On the Sofa with Shane Fuhrman: Technology, Hiring, and Misconceptions about Testing
In this blog, Dr. Shane Furman talks about the impact of technology on hiring and common misconceptions about testing and candidate experience.
In this month’s “On the Sofa” blog series, we are joined by Dr. Shane Fuhrman, Talent Solutions Consultant, who discusses the impact of technology on talent acquisition and the challenges customers face in the ever-changing market.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Although I’m based in the US, I love the fact that I have interactions with teams across our global offices and see things that I’ve helped work on having an impact in another region. This helps us build global best practices for solutions, which benefits us as a company and our clients. Personally, having the chance to interact with those around the globe has also made me a better person and consultant. SHL has always had clients around the world, but as a company, we have broken down the regional silos that often exist, making us a truly global company.
How has technology impacted the types of conversations you have with organizations?
When I started at SHL, I remember having clients who still proctored their tests and scored tests manually. Things have advanced quite a bit that now there is a push towards hands-off automated decision-making with less human involvement. Now organizations (and candidates) are thinking about whether they can trust the ‘black box’ that is making these automated decisions, so it is important to understand what technologies are being used and how they work.
The best way to approach new tech is with caution and thought leadership, not just implementing complex algorithms in the background that cannot be easily verified or clearly explained to those using them. If you cannot easily explain to a candidate what an assessment is measuring and why it matters to the job, then the tools you are using probably need reviewing.
From the organizations you work with, is there a common challenge that you see often?
Organizations are being bombarded by data. Most businesses know there’s value in this data but often struggle to know how best to utilize it, what to look at, and where to begin, so it is often left untouched.
Part of what I do at SHL is to show what types of data businesses could use to manage talent, how to reuse their existing data effectively, as an additional lens to review their talent pool for example, and benchmark industry standards, so they know where they stand out, find hidden gems, future leaders or build a more agile organization—whatever their aim is.
What question do you frequently get asked when speaking with prospective clients?
The most common question I hear is ‘Does your test have validity?’ The funny thing is that this is often just a checkbox exercise because businesses are aware that it is something that tests should have but they do not necessarily know the underlying meaning of the question they are asking. Most organizations do not have in-house I/O psychologists and therefore it’s understandable they don’t know the details of all the psychometrics and statistics behind assessments.
What the client generally means by this question is ‘does the test actually predict an outcome?’ which is known as criterion validity. This type of validity is hard to establish, takes longer, is costly, and requires much deeper scientific analysis—therefore just saying tests ‘have validity’ without further explanation can be misleading. It is important to dig a bit deeper and ensure you are comparing apples with apples when researching the correct assessments for your organization.
I’m proud to be part of an organization with over 200 strong scientists and practitioners—more than any other private employer in the US. This shows clients the importance we put into the science of our solutions and the comprehensive documentation we provide. All this effort we put in should give clients the confidence to know their investment is well spent when they choose SHL.
Now organizations (and candidates) are thinking about whether they can trust the ‘black box’ that is making these automated decisions, so it is important to understand what technologies are being used and how they work.
Is there a common misconception from organizations about the candidate experience?
There is often a misconception that candidates don’t like testing or that testing could be a barrier to employment and deter applicants from continuing in the process.
I have spoken to some organizations who think removing a test, however short, may quicken hiring and attract more applicants. However, ignoring the longer-term benefits of assessments can lead to compounded issues further down the line and I have seen many companies quickly reverse this decision. It is always cheaper to get it right the first time.
From our experience as a business, we find most candidates enjoy the testing process if you make it relevant and engaging. It makes them feel they are getting a fair chance at the job and gives them an opportunity to show off their abilities and skills, even if they don’t get offered the role.
A simple way to look at it is if you think some candidates will be put off by asking them to spend 15 minutes doing a test that gives them the chance to show their fit for the role, would they actually be the right person to work for you—interacting with your customers or having important responsibilities?
Do not give up on testing for the sake of candidate time, rather check if you are asking the right questions and are targeting the right candidate pool.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing customers today?
There is a great deal of science behind what we put on the market and that science isn’t always easily understood by those who don’t spend years studying statistics. Expertise costs money, so the vast majority of my customers depend on people like me to make sure they are using the right tools and considering all the relevant aspects of their selection and talent management programs.
The difficulty comes when they are evaluating the options on the market and seeing a lot of misleading messages from vendors. With more voices telling you why their test is the best and fancier advertising hitting you on all devices, not having an expert you can trust can be a huge disadvantage when you want to make an informed decision.
Is there something you often see organizations overlook in their hiring process?
It is important to update job descriptions as pretty much every role would evolve over a 3–5-year period, but it’s an easy thing to overlook when you’re continuously hiring for similar roles over a long period of time. If businesses do not account for changes when hiring today, this could cause a skill gap which has a downstream effect on customer service and performance.
That is why regularly reviewing what is needed to succeed in each role across your organization and filtering those through your hiring practices will ensure that you have always got the right talent in the right roles.
How is technology going to aid hiring in the future?
Technology is going to find a way to merge both skills and behavioral testing into one seamless experience, integrated with AI technology or machine learning. There’s already AI technology in use across the industry, but there are many legal and ethical hurdles before this can become a normal part of our industry. An informed, fair approach is more important than a faster approach that uses technology just because it’s available.
I’m glad SHL identified that AI needs to be approached in an ethical way early on, and we actually published a whitepaper on this topic because it is an area that needs discussion and debate, inside the industry and across the legal profession.
I hope that is how the industry will approach this and any new technology, as there are plenty of factors around DEI, as well as legal issues that we must consider carefully before making these capabilities commonplace in all our selection processes.
Make smarter talent decisions with SHL’s Talent Acquisition solution of award-winning experiences, unrivaled assessments, data-driven people insights, and world-class service.