New tools for choosing the best candidate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2006, 12:00am

Companies are using multiple methods, including assessment centres, to recruit senior professionals

HUMAN RESOURCES professionals agree that 'retention' will be the buzzword among Hong Kong employers this year. This is because employees are looking for higher salaries and better positions as the economy prospers.

At the same time, employers are working hard to retain the people they have. But companies are losing staff all the time and are forced to hire new people to replace the ones they have lost.

Perhaps it is time for businesses to ask themselves a new question: Are they hiring the right people in the first place and are their hiring practices helping them to find the right people?

The answer, probably, is no.

According to a report by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, the most common method of staff selection that companies use is the job interview - apart from scrutinising the application itself.

Interviewing has its obvious benefits but, according to HR consultancy firm Cubiks, it also has drawbacks.

Andrew Wong, senior consultant with Cubiks, said: 'Extensive research on interviewing as an assessment tool conducted between 1940 and 1990 highlighted its extremely low reliability in choosing the right candidate for a job.'

He said 95 per cent of employers worldwide used job interviews alone when hiring new staff, but instead they should be using a mix of assessment tools.

Alternative assessment tools include psychometric measurements such as personality questionnaires and aptitude tests, work samples and simulations, and checking of references.

One of the latest selection methods involves the use of assessment centres where teams of trained assessors conduct a series of tests and interviews to identify specific behaviour traits and competencies in a candidate.

Mr Wong said assessment centres delivered more accurate results than other evaluation methods.

'Assessment centres can immensely improve a company's success rate in candidate selection because they use a combination of tools, and do not rely entirely on the interview, which so many employers depend on,' Mr Wong said.

Interviews enable an employer to determine whether a prospective employee has the necessary attributes through personal interaction. The disadvantage, however, is that the result will depend on what the candidate says.

Moreover, the process is subjective - what may be perceived as a worthy response by one employer may be considered inadequate by another.

According to Mr Wong, interviews are good only for assessing competencies and not for assessing attitudes or values.

'A combination of personality, capability and behavioural measurement maximises the validity of an assessment process,' Mr Wong said.

He said the use of assessment centres was becoming popular among multinationals because of the importance they placed on finding the right person for the job.

Assessment centres charge up to $15,000 per person. Assessing a senior candidate can take between half a day and a full day.

The assessment tools are the same for any industry.

Mr Wong said although using assessment would cost employers more, those who relied solely on interviews were likely to pay a higher price if they chose the wrong candidate.

'The consequences of poor selection include the cost of advertising and the management time involved in selection and training, and the more debilitating long-term effects such as lowering of morale, reduced quality of product or service and lost business opportunities.

'There is no doubt that good hiring decisions made today will have an impact on future success,' Mr Wong said.


More than 95 per cent of employers worldwide use interviews as an important tool to hire staff.

Other assessment tools should be used along with interviews to choose the best candidate.

New techniques include aptitude tests, personality questionnaires, work samples and assessment entres.

Assessment centres, which use a variety of tools to evaluate people, are becoming popular. Such centres can evaluate a candidate's abilities more accurately than is possible through interviews.