assignment to find certain information from employees in the department. This day is not paid, but they have the right to enjoy all the benefits of the office.

The second type is a 2-week test drive. The employee is paid and given a small real task. If we see that we were mistaken when choosing a candidate, we will fire him after 2 weeks.

You will come across many resumes that might look extremely suited for the job, but remember that resumes can easily be manipulated and rewritten to stretch the truth. A project, on the other hand, allows you to see and experience first hand what a candidate can do and how they will behave in your work environment (communication, personality, project ownership, etc.). 

This process allows you to check for culture fit and test technical skills all while creating value for your company. If at the end of the project either side finds they are not compatible, both candidate and company save time and money by not going any further into a formal work relationship.

What Qualities Should you Look for In Candidates? 

We asked ProSky’s own CTO, Fabio Panettieri, for some insight into what he looks for when hiring engineers. Your list will differ depending on your specific industry and company needs, study and experiment around with what makes for a successful hire. Some of the qualities we evaluate our candidates for are:

A. Technical Skills
Creativity and Presentation skills are important to have in Marketers. Programming skills are the cornerstone of a successful career as a software engineer. An accountant needs to be good at analyzing data and using accounting software. Whatever the position requires, these technical skillsets are absolutely necessary to do the job. When it comes to hiring software engineers, Fabio says,

Make sure the candidate is competent, able to code, understands both basic CS and software development principles, and can design and work on the kind of systems you need them to.

In your evaluations, technical skills should be the top priority you evaluate for in your candidates. Standardized tests to analyze their ability to use tools or software that is necessary for their success in the position.On our ProSky platform, we have coding tests to check if candidates know the language, frameworks or libraries a software engineer position might require. Candidates can code directly on the platform and evaluators can analyze and see candidate history to see how they approach problem-solving. 

B. Ego and Humility
This is a difficult area to balance. Too much ego and you might end up suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect; the phenomenon where underperforming individuals overestimate their abilities. On the other end of the spectrum, too much humility and you will have problems getting your point across to coworkers. 

A good candidate needs a balance of both the humility to recognize and acknowledge what they don't know and the confidence to master new skills and apply what they already know.

One thing we like to see in project teams is when candidates are able to work well together. The best candidates will be able to make meaningful contributions while still being able to recognize others for their contributions and find ways to include everyone. Personal ability and teamwork collaboration is a winning combination in any candidate!

C. Accountability and Project Ownership
If you have the required technical skills, it's very easy to do what you are told to. However, that isn’t enough. You should require something extra from the candidates. What happens when they don't have anything assigned? Or what if the task is overestimated? The perfect candidate will not focus solely on the code. Fabio Panettieri, ProSky's CTO says:

Perfect candidates will be proactive. They will come up with new ideas, propose improvements, and will work to see the bigger vision of what their tasks are meant to accomplish. 

Something we look for in our projects is what candidates go beyond the bare minimum and try to come up with innovative additions to make their project better. It's a good way to show that they are invested in the project and care about the quality of their work.

D. Communication Ability

A deeper knowledge of what really motivates a person to succeed is the best way of choosing the right one. Knowing their ambitions and work ethic besides past achievements is equally important.

A good candidate must be able to keep a clear line of communication with his peers and superiors. A great candidate will be able to communicate so clearly that there is no way to misunderstand what he/she is saying.

Good candidates know how to ask for help, how to present a controversial point of view and keep everybody on their team and in the company updated and inspired. This is an extremely difficult skill to master, however, it is absolutely critical for any role.

Using ProSky's Desk feature, candidates and mentors are able to communicate in real-time on projects. Everybody can log in over video and audio chats to work together on various projects. This handy feature also gives teams real-time interaction abilities such as draw/write things on the online whiteboard, take notes, and upload files. 

Something we notice is when candidates show good communication skills by asking meaningful questions for clarification from their mentors in order to complete their projects more efficiently. 

E. Cultural Fit

In a nutshell, once you get past the functional aspects of a candidate, it really comes down to personality and fit. Evaluating your potential hires with projects allows you to figure out if you can work with this person. 

At any company, you cannot afford to spend half your time dealing with your employees’ character issues. You're going to be spending a lot of time with your co-workers, so personality fit is supremely important.

By working with candidates on real company projects with current employees being the mentors, you get a look into what it would be like to work together with them in real-life. This kind of pre-hiring evaluation is invaluable for improving your long-term employee retention and company culture.

Now that you've got a few ideas on how you can use projects in your next hiring round, decide with your team some project ideas to help you hire the best candidates. Watch and observe how your potential candidates solve problems, work with others, communicate, and understand not just the role they are applying for but the path they are headed with your company. 

Schedule a time to chat with one of our hiring experts to get your project evaluation setup for your next hire. We know you can improve retention and find the perfect fit with project evaluation.