The German like other labor markets is, undoubtedly, facing major upheavals. Due to these changes, the
Bertelsmann Foundation
called for a blog parade to discuss how we appraise formal qualification requirements based on educational degrees and informal competencies. We would like to make our contribution by emphasizing the important role of evidence-based assessment procedures. Informal competencies are not apparently observable, but are definitely measurable. Talent assessments can help in discovering better fit candidates for vacancies in the labor market by exploring a candidate’s potential and show directions for individual further career development.

Formal qualification requirements as a hurdle

Under the recent conditions in the labor market, it is detrimental to focus solely on formal qualification requirements. Some employers complain about the shortage of skilled workers in the labor market, while entire subgroups of willing workforce are unemployed, because they do not meet formal qualification requirements. Moreover, the increase in migration has also created an attribution gap in appraise certificates or educational degrees that were earned abroad. As a result, for various groups of people, formal qualification requirements increasingly appear as a insuperable hurdle in the job market.

The role of vocational talent assessments

The goal of evidence-based assessment procedures is to identify individual differences in job-related knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (also known as KSAOs). Other characteristics are personality tendencies, interests, or motivational tendencies. These procedures lead to easier recruitment and placement decisions and are able to identify development potential.
Formal qualification requirements are just one aspect, among many others, that should be considered for hiring or placement decision. Certainly, there are areas where formal qualification requirements are the highest priority; for example, medical professionals and law enforcement professionals. A successful completion of medical school, with guaranteed quality standards must be rightly demanded before someone can practice medicine. In many other professional fields, however, it is questionable whether formal qualifications and skill requirements must always be fully met in order to succeed. This is where talent assessments become important.
It is not surprising that many successful entrepreneurs have been college dropouts or career changers in several companies. Extensive studies have shown that the validity of biographical data (especially resumes) is limited, because it primarily reflects formal qualification requirements.

What are the criteria that make talent assessments evidence-based?

Before we demonstrate the added value of talent assessments, it is first important to define what evidence-based talent assessments require. Regardless of whether the talent is assessed using psychometric testing procedures, structured interviews, or recorded video interviews, as viasto offers, the most important elements are objectivity, accuracy (reliability), and validity. Under objectivity, it is understood that two people who use the same diagnostic tool, reach the same conclusion. Under accuracy, it is understood that an instrument, at different points in time, does not produce completely opposite results. Under validity, it is understood that the method used, also enables apt predictions. For example, candidates who receive better results in a test that captures technical-practical understanding, should, on average, perform better in technical careers. Therefore, objectivity, accuracy, and validity are the three most important elements when utilizing talent assessments.

Creating comparability aside from formal qualification requirements

The highest value in an in-depth talent assessment is the ability to provide comparability that might be insufficiently provided in formalized qualification certificates and other proofs. Several companies use standard performance tests because formal educational achievements in a communal and federal level are not comparable, as several UN studies reveal consistently. The obvious question is: So how then should international formal qualification requirements be comparable, if it is not even possible within the German Federalism? One response is standardized testing. Standardized testing provides at least a similar classification to relevant dimensions. For this to be successful, academic institutions and commercial suppliers have gone to great lengths in order to test and publish procedures to compare multilingual and intercultural competency dimensions.

Give guidance

An important additional value of talent assessments, is providing guidance and identifying various opportunities for candidates to explore. In this context, guidance refers to identifying activities related to personal interests and abilities, that may also promote individual development. When analyzing a new direction, it can be very helpful to critically self reflect on individual interests and explore various alternatives. By further analyzing an individual’s potential, various training opportunities can be discovered.

Improved fit

Another basic component of vocational talent assessments, is finding a fit job that matches a particular candidate’s abilities. Although qualification requirements can be resolved formally, the triad of technical knowledge, applied social skills, and personality traits must be considered as well; the two latter facets, by the way, are rarely found formally. While relevant expertise is necessary to fulfill certain operational activities, the candidate’s previous experience gives an opportunity for employers to closely examine hidden talents. This method answers concerns about the often lamented shortage of skilled labor.

Development and building of professional competencies

A final point to consider is the distinction between learning potential and stable abilities that can hardly developed over time. Often, the proficiency in working with specific software applications or other learnable skills are required to be hired for many position. If potential and willingness to learn exist, these skills can easily be developed. Unfortunately, it is precisely these two important facets that are not considered. Consequently, promising candidates who have both are often rejected in traditional hiring processes.

Future Challenges

On my way to the office this morning, a banner caught my attention that claims “For us it does not count where you come from, but where you want to go.” Given the current changes in the labor market, it seems insensible and out-dated to hire people only based on their required formal qualifications. Furthermore, it wastes important and valuable potential in the labor market. In the interest of economic growth, talent assessments are important tools in detecting potential, promoting individual development and allocate demand and supply of our workforce.
The challenge, however, lies with continuously developing appropriate instruments and continuously improving intercultural comparability. In order to further optimize utilizing talent assessments, it is necessary to rebalance the applications to the changing demands of the digital transformation. In order to close the gap between science and practice, transparent communication is necessary. Nevertheless, talent assessments are of minimal use if the social and political players do not act together and encourage existing potential as well.

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