Build Better Assessment Tools With These Five Factors

Here are five factors to consider when developing strong assessment tools.
By: | August 22, 2018 • 3 min read
assessment tools

In the current federal climate of downsizing and budget cuts, choosing the right person for the job is especially critical, but most agencies are using assessment tools that are failing to provide a pool of quality candidates, according to a recent “perspectives brief” by the Merit Systems Protection Board.

To improve assessments, agencies must change their mindset about hiring—focusing less on process and more on outcomes—and get leadership buy-in to invest in assessments, which is the “leading stumbling block” to change, Laura Shugrue, an MSPB senior research analyst told cyberFEDS®.

The goal is not to just hire someone quickly, “it’s to hire someone who is most likely to succeed at performing the job,” she said.


Automating the hiring process “left agencies with a significantly higher number of applicants — many of whom are not qualified or even really interested in the job but applied because it was easy.” That problem was compounded by the use of inexpensive assessments like occupational questionnaires, which make differentiating candidates with the highest-quality skills difficult because most applicants rate themselves at the top skill level to move forward in the process, she added.

Leadership commitment

Agency leadership must also make hiring an organizational priority, devote the necessary resources, and recognize that hiring is not solely an HR function, she noted.

At the same time, HR should educate leadership on “the importance of applicant assessment and how that upfront investment can be a win in the long run.”

Shugrue also suggested that HR should identify managers interested in improving the quality of the candidate pool and identifying better assessments. “After working through a pilot project or two, the managers can talk about their success stories, serving as an example to other managers.” These managers can also become champions and help sell the importance of proper assessments to leadership.

Agencies can begin “small” by working with a contractor, the Office of Personnel Management, and other agency experts to develop a plan for one occupation. The plan should go beyond how to better assess applicants and look at how to improve recruitment, bottlenecks that affect timeliness, and consistent communication with top applicants so they aren’t lost during the process, she explained.

Factors to consider

The MSPB report found the requisite level of candidates often do not get in front of hiring managers and supervisors because agencies do not use the most predictive assessment tools. Good assessment practices not only will provide hiring officials with a list of highly qualified candidates, they also can “improve the number of new hires who perform well on the job, lead to higher organizational performance, and make more efficient use of hiring officials’ time by narrowing the size of large applicant pools,” the MSPB explained.When developing better assessment tools, the MSPB recommended considering the following factors: