August 14, 2017

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As Employers Turn to Evidence-Based Hiring, How Can Libraries Prepare Job Seekers? | Higher Ground

We’ve been hiring people for jobs the same way since the 19th century—job ad, resume, interview. The medium has changed, and almost all of this is now conducted online (although I applied for one job in 2011 at a technical college that required a paper application and hard copies of my transcripts). But the basic technology of notifying people of employment needs and identifying potential candidates to fill those needs persists.

Until now.

As tolerance for the risk of a poor employee fit decreases under market pressures and thin margins, employers are starting to realize that their previous proxies—degrees, keywords, a few hours of conversation, and limited reference checks—are creating a dual problem: there are too many of the wrong applicants for open positions.

Employers’ main focus is getting their work needs met. They need to answer two seemingly simple questions. First, does this applicant have the skills to do the job I need done? Second, will this applicant be a good colleague? How can they accomplish this more effectively?

On the other side of the equation are people looking for work. Everyone brings a bevy of experiences that have helped them learn skills, not all of which they have developed through formal education. In fact, most of the critical “core” people skills aren’t taught or certified at all. How do you capture “critical thinking” and “entrepreneurial mindset” on a resume? How can job seekers more effectively convey what they will actually bring to a job?

Employers are increasingly turning to evidence-based hiring—using an array of non-cognitive assessments to learn more about job applicants and determine through real-work scenarios how they respond to situations. Evidence-based hiring isn’t new. When I was interviewing for elementary school teaching jobs more than 15 years ago, teaching a demonstration lesson was part of the interview process, but it’s gaining more attention now as employers seek better insight into prospective hires’ skills and non-cognitive attributes. The goal is to increase candidate pool diversity and identify prospective employees who might otherwise be filtered out. At the same time, using skills-based evidence to make hiring decisions also improves the quality of candidates and helps to ensure a better job fit, leading to longer retention and happier workplaces.

Assessments are becoming more sophisticated. As evidence-based hiring expands, validation becomes easier (check out CoreScore, WorkFORCE Assessments, and Pairin, for example). The challenge lies in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) openness to accepting on-degree based assessments as valid, non-discriminatory practices. While evidence-based hiring is becoming standard hiring practice in other industrialized countries around the world, the EEOC has shown a persistent reluctance to allow deviation from the old models of hiring—even though the way we’ve approached hiring in the past has actually served to cement discrimination and inequality.

Nevertheless, evidence-based hiring is beginning to take root in healthcare and manufacturing, as well as in technology. It is changing the way employers think about their workforce and the tasks associated with jobs. It is changing the way job training programs prepare their participants. No longer does it make sense to train people for a specific job. Evidence-based hiring opens up a network of related jobs with shared skill sets. Transferable skills have never been more important.

For the first time since the invention of help wanted ads, evidence-based hiring is in fact disrupting the way we train, seek, and hire people to do work. But how can libraries play a part? Talking with patrons about skills and job families may help refine their thinking about their job search process and expand the range of opportunities.

Closer to home, what do you think is the evidence that someone will be a good librarian? What are the skills and qualities you look for when you hire? How do you know that you’ve found someone who will be a good fit? Could you prove it? What would be a useful assessment of non-cognitive skills to succeed as a librarian?

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Susanna Williams About Susanna Williams

Susanna Williams is the founder of BridgEd Strategies, a management consulting practice. Previously a program officer with the Postsecondary Success initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she began her career as a K-4 teacher before becoming a K-12 administrator.

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Comments

  1. You raise good questions about how we can assess non-cognitive skills for potential hires in our own profession. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I think it’s very telling to put the candidate to work for a day doing some of the work that is required as part of the job. If we have a position open that requires shelving books, have the person shelve books, if it requires cataloging, give the person a few sample items to mock catalog, etc. All of this would require that the candidate interact with existing employees so they can give feedback about how the person would fit in. It also assesses if the person really is knowledgeable or just a blowhard. Some people are so much better in the field than in a formal interview and vice versa!

    In the sports world, a lot of the time coaches don’t get hired unless the people doing the hiring have watched them coach. Almost every coaching job I ever had involved a day of working with the team to see if I really knew my stuff and if I was a good fit for the gym. Based on my experiences with both kinds of interview processes, I think the evidence-based interview is a ton more effective than a sit down, formal interview where you’re asked a slew of hypothetical questions that often aren’t applicable to the job.

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