Even the slightest disconnect between a candidate’s expectations and the reality of a job can lead to failed hires. Research shows that 48% of people have quit a job because the reality of it was different from how they imagined it would be in the recruitment process and a further 31% have left a company because the culture did not meet expectations.

Realistic Job Assessments (RJAs, pronounced “R-Jays”) prevent new hire attrition by enabling candidates to deselect themselves from the hiring process after learning more about the role and company. They also help recruiters identify which candidates to prioritise in the recruitment process. 

In this post I’m going to tell you what an RJA is, what the benefits are, and what type of hiring shouldn’t be without them. 

I’m going to explain the three most important types of assessments used in high volume hiring, and how to choose which one is right for you. 

And finally, I’m going to tell you why high volume hirers should be using RJAs, and why they’re more effective than other assessment types such as Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) and Psychometrics.

Realistic Job Assessment

What is a Realistic Job Assessment (RJA)?

A realistic job assessment is a type of pre-hire assessment used by recruiters to reliably predict candidate quality. It looks specifically at whether candidates have the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to perform a specific role. 

Unlike other assessment methods, RJAs are unique to a specific role within a specific organisational context making them more ecologically valid and reliable than other pre-hire assessment types.

Things Assessed in an RJA Can Include:

  • Hard skills such as typing accuracy and mechanical aptitude
  • Soft skills such as communication or attention to detail
  • Values and behaviours such as empathy, collaboration or resilience
  • Job knowledge
  • Person-Environment fit

The goal of an RJA is to see how candidates respond to realistic job tasks and scenarios to compile a more reliable “view” of job suitability. RJAs are the cornerstone of many initial candidate screening processes, particularly for volume and entry-level hiring where prior experience is less important than someone’s present ability.

How much does it cost to build an RJA?

How Does a Realistic Job Assessment Work?

The role of an RJA is to both provide organizations with a realistic measure of a candidate’s ability to do a job, as well as provide candidates with a better understanding about whether the job itself is a good fit for them. 

Why is this important? Simply because the number one cause of new hire failure is when a candidate joins a role or company and it’s different from how they expected it to be.

The list below illustrates the role of a realistic job assessment:

  • Honesty & Authenticity – Candidates should know exactly what they’re getting themselves into before taking a job. 96% of candidates would prefer to take an assessment if it told them about the job and culture ahead of joining the company.
  • Transparency – Candidates may want to know why they were progressed or were rejected, RJAs are objectively scored and provide a clear link between job role and assessment type. 
  • Accuracy – RJAs measure behaviour in context, making them more ecologically valid than other assessment types. 
  • Efficiency –  candidates opting out earlier in the hiring process saves valuable recruiter and manager time.
  • Fairness – Assessments measure skills and behaviours via scenarios based on real-life in the role making them fairer than non-contextual assessment types e.g. psychometrics.
  • Candidate Experience – When assessment questions aren’t related to the job it creates a negative candidate experience.

RJAs are particularly useful in volume hiring where role requirements don’t typically involve qualifications or prior experience. This makes choosing between candidates on the strength of their job application or CV arbitrary and, often, discriminatory. On top of this, recruiters are often faced with high volumes of job applications making it difficult to manage without some sort of screening or assessment tool

What’s the Difference Between an RJA, SJT and Psychometric test?

RJAs may seem very similar to SJTs and psychometric tests, as they are all used for assessing job suitability. There are, however, certain differences in the ways they work.

Distinguishing Features of RJA, SJT, and Psychometrics?

RJAs are the newest assessment type of the three. They use real-life scenarios extracted from the specific company and work environment to create “day-in-the-life” style assessment narratives. 

This goes beyond a typical SJT as it also enables the candidate to learn more about the nuances of the job they’re applying for, e.g. the work culture and specific ways of working. It also enables a more accurate reading of person-job fit as the assessment holds more ecological validity than other assessment types. 

