When it comes to organizations, there is no doubt that employees are the most important asset within any workplace environment. Human resources departments and personnel, therefore, have a crucial role when it comes to identifying, selecting, and then hiring those qualified and skilled candidates who fulfill the necessary requirements and criteria for a particular role. This is absolutely critical for any organization because choosing the wrong person not only wastes valuable resources such as time, personnel, and money, but it can potentially have an impact on the long-term growth and expansion of a company if an employee is not an adequate fit for the role or for their colleagues.

Evidently, the identification and selection of the right candidate can be an incredibly complex and at times challenging process. Considering the level of expenditure and effort that goes into the recruitment process, the least that should be expected is that the chosen candidate should be suitably adequate for the role. The reality is that traditional methods based on the analysis of resumes and interview responses are not only time-consuming and costly but also inefficient and not necessarily reliable. This is where work samples and simulations come in – a recruitment method that has been around for ages, but one which many companies still haven’t fully utilized.

Solving the Hiring Conundrum

With regards to hiring and recruitment in the twenty-first century, the primary issue is that the methods and procedures used for the selection of candidates haven’t experienced any significant changes – even though the economic and corporate landscape surrounding it has undergone considerable transformation. It is for this reason that a noticeable dissonance exists between traditional hiring and recruitment practices and the ever-changing and rapidly-developing requirements of modern workplaces.

In its present format, the hiring landscape is prevented from reaching its true potential because it is hindered by a number of obstacles. A study conducted by Career Builder, for example, demonstrated that 74% of employers admitted that they had actually recruited the wrong candidate for a job vacancy. Two-thirds of employees, in turn, revealed that they had accepted an offer for employment – only to realize that the organization was actually a bad fit for them. This survey also found that hiring the wrong candidate cost employers an average of $15,000 for each candidate.

Extensive research has explored the various factors contributing to the high costs of hiring, with one study discovering that hiring a new employee costs the average employer approximately 4 months’ worth of wages. 21% of this cost is incurred by the actual process of searching job boards, paying the recruiters and agencies, etc. 79% of these costs occurred after the candidate had been hired, due to an initial decrease in productivity, disturbances to existing managers and teams as well as training the newest employee.

The Broken Funnel

Overall, it’s evident that recruitment is an intensive process, and it only makes sense that employers would want to get this right the first time around in order to minimize expenditure as much as possible. Despite this employers continue to demonstrate little optimism regarding their recruitment strategies, with a McKinsey study revealing that less than a quarter of company executives actually believed that their current hiring practices would introduce the best candidates to their organization.

Attracting and retaining the top talent is one of the most pressing issues facing employers today, and it’s clear that we need to move away from traditional recruitment strategies. Across continents, industrial sectors, and organizations the recruitment funnel is broken – and it has been for a long time. In a recruitment funnel, a pool of applicants will flood in from the top. As these applicants are processed through the funnel, they will be screened and either rejected or accepted so that they can progress further. The basic idea is that the most qualified and skilled candidates will emerge from the narrowest end of the funnel.

A broken recruitment funnel, however, won’t work at maximum efficiency and it won’t be entirely reliable either. An obstacle or stoppage occurring at any point could result in the best candidates being rejected and turned down, whilst less suitable applicants are processed further through the funnel. Ensuring that an organization’s recruitment strategy yields the top talent depends on diagnosing the source of the issue – that the classical resume and cover letter screen process followed by an interview hinders the identification and selection of the very best candidates. Things obviously need to change, because the reality is that somewhere out there is the talented and qualified candidate that perfectly suits the needs of your organization, but hiring processes have to be changed so that the funnel can bring that perfect candidate to the door of your organization.

There’s not a Skills Shortage, but a Skills Oversight

A skilled workforce will enable an organization to achieve maximum productivity and output, whilst employees who feel that their talents are being recognized and are provided with opportunities for professional development will commit themselves towards achieving the organization’s goals. The impact a skilled employee can bring to an organization is immense and undeniable, and yet research conducted by Korn Ferry calculated that approximately 85 million jobs could potentially be unfulfilled by 2030, simply because skilled people aren’t taking them.

As depressing as these statistics may initially appear, it’s critical that we read between the lines and realize that this isn’t because the population is becoming more unskilled, or less qualified, or less capable of professional and complex roles. On the contrary, people are entering higher education and attaining advanced degrees at an unprecedented rate, with global literacy rates rising exponentially. Education has always been associated with greater access to professional opportunities and enhanced job prospects.

The natural assumption would be that if so many more people are being qualified to a degree level, then there shouldn’t be such an issue with unfulfilled skilled jobs. The statistics uncovered by the Korn Ferry study are somewhat perplexing at first because you would assume there wouldn’t be such a staggering amount of unfilled jobs if there is actually a surplus of qualified and skilled candidates. The problem ultimately returns to our previous discussion – the broken recruitment funnel.

