This is the second part of our article series on talent life cycle. The first part of this series is “Talent Life Cycle 101: Talent Cannot Live Where There Is No Trust”.

In the first part of this series, we’ve talked about trust and how it helps organizations attract and retain great talent. We’ve established that a terrific employer brand is an effective way to foster trust.

To recap, effective employer branding is done by creating detailed profiles of our ideal candidates, promoting clear and concise job descriptions, clearly broadcasting organization goals and visions through various means and channels, and lastly, by maintaining a robust presence online.

Say you have a wonderful employer brand, and then after you posted an opening, you find yourself with a large pool of potential new hires. What do you do next?

Logically, you assess your pool according to metrics you’ve probably set earlier on. But how exactly do we assess talent?

Some Factors to Consider

It’s not a secret that assessing candidates is tedious and daunting. The cost of turnover is high as well as the amount of time and energy hiring managers have to dedicated for the entire job application process. Tough, right?

In order to avoid losing top candidates, you have to consider a few factors like speed of hire, quality metrics, and benchmarks.


In a study published by Glassdoor, they found that from 2010 to 2014, the average time it takes to hire an employee in the U.S. increased from 12.6 days to 22.9 days. Over the course of those three weeks, you could be losing a lot of A players if you’re stuck in a bloated, ineffective assessment process.

Quality Metrics

The quality of hire is a big deal in any recruitment effort. Without clear metrics to define what “quality hire” actually means for your organization, however, may drag your hiring process or might render it ineffective and inefficient. Setting clear metrics of quality is, therefore, imperative.

With a clear metric of quality, not only can you assess how effective your departments and managers are at hiring candidates, you can easily gauge job candidates according to your standard of quality, as well.

To help you set clear metrics of quality, you may schedule anniversary-based reviews. Through this, you may ask the new hires to reflect on their performance and to assimilate into the culture.


Setting benchmarks or performance indicators will help you identify your employees’ achievement rates. Achievement rates will tell you whether they are meeting expectations or not. Additionally, ask your employees if they fit the role they were hired for.

Conduct your assessment or survey not only with your employees, but also with your hiring managers or recruitment team. You can ask your hiring team if they would rehire the employee under review. If they say yes, the employee is most likely reaching expectations. You can perform such assessments at the time of hire and on anniversaries.

Assessments are vital in gathering helpful. The data gathered from these assessments can used to inform the recruitment and assessment process. How? For example, if the new hire feels like they are not qualified for the role they were hired for, you might have to revisit the requirements you’ve listed in the job descriptions you send out and post. By reviewing job postings and evaluating what an ideal candidate would be will significantly improve your recruitment process. Moreover, looking at pre-hire metrics, i.e. how many candidates your hiring manager sees before they make an offer or the rate of passive candidate conversion, can give you a full view of where your team is struggling and what your hiring team does well.

All these things considered, here are a few pointers when assessing job candidates. Feel free to add more insights. Let us know in the comment section below.

1. Look for similarities and probe like an investigator. 

The data you have gathered from the assessments and surveys you’ve been conducting with your current employees can be used to inform your assessment of your job candidates. You can do this by asking the question, “What do this candidate has that’s similar to my best employees?”.

You can figure out what desirable attributes your top employees have through regular assessments. Use the data you get to see what candidates share with them. Maybe it has something to do with their background, key skills, or some other strengths.

Moreover, if you are diligent in interviewing your top employees, you know quite well how they do their job, and excel. You can use this information during an interview with a candidate.

For example, you are looking for another business development officer who will be responsible for and in handling accounts. After a series of interviews (through the assessments you do) you found out that when your top performing business development officer is faced with losing a current client, they use that as an opportunity to better understand the client’s concerns by asking the client about their most pressing pains and then your employee would follow up with solutions that can be put into action immediately (and most likely retain the client).

You can frame these real-life events into interview questions. Ask your candidate what they would do in a similar scenario. Of course, you do not have to hear the exact same solution but the key takeaway is that you have to figure out if the candidate is solutions and results-oriented like your top employees. It is also a goal to figure out if the candidate has a strong understanding of client retention.

