‘Work Samples’ Your Way to Better Hiring

As humans we bring all kinds of “thin-slicing” judgement into our interactions – and that includes job interviews. Studies show that our brains tend to spend more time in an interview trying to prove that our first impressions about a candidate are correct, rather than objectively assessing the facts.

When researchers conducted a massive meta-analysis looking at thousands of hiring studies to determine the best assessment techniques for predicting future candidate performance, interviews, job experience, personality tests, and reference checks all fell short. After general mental ability, the selection method with the highest predictive validity was the “work sample test”.

At Fitzii, we’ve helped clients hire thousands of people and we wholeheartedly agree with these findings. There’s no better predictor of future performance than to design a work sample test which evaluates the candidate’s actual performance on tasks which closely resemble the critical activities of the position.

Here are my top tips for incorporating a work sample test into your hiring process.

 

Work Sample Tip #1: Tailor your approach each time

In the world of work samples, one-size-fits-all approaches don’t create winning results. There are a variety of approaches that can all work well in different situations. The three most common methods we use at Fitzii are:

Work Sample Assignments:

This involves asking your candidates to create a new piece of work or designing an assignment or role play where they execute a task that closely mimics what they would be doing if they were hired into the position.

Work Skills Assessment:

Having candidates perform a work skills assessment or test can provide valuable and objective insight into their ability to successfully execute the tasks of the job. This is a great approach for more technical positions, and if you can find a suitable off-the-shelf test then it doesn’t require custom design-time.

Work Sample Review:

A work sample review involves asking candidates to illustrate the caliber of their work by sharing examples of related assignments they’ve executed in the past. This is a great approach for positions that often have portfolios, like designers. Be careful to only use this approach if the work was done solo, since it’s impossible to know who did what otherwise.

 

Work Sample Tip #2: Relate it to the Role

The more closely you can relate the work sample you request to the key tasks of the position you’re hiring for, the better insight you’ll get into the capabilities the candidate can bring to the role.

Here are a few examples:

Position
Instead of asking them to…
Ask for…
Customer Service Representative
Write an email responding to an upset customer with a specific concern A live role-play to show how they would respond to the upset customer to address and resolve the concern
Website Designer
Provide samples of past websites they’ve designed Give them a website to re-design and ask for the prcess stps, and high-level design rationale

 

Work Sample Tip #3: Make this a last step

Do you really want to review work samples from every applicant? Probably not. That’s not the only reason to leave your request for work samples out of your job ad. Asking for work samples too early in the hiring process may push strong candidates away. If they don’t think they have a great shot at getting the job, they won’t put their all into the work sample.

From our experience at Fitzii, the ideal timing when you’re requesting work samples or skills assessments is on your last shortlist of the most qualified 2-3 candidates.

 

Work Sample Tip #4: It’s Not About Whether You Like It

Objectivity is key when you’re assessing work samples. Using a scoring system based on yes/no questions goes a long way in preventing personal bias from sneaking into the evaluation equation.

If, for example, you’ve asked for candidates for a graphic design position to create a brochure or submit examples of brochures they’ve produced in the past, the scoring system should be based on how well the pieces illustrate the capabilities you’re looking for, for example:

  • Is the piece free of formatting and grammatical errors?
  • Is the type easy to read?
  • Is there an appropriate balance of graphics and text?
  • Is the information organized in a way that effectively communicates the key message?

Scoring the work based on objective statements will help ensure your ranking isn’t solely based on your own personal preferences, and it means you can effectively compare candidates.

 

Work Sample Tip #5: Don’t Do It Alone

If you’ve never designed work samples or skills assessment before, it may feel like a big task on your already long to-do list. From our experience, the extra effort is well worth it, and getting help from someone experienced in work samples – like your Fitzii Hiring Advisor – can make all the difference.

From providing direction on which