46% of new hires fail within 18 months, and lack of technical skills is not the primary reason for failure.
In many organizations, personnel costs are among the largest budget line items, and given the top challenges facing CEOs, organizations need their leaders, managers, and people aligned and working together at the highest levels of performance.

Many factors inhibit organizations and managers from acquiring enough information and the right information about their employees to make the best possible decisions for both the organization and the individual. There are three reasons for this:

1) Employees have a tendency to embellish their qualifications.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 53% of resumes they reviewed contained false information. And others who don’t embellish their resumes may lie during a job interview. The workplace is full of people vying either to get hired or to get promoted to the next level. In a game of relatively high-stakes, many people will ignore the risks of lying in order to compete for a position.   

2) Managers have a tendency to “filter and scrub” employee performance reviews. 

In our litigious culture, few former employers will provide a negative reference about a job candidate. Even performance reviews are filtered through an employee’s immediate supervisor, who, though well intentioned, may be less than fully objective. We’ve known supervisors who felt threatened by rising stars, and who downplayed their subordinates’ talents, accomplishments and potential. And we’ve seen those who, fearing they’d lose a good employee to a promotion, quietly sabotaged their own people’s upward mobility.

3) People are just plain difficult to read

Employee behavior is often compared to an iceberg—about 90% of our behaviors are explained by factors that, on the surface, cannot be easily observed or understood in a meaningful context. Without advanced training in psychology, many of these behaviors are difficult—if not impossible—to detect, and the manager is at a disadvantage.

Valid assessments can uncover truthful information about the employee in a very cost and time effective manner. Employee assessments can give organizations and managers consistent, in-depth, and objective information about their people. Information uncovered from assessments helps leaders and managers rely less on gut instinct and make smarter people decisions.

Given the opportunity to land a new job or to be promoted, people may tell you what you want to hear instead of the truth. Additionally, so much of their success depends on the specific type of job and the organization in which they would work. Success seldom transfers automatically. The cost of a bad hire is very high considering the hiring and ramp-up costs, low productivity, and disruption to customers and coworkers.


1) Hard Skill Assessments

These typically test an individual’s knowledge of technical and administrative procedures. For example, a hard skills assessment might look at how well someone can use MS Word, or how well she understands HIPAA rules or COBRA regulations. 

Hard skills are relatively easy to observe, quantify, and measure. And it’s generally easy to train people in hard skills; very little “unlearning” is required because hard skills don’t typically involve behaviors that have been developed over many years. 

2) Soft Skill Assessments 

Soft skill assessments measure how people learn and think. These typically evaluate behavior, personality, attitude, preferences, personal integrity, communication style, leadership and/or management aptitude and style. 

Soft skills are more difficult to observe, quantify, and measure than hard skills. Our personalities form early as a result of our upbringing and environment. Our behaviors are often deeply ingrained, making soft skills much more difficult to learn as well as to “unlearn.”

For this reason, organizations will often make selection decisions based on people’s soft skills – and then provide the necessary hard-skills training.

3) Job Performance Assessments 

These typically come in three types: 180 degree, involving feedback from oneself and one’s direct reports; 360 degree, involving feedback from supervisors and peers, as well as direct reports and oneself; and customer loyalty assessments in which one’s customers provide feedback.

4) Job-matching Assessments 

These typically measure a person’s potential for success in a particular job. The individual’s cognitive abilities, interests, motivations, and behavioral traits are quantitatively assessed, scored and compared against the organization’s top performers. In this process, professionals use a consistent language to discuss and evaluate talent across the entire organization. 
These assessments are used throughout the employee life cycle for selection, on boarding, managing, leadership development and stratgic workforce planning. 

Look for assessments that reveal consistent, in-depth, and objective insight into an individual’s thinking and reasoning style, relevant behavioral traits, occupational interests, and match to specific jobs in your organization. It will help your managers interview and select people who have the highest probability of being successful in a role, and provide practical recommendations for coaching them to maximum performance. 

If Employees Came with an Instruction Manual

Think about the cost of your organization’s last few hires. Aside from salary and benefits, there’s the cost of advertising for the job, the investment in training, and the price of getting a new worker up to speed. An organization wouldn’t spend $40,000, $50,000, or more on a piece of equipment without a careful understanding of what the equipment can do, a rigorous selection process, proper training, documentation, guarantees and warrantees. Before you purchase equipment, you want to know how it works and whether it’s right for you. Before you operate that equipment, you’ll probably want to look at a user’s manual. 

Yet, every day we see businesses hire, deploy and promote employees with little or no thought to helping managers understand how these employees work and whether they are a good fit. Employee assessments can serve as a valuable “user’s manual” for managers to get the most out of their people. For this reason, we believe anyone who manages people or runs a business should know about the value of the occupational assessments. 

Bryan Summers is the founder and CEO of Carolina Profiles, Inc., providing employee selection, risk management and corporate turn-around strategies for clients across the United States.