Now, let’s say you are hiring a digital marketing officer or specialist, you can start probing on the candidate’s basic knowledge and skills by asking facts-based questions. For example, inquire about what strategies they prefer to use or what their most successful marketing campaign was.

Develop your situational questions from correlative data you gathered from your top performers. You also want to develop other situations to get a full perspective of how they handle obstacles. A great question would be, “Google’s algorithm recently changed, which made your current SEO strategy ineffective. What do you do next?”

Bottomline: Identify your top performers. Figure out why they perform well. Then, in assessing job candidates, gauge if they can be at par with your top performers. Remember, however, that you are gauging your candidate for potential.

2. Look for path dependence.

Path dependence is a concept from the social sciences (particularly in comparative politics) which we can borrow and apply in recruitment. It simply means that previous choices, behaviors, and motivations will most likely condition or inform future choices and behavior. Veteran hiring managers gauge this through behavioral questions during interviews. Behavioral questions are also known as STAR questions (STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Results).

STAR questions are usually phrased this way: “Describe a time where you made an error and had to develop a solution quickly.”

When you ask the right questions, you will be more confident in your decision making. Confidence is crucial — you’re not dragging your feet, second guessing everything; you’re writing an offer before you lose the best candidate.

3. Look for cultural fit.

More and more organizations are putting more value on culture fit as a factor in hiring candidates. In fact, a study published by the American Sociological Review shows that there is an increasing number of companies making hiring decisions that “more closely resemble the choice of friends or romantic partners”.

Hiring for cultural fit can be a lot easier when your culture is known and clear. This means that your long-term goals are well-understood by your employees and the job candidates. Nevertheless, during the screening process and the interview, re-emphasis your organization’s long-term goals or vision. This will help you align employees with the larger-scale vision.

You can engage candidates with your vision by establishing a clear and positive employer brand. During the interview, you can further engage them with this vision by involving people in your organization who have been with you for quite some time now and let them share their personal story of how they stayed and grew with your organization. This will drive a clearer and more meaningful message.

By involving personal anecdotes from employees who have been with you for some time already will help candidates understand how you value employee development. If they are interested, they will stay and grow with you.

Related: Should You Hire for Cultural Fit over Competence?

4. Build bridges.

Should you maintain a relationship with candidates you reject? Well, the answer to this is varied. But we believe that it is important that we build bridges and maintain good relationship with candidates who don’t fit the roles we were looking for, but may still have a future with us. In other words, building a talent pipeline is still important if we are to make great hires in the future.

A survey from LinkedIn shows that on average about half (47%) of the employees who have changed jobs reported that they left because they were were concerned about a lack of advancement opportunities. Over half (59%) say they started a new job for a stronger career path and more opportunity.

This shows that talent goes where there is opportunity. Thus, if you keep talent engaged and in touch through various channels, you can easily tap them when a better role that best fits them comes up. Growth opportunities attract talent. Leverage these opportunities to attract them. This way, you’re making top quality hires in a lot less time.

Bringing It All Together

There is no one-size-fits-all solution or approach when it comes to recruiting and hiring talent. Nevertheless, there are best practices organizations can try. An emphasis on cultural fit and a data-driven approach to recruitment are two of the best practices in the industry we should all take seriously.

When screening candidates, speed is a must, quality metrics are important, and benchmarking is imperative. A clear brand can help you improve the quality of candidates you get, but a strategic approach to talent life cycle management, i.e. data-driven, consistent, and forward-looking, will help you best in selecting high-potential candidates.

How do you assess and screen candidates during the assessment and screening stage of the talent life cycle? Let us know in the comment section below.

This article is the second leg of a six-part series on acing lifecycle recruiting. Check out tips on the remaining stages — employee assessment and selection, onboarding, training and development, performance management, and succession planning —  on the succeeding parts of this series.

Part 1: Talent Life Cycle 101: Talent Cannot Live Where There Is No Trust


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