Here’s what you need to know about RJAs:

  • RJAs are typically used on high volume hiring positions
  • They are customised to each role type and are unique to each company
  • They enable the company to communicate the realities of the job, typically reducing the new hire failure rate
  • They are typically used as a hard filter for candidate selection at the start of the hiring process e.g. instead of resumes or application forms
  • Candidate benchmarks are bespoke, e.g. your actual applicant pool
  • RJAs can typically be optimised over time through post-hire performance data analysis
  • RJAs are used by companies to reduce new hire attrition and keep it down 

Until recently, RJAs have been prohibitively expensive to develop and test so companies have typically opted for less expensive SJTs or Psychometrics. However new providers such as ThriveMap have lowered the barrier to entry via their managed self-service offering.

SJTs, on the other hand, are packaged assessments that test behaviour in a generic work context. In this way, SJTs give more of an approximate read on a candidate rather than a definitive pass or fail. SJTs are mainly used to enhance hiring decisions rather than to replace any parts of the hiring process.

Here’s what you need to know about SJTs:

  • They can be used for both high and low volume hiring
  • They assess candidate behaviour and skills via broad, generic workplace scenarios 
  • They are primarily used as a decision aid, not a decision maker 
  • Candidate benchmarks are generic norm groups and not bespoke to your applicant pool
  • SJTs can not be improved over time as the questions are pre-validated and therefore can not be changed in any meaningful way 
  • An SJT is designed to help improve hiring decisions

Psychometrics is the broad term used for a range of assessments that test behaviours and skills in a non-contextual environment. They are more abstract than SJTs and RJAs as they aim to measure behaviours, skills and personality traits that might apply to a broad range of jobs. 

Although they are used for similar purposes as an SJT, they are non-contextual so are more readily used for areas such as graduate hiring or senior leadership positions where roles are more complex.  

Here’s what you need to know about Psychometrics:

  • Psychometrics are non-contextual measurements of general ability or personality traits
  • They are packaged and need to go through an extensive period of validation before use
  • Companies primarily use them for low volume/high-value hiring as an aid to decision making
  • Psychometrics usually require qualified training in order to be used in hiring
  • They can not be changed or improved over time
  • A psychometric is designed to help further an understanding of a person, not to be used to make pass or fail hiring decisions

What Can Recruiters Achieve by Using an RJA?

Many people in business seem to think there’s no difference between 5 people staying for 1 year and 1 person staying for 5 years. In reality, the difference is immeasurable. If you get hiring wrong, not only do your recruitment costs increase you don’t get the benefit of valuable job knowledge, skills and expertise staying in the business. 

Retention

Remember, 48% of people have quit a job because it wasn’t what they expected so recruiters can vastly increase their new hire success rate with RJAs. Granted, no RJA can guarantee your new hire attrition will go to zero, but authentically communicating what the job and culture are really like to candidates at the start of the hiring process helps bridge the gap between candidate expectations and reality.

Efficiency

Before the introduction of RJAs, processing applications for volume hiring was a time-consuming process not free from human error. Assessment tools were needed that would objectively assess a candidate’s ability to perform a role so that recruiters can prioritise their activity on the best-suited candidates. RJAs achieve this whilst also enabling candidate de-selection, saving hours of work.

Diversity

The only reason to hire people should be whether they are sufficiently capable and committed. Unlike psychometric tests that attempt to measure someone’s personality or resumes that communicate someone’s prior experience, RJAs fairly assess someone’s ability and commitment in the context of likely scenarios and tasks they’d need to perform when they start the job. With this in place, fairer decisions over who to interview are made which in turn improves diversity in the recruitment funnel. 

Quality

The more valid an assessment, the better it is at predicting whether a candidate will perform well in the role. Unlike SJTs or Psychometrics, RJAs are ecologically valid, meaning they are valid within your unique working environment and context. Being able to see which candidates are the best in your applicant pool means your interview conversion rates will be higher and you will end up making better quality hiring decisions. 

Summary

Lowering the new hire failure rate is the coveted holy grail of every recruiter. The role of a realistic job assessment is to help achieve that—to measure a candidate’s ability to perform the role via real-life tasks and scenarios and offer a chance for candidates to try a role on for size ahead of committing. 

The cost of failed hires multiplies with the volume of hires being made, making the pre-hire selection process in volume hiring a critical area for process improvement. Having a predictive assessment tool in place at the start of the recruitment process is key to reducing hiring costs. While there are many tools available, RJAs are proven to be more effective than other assessment types at lowering new hire attrition. 

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