The recent Executive Order from the White House focuses on modernizing how the government will assess federal job candidates moving forward. This is an unprecedented shift in government hiring, and now many agencies will be tasked with finding readily available, proven assessment solutions that agencies can implement in a reasonable time period. These assessments need to be solid, defensible, and secure with respect to candidate and assessment data.
This change provides an impetus for agencies to reexamine their assessment strategy and how they are using assessments to evaluate applicants for a variety of roles within their agencies. Certainly, selecting the correct assessment is important, but just as important is the full strategy that is being implemented as part of the selection process.
The Right Assessment Strategy Can Answer These Questions
What hiring challenges is the agency facing? Is it an abundance of applicants? Or too few responding to its respective vacancy announcements? Or is it a retention issue? Is the agency hiring what it feels are the correct applicants or employees but those applicants or new employees do not stay with the organization? Is the issue a fit problem? Or is it having problems finding applicants with the right competencies? Implementing the right assessment strategy with the right tools makes all the difference. As mentioned, the latest Executive Order by the Trump administration paves the way for not only compliance but also the improvement of an agency’s assessment strategy and selection process.
Implementing the right strategy improves efficiency through automation, better data on each applicant, and the ability to make a more objective decision as part of the selection process. And, creating an integrated one is easier than it has ever been. Assessment platforms are now readily integrated into front-end technology or applicant tracking systems (ATSs). In our experience, federal agencies we work with have seen significantly improved efficiency with automated processes, as well as improved candidate experience.
The first step is for agencies to decide what is important to be successful on the job, which should be done through a job analysis. A properly conducted job analysis is critical to make sure that an assessment tool is measuring what you want it to measure. Using the analysis, you can decide what competencies are the most important to be successful at the agency and on the job based on the data and information collected.
Then, once you’re ready to select an assessment, you’ll want to choose one that will not only stand up to the government’s new strict criteria but also help agencies identify the top candidates for each position:
- Your selection strategy should use a variety of validated assessments. This allows you to get a fair, well-rounded picture of each candidate. The assessments should target cognitive skills and measure personality and job skills determined from the job analysis.
- Choose an assessment that is easily integrated. Platforms that are easily integrated into the existing ATSs provide seamless administration and scoring integration. This allows for separate scoring or scoring in combination with existing assessments, which gives recruiters more data to work with.
- Use assessments that target critical job requirements. Standardized test batteries that target KSAs/competencies, job knowledge, and skills are readily available and more quickly implemented. Agencies can also develop their own content, which can be built into most testing platforms.
- Use applicant assessment questions over occupational questionnaires. Applicant assessment questions provide a better determination of applicants’ skill level instead of asking applicants to self-rate. Without measuring the candidates’ ability to demonstrate that they are actually able to solve problems through critical thinking or make the right decision when dealing with conflict, there is really no way to know if they will be able to perform the job effectively.
In summary, the new Executive Order enables agencies to not only be more compliant but also improve the way they evaluate and select new employees. Essentially, the Executive Order states that agencies should, when appropriate, de-emphasize applicants’ educational background and focus more on their abilities or competencies and how they can best become contributors to the agency more quickly.
Of course, this is not to say education is unimportant, but there are some candidates who are quite capable of contributing to the agency’s mission regardless of education, so if an agency overlooks these candidates as a result, it may be missing out on individuals who would be a good fit for the job. An objective, well-thought-out assessment strategy helps ensure the very best candidates are considered for the job.
David Annunziata is Senior Vice President of Federal Solutions at PSI Talent Management.