TalentSpark's Tips to Improve Your Hiring Process During a Pandemic and Beyond

Improve Your Hiring Process During a Pandemic and Beyond

Even as unemployment claims have set multiple records over the past several weeks, many companies continue to work toward filling long-open, business-critical positions. Many organizations found themselves in the final stages of hiring before shelter-in-place orders began. They didn’t want to lose out on top talent they worked so hard to engage. One of the biggest questions many of those organizations face immediately is how to make informed hiring decisions when meeting candidates face-to-face is all but impossible.

Many hiring leaders may be reluctant to make decisions if they can’t meet someone in person. However, most of the modern recruitment process has already moved away from strictly in-person interactions, and, with a few additions to the process, organizations can still move forward with confidently hiring candidates.

Our daily meetings are happening online now. Both company decision-makers and candidates are becoming more and more comfortable substituting technology for face-to-face interaction. While increasing comfort with virtual platforms helps the process, many hiring managers and HR leaders are seeking additional tools that can add a new level of rigor to the interview process and help lead to better quality hiring decisions.

There are some straightforward tools that companies can implement to improve their hiring: reference checks, work samples and/or skills exercises, and personality assessments. Most companies do not facilitate high-quality reference checks as part of the hiring process. It is even rarer that hiring managers ask candidates to perform a work exercise similar to the tasks they’ll be asked to do in the new job. Rarest of all are the instances where candidates are asked to complete a science-based personality assessment that can help predict job success.

The implementation of these tools takes the guesswork out of hiring during uncertain times. It also provide a framework for better quality hiring decisions in the future. The transition from the often subjective and unstructured in-person interviews to more objective practices that rely on data and less on “gut instinct” is the logical next step to improve hiring. These tools and processes can all be administrated electronically…which is ideal for today’s fully virtual hiring environment.

Here’s why you should add these three tools to your recruiting tool belt to better your hiring process today and into the future:


In the last several years, reference checks have largely gone by the wayside. Companies recognized that the references provided by candidates were unlikely to provide anything constructive about job performance and would act as a positively reinforcing echo chamber. Avoid the typical superficial nature of references. Reference checking needs to move beyond simply “checking the box” to a facilitated discussion. Quality reference checking is time-consuming, but can be an effective addition to the hiring process when done correctly.

One important factor is the ability to treat the reference check as a conversation. References should start with some standard questions. Allow for follow up around anything that sparks a question or concern. Listen for pauses, changes in tone, and nervous laughter, as these are flags that you might want to explore more. An in-depth reference check will be just that: a deep dive. Build a rapport with the reference. Ask targeted questions, rather than following a dry script.

Experts have identified several steps to conducting a thorough reference check. The first is to follow up with key individuals that have interacted extensively with the candidate and get a sense of any concerns; these typically include supervisors or cross-functional peers but don’t necessarily stop there. The second step is to provide the reference a detailed overview of the job that you are considering the candidate for; if the reference has no context in which to provide feedback, everything they say will be mostly meaningless. Lastly, resist the urge to guide the conversation too much. The reference will take cues from the one conducting the reference check: if the reference-getter supplies their opinions, the reference-giver will often reinforce those notions, thus giving the hiring leader no new or helpful information.

Hiring leaders cannot rely solely on the references provided by the candidate. Candidates always choose people predisposed to speak positively about them. That does not mean that hiring leaders need to actively seek out those who can speak negatively about the candidate. Rather, hiring leaders should perform their due diligence by following up with a variety individuals with firsthand knowledge of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, this ensures a full picture of the candidate before making a hiring decision.

Skills Assessments

Some companies and industries, namely in technology, have taken work simulations to a level never before seen in the modern workforce. Stories abound of companies using skills tests as the only measurement used to determine who gets hired; and for roles that are purely technical, this strategy may be a good one. While candidates may say they can do the work in an interview, the skills test provides a “show me” portion.

Skills assessments can take several forms. The most common fall broadly into two categories: previous work samples and job-related exercises. Specific jobs will call for different strategies. Ask the final candidate(s) to submit work from a former job (this lends itself well to positions in industries like marketing, PR, HR, or business development). Or ask them to complete an exercise (for jobs like accounting, coding, or engineering) is a wise investment of time.

While you can never eliminate risk out of a hiring decision, references and skills tests can mitigate that risk. However, both have their shortcomings: references only give one a view of a candidate’s past. In addition, skills testing can’t measure emotional intelligence. A third extra step can help to bridge that gap.

Personality Assessments

Personality tests, and their more scientifically-based relatives, gained favor in hiring several decades ago. Companies no longer use personality tests in most hiring decisions. The reasons for this are myriad, but tend to come down to credible charges of bias. However, there is one assessment that has proven itself useful in predicting success. It is approved for making legally sound hiring decisions.

The Hogan Personality Inventory, available through TalentSpark, can ensure that the way candidates present themselves at the interview matches up with how they will actually perform on the job.

Hogan has spent the last four decades honing their assessments, including for talent acquisition. It is one of the only assessments that can be legally used to inform hiring decisions. Companies lose an estimated $11 billion annually to poor hiring selections. Incorporating a data-driven approach to hiring is an investment that will pay dividends well beyond the current pandemic.

Better Tools, Better Decisions
Some companies are pumping the breaks on hiring in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Others look to preserve the momentum and investment they’ve made in recruiting top talent. For those companies that continue hiring, the addition of one of these tools can improve the quality of selection decisions. Combining all three, often overlooked or poorly executed steps: a robust reference check, skills exercise, and utilizing science-backed personality assessment, can help ensure that companies have a more complete view of their candidates and provide new levels of confidence in their hiring process even without a face-to-face interview.

Social distancing and the elimination of in-person interaction is driving the need for innovation and creativity in the hiring process. Those companies that implement and embrace new practices will benefit from better hiring outcomes now and beyond.

As businesses adjust to what could be a new normal, TalentSpark is ready and able to meet critical hiring needs. If you’re interested in learning more about how your company can implement new or different strategies for recruitment, contact us for more personalized information. We can’t wait to help grow your business!