How to avoid common candidate assessment pitfalls as a recruiter


December 20, 2022

You’re a recruiter. You know the drill: you find a great candidate, assess their skills, and then make an offer. But what if you’re making some avoidable mistakes during the assessment process?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your process and forget that the person you’re assessing is a real human being with feelings and, more importantly, with skills that you need to evaluate.

In this article, we’ll talk about some common candidate assessment pitfalls and how to avoid them. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on your way to making better hiring decisions.

  • Understanding the importance of validated assessments

When you’re looking to make an important hire, it’s crucial that you use a valid assessment tool that can accurately assess and evaluate a potential candidate’s suitability, skills, experience, etc for the role. The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on someone who’s not going to be a good fit for the job.

That’s why it’s important to combine various assessments, score and rank them accordingly. Based on the candidate’s qualifications, experience, problem-solving capabilities, communication, and other cognitive and behavioural parameters candidates can be scored and ranked.  While assessments can measure things like competency, work ethic, and emotional intelligence, background checks can tell a lot about a candidate’s credit score, criminal history, etc. When you put all this data together, you get a more comprehensive picture of who the candidate is, and help you determine whether they would be a good fit for the role.

  • Developing a structured approach to interviews

Developing a structured approach to your interviews is key to avoiding common mistakes. By having a standardized format, you create a comfortable atmosphere for the candidate and ensure that all questions are related to the core objectives of the role.

A structured interview should be based on a predefined set of questions, which are customized to the specific role you are hiring for. This will help you to avoid going off-topic and give you a more accurate picture of the candidate’s abilities.

  • Considering candidates in single dimensions

Recruiters often make the mistake of considering candidates in single dimensions. They’ll focus on education and experience or try to equate the two with skills. But skills can be learned, and they’re not always indicative of a good fit for the job.

In addition, relying on predictable questions can lead to canned answers. These questions might give you a good sense of a candidate’s experience or education, but they don’t provide much insight into how the candidate would perform on the job.

To avoid these pitfalls, you need to cast a wider net and look for candidates in all dimensions. Try to assess skills and qualities that can’t be learned in a classroom or gleaned from a resume. Look for people who are a good fit for your company culture and ask questions that will get at their unique strengths and weaknesses.

  • Using unstructured interview questions

One of the most common mistakes recruiters make is using unstructured interview questions. These are the kind of questions that are open-ended and don’t have a right or wrong answer. They might sound something like, “Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge at work.”

While these questions might seem like a good way to get to know a candidate, they can be quite problematic. The reason is that they often lead to candidates giving vague answers that don’t tell you anything useful. And, worst of all, they can give some candidates an advantage over others.

If you’re using unstructured questions, try to avoid ones that are overly general or could be answered in a way that doesn’t give you any real insight into the candidate’s skills or abilities. Instead, focus on asking specific questions that will help you assess whether the candidate has the qualities you’re looking for.

  • Not including the right candidate stakeholders

One common mistake that recruiters make is not including the right candidate stakeholders in the hiring process.

You need to make sure you’re looping in the appropriate people from the team that the candidate will be working with and anyone else who will be directly impacted by the hiring decision. Often, the team with which the candidate will work with have more clarity on the role, and what their responsibilities will be and will be able to connect and establish a good relationship even before the onboarding, helping to optimize the assessment questions to capture and present a holistic candidate picture.

This can be a bit of a balancing act because you don’t want to have too many cooks in the kitchen, but at the same time, you want to make sure that everyone who needs to be involved is involved.

The last thing you want is for someone to feel like they weren’t a part of the process and then have them back out at the last minute, or worse, accept the offer and then realize it’s not a good fit.

  • Relying on biases during assessments

Even if you’re unaware of it, you may rely on biases when assessing candidates. Unconscious racism, ageism, and sexism can all play a role in who gets hired.

To avoid this, you need to be aware of your own biases and take steps to avoid them. One way to do this is to use pre-employment skills assessment tests. These tests can help reduce resume hiring bias by providing a more objective way to assess candidates.

Another way to avoid bias is to keep an open mind during the assessment process. Be willing to consider all candidates equally, regardless of their background or experience.

Finally, rely on a recruitment automation platform with an inbuilt assessments module or reach out to assessment and evaluation providers who can help you craft and execute the process without conscious or unconscious bias.


So, what should you do to ensure you get the most accurate picture of a candidate? Here are a few tips:

  • Use a variety of assessment methods.
  • Avoid making assumptions based on resumes or interviews.
  • Be consistent in your assessment process.
  • Use a reliable third-party assessment provider to administer tests and assessments.
  • Make sure the relevant team is on board and is aligned with the assessment process.

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