The definitive checklist for candidate assessments

Last updated:
February 26, 2021
December 19, 2021
min read
Brendan McConnell
Table of contents

To hire the best candidate for the job, you need to do your due diligence. More than that, you need to have a reliable and thorough candidate assessment process that allows you to screen inbound applicants quickly, fairly, and effectively.

One of the best ways to ensure an effective applicant assessment process is to create a framework or checklist that you can follow for all job requisitions.

This article will share a sample candidate assessment checklist you can use to create your own process. But first, let’s take a step back and look at what candidate assessments are, and why they’re important.

What is a candidate assessment?

A candidate assessment is the process or framework that recruiters use to determine if an applicant is suitable for a given role. It can take many forms, and usually involves the following stages of assessment:

  1. Job postings and applications.
  2. Candidate screening.
  3. Candidate testing.
  4. Background checks.
  5. Legal and eligibility checks.

The candidate assessment process is developed in accordance with the requirements of the organization, and typically looks at cultural fit, skill competencies, behavioural and personality traits, education and experience.

Specific applicant assessment techniques will vary depending on the job requirements, seniority, and complexity of the role in question.

What are the objectives of a candidate assessment?

Generally speaking, candidate assessments are designed to identify top quality applicants for the position, and test them to determine who is the ideal fit. To be effective, applicant assessment programs should:

  • Enable unbiased hiring decisions;
  • Provide a fair candidate experience;
  • Make recruitment more efficient and cost effective;
  • Effectively identify the best hire in the applicant pool; and
  • Enable recruiters to maintain a pipeline of qualified candidates.

In other words, your candidate assessment program should contain a series of deliberate screens and tests that help you objectively identify your top applicants. They should also be fair and balanced so that your candidates have an overall positive experience with your brand, and would be open to future employment if they’re not selected.

Now that we’ve established what candidate assessment is, and what your objectives should be, it’s time to look at a checklist you can use to develop or refine your own program.

Your candidate assessment checklist

As mentioned before, candidate assessment processes are typically broken into phases. To illustrate this, we’ve segmented this checklist into sections that reflect each stage of the hiring process.

Job posting and applications

Candidate assessment starts when you identify a hiring need at your organization. This is the planning stage where you clearly identify what you do and do not want in an applicant. From there, you create your recruitment ads, post them to your target job boards, and collect applications through your website.

This phase typically includes:

  • Establishing job requirements with the hiring manager.
  • Creating an ideal candidate persona.
  • Writing a recruitment ad that speaks to your target candidate personas.
  • Identifying mainstream and niche job boards to post your job ads.
  • Leveraging your networks and referrals for applicants.
  • Gathering applicants through your job portal, and collecting them in your ATS.

Your goal here is to help candidates pre-screen themselves by clearly stating your job requirements, showcasing your company and culture, and targeting your ideal personas. If a candidate assesses that they are qualified for the position, then it’s your turn to make your own assessment.

Candidate screening.

Once your applicants have applied, the bulk of the candidate assessment work takes place. This phase is a combination between automated and manual screening that leverages your recruitment expertise and tech stack to shortlist promising applications.

This phase typically includes:

  • Automated parsing of resumes and cover letters by your ATS.
  • Social media scraping for additional information or red flags.
  • Automated shortlisting based on the above information.
  • Telephone or video pre-screen interviews for further information on experience and personality.
  • In-person interviews with the recruiter, hiring manager, or team members. This can take the form of:
  • ~Structured interviews.
  • ~Collaborative interviews.
  • ~One-on-one interviews with staff and management.

The candidate screening phase will vary depending on the resources and technology available to you. It should also be closely tailored to the responsibilities, seniority, and complexity of the job title. For example, junior applicants should receive a different level of screening than C-suite candidates, and creative types will be asked different questions than engineers.

Candidate testing.

The candidate testing phase will also vary depending on the specific role you’re working to fill. It’s important to work with your hiring managers and teams to determine what types of assessments are important to the role in question.

Here are some examples of the types of job tests you can use in your candidate assessment process:

  • Skills tests
  • ~Technical - i.e. programming a piece of software or troubleshooting a systems issue.  
  • ~Creative - i.e. writing a test article, or creating a video.
  • Personality tests, such as:
  • ~The Caliper Profile, which measures how an individual’s personality traits correlate to his or her job performance.  
  • Behavioural tests
  • Cognitive ability tests
  • Situational judgment tests
  • Communication tests
  • Job simulations
  • In-person, on-the-job tests
  • Assignments and presentations

There are a vast number of tests that you can use to measure a candidate’s personality and skill set. Before deciding on your own approach, it’s important to establish exactly what requirements you’re looking for, and how they apply to success at your company.

Background checks.

Once you’ve put your candidates through the first three phases of assessment, you’ll likely have a good idea of which applicant you’d like to hire. If there is a clear frontrunner (or frontrunners), then the next phase is to confirm that what they’ve told you about their background and experience is accurate.

The background checks you use will vary depending on company policy, regulations, security protocol, or any other requirement that needs to be met before a formal job offer can be made.

Here are some examples of background checks you can consider:

  • Reference checks.
  • Criminal record checks.
  • Security clearance checks.
  • Resume cross-referencing.
  • Verification of education credentials.
  • Verification of prior work experience and performance.

If you’re unsure of which background checks to use, consult with your legal or human resources department for a list of requirements that need to be met.

Legal and eligibility checks.

Lastly, many companies and countries have strict eligibility and legal requirements that need to be met before a job offer can be sent to an applicant. Make sure that you’re aware of these policies, and inform your candidates of these requirements early in the application process.

These might include VISA applications or eligibility to work in a specific country, alcohol or drug tests, credit checks, or any other policy that might prohibit the candidate from working for your company.

Candidate assessment is perhaps the most important component of effective hiring. Make sure that you have a clear process in place that can be adapted to meet the requirements of each individual job requisition while maintaining quality and efficiency.

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