The Most and Least Reliable Hiring Assessment Methods

Recruiters, HR Professionals and managers may have been startled to hear Google’s recent admission in a New York times interview that their famous or some might say notorious brainteaser questions are a waste of time. Yes, following intensive internal data analysis, they have found that their mind scrambling questions such as, “How Many Golf Balls Can You Fit Into An Airplane?” or “How many gas stations are there in Manhattan?” do not prove anything about the candidate’s ability to do the job, and they just serve to show how smart the interviewer is.

In fact, they have now stopped using brainteasers altogether and are focussing on using structured interviews with behavioural questions such as is generally used in the wider industry, as they feel these are more reliable. Behavioural questions are the awkward questions such as, “Can you give me an example of a time where you showed problem solving skills?”, where candidates need to answer questions by giving examples of how they have shown problem solving skills in a previous working situation, rather than describing their problem solving approach in a hypothetical scenario.

So, its seems like even Google have fallen in line with the masses and started relying on structured behavioural interviews, but are these questions really the most reliable form of candidate assessment?

Apparently, not according to the findings of a study by Beardwell in 2004 and a later CIPD study in 2007, where they find that assessment centres (where candidate complete an apprentice style exercise where they complete a set of team assignments while being observed), are the most reliable form of assessment. And structured interviews are actually only the second most reliable form of assessment. Next comes work samples, such as code samples, portfolios etc…, which is closely followed in 4th place by ability/attainment tests, which are not to be confused with personality which came fifth.

The least reliable hiring assessment methods were personality questionnaires, unstructured interviews/chats and referees. This does not necessarily mean that they should not be used but they should not be used in isolation and should only be used as part of of the overall hiring process to support the more reliable assessment tools.






Interestingly, even though unstructured interviews are the least reliable assessment tool, they are the most popular, being used by 92% of respondents.

Also, even though assessment centres are the most reliable form of assessment, the high administrative burden associated with them means that employers for pragmatic reasons generally fall back on structured interviews as the core assessment tool in their business.

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