With a broken funnel, the right candidates are not being selected for the right jobs. There is not a skills shortage, but rather an oversight of skills that has been facilitated by this broken recruitment funnel.

Why Resumes Needs to be Replaced by Work Simulations

There is a myriad of variables determining whether a candidate may or may not be a suitable fit for a particular workplace, and education is only one of them. The resume is a traditional selection method that places disproportionate emphasis upon a potential candidate’s educational qualifications and previous job experiences. Studies, however, have found that multiple years of education only predict 10% of future job performance, whilst even work experience accounts for only 18%. Work simulations, on the other hand, can significantly predict a potential candidate’s future job performance – at 54%.

A resume is inherently problematic because it determines an individual to be qualified for a particular role based solely upon their educational qualifications and their job experience. When you give this further thought it’s somewhat ironic, because research has shown that an individual’s previous work has virtually zero impact on their success or failure in a future job role. Considering that education and employment are the two things we most often look at in a resume – this ultimately implies that a significant proportion of the information provided on a resume is largely redundant when it comes to assessing the suitability of a candidate.

As a recruitment tool, a resume’s applicability has been waning in the midst of technological, economic, and social changes with regards to the ways organizations operate. Hiring people based solely on their education and experience is ineffective and counterproductive. This observation is particularly relevant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to which more than 100 million people have lost their jobs within the travel and tourism sectors globally. If we continue to rely upon resumes, numerous skilled employees will be unable to find employment until their respective industries are up and running again. Considering the persistence of COVID-19 as well as its long-term impact, this is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

The Solution We’ve Been Looking For: Work Samples and Simulations

Increasingly, employers are beginning to adopt work samples and simulations as a means of recruitment. There are a variety of reasons for this – not least because these virtual and anonymized recruitment cases enable employers to identify those problem-solving skills, personal attributes, and individual characteristics that cannot be effectively conveyed in a resume or an interview. Work simulations have been found to predict up to 54% of future job performance – and this is an impressive statistic considering the immense positive impact a candidate’s performance can have upon an organization.

Resumes, cover letters, and interviews are narrow in scope and focus. Competencies are contextual and are equally independent of and dependent upon a range of factors that traditional recruitment strategies simply cannot predict or assess. More and more people are earning higher-level qualifications, as a result of which an increasing percentage of people entering the workforce are likely to possess a greater cohort of skills.

Nevertheless, the influence of individual attributes and personal characteristics is not insignificant. Two candidates with similar qualifications could have different approaches to problem-solving, team projects, and leadership methods, and determining which one is the right match for an organization’s particular requirements and unique structure can make all the difference between a good and a great candidate.

Work samples and simulations are a less biased and competency-based selection method. Studies have found that even candidates regard these work samples and simulations as fairer and more impartial when it comes to alternative recruitment methods. Whilst the resumes of even the strongest candidates can end up being filtered out and denied a legitimate chance, work simulations provide every candidate with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and talent on a first-hand basis.

This also explains research findings that demonstrate that work samples and simulations do not have as much an adverse impact on candidates or draw a negative reaction from them. This is in contrast to resumes, interviews as well as personality or cognitive tests, which are more likely to elicit an unfavorable response and potentially negatively impact recruitment outcomes.

Work samples and simulations have less in-built discrimination, and therefore provide an improved platform from which organizations can discover the top talent. Even AI is not immune to shortcomings and bias, with Amazon scrapping a recruitment engine in 2018 which had algorithms that discriminated against women. Work samples and simulations are a convenient solution that not only mitigates but prevents such instances of discrimination.

Revolutionising the Hiring Landscape

The funnel is broken, and it has been like this for a long time. However, even though we acknowledge the pervasive shortcomings and restrictions of our recruitment strategies, we continue to rely upon traditional methods that are ineffective and counterproductive.

A pool of applicants will provide their resumes and cover letters, which are then filtered according to education and experience – even though research has demonstrated that these are poor indicators of future job performance. Following this, there will be an interview and perhaps a task, upon which the candidate is hired. If the chosen individual at the completion of this process is not the right fit, then the organization has not only wasted valuable resources but has potentially affected the productivity and performance of the organization itself.

There is no doubt that we need to change. The funnel may be broken, but not only do we now understand why it is broken we also have the remedy for this problem so clearly presented to us. Work samples, case studies, and job simulations are the only way forward in recruitment and hiring. It is about time that we liberate ourselves from the limitations of resumes and cover letters, recruitment methods that indiscriminately and blindly reject 95% of candidates based on their education and experience alone. By relying on work samples and simulations, employers can be assured that those candidates who emerge from the end of the funnel will be the perfect fit for the criteria, goals, and aspirations of their organization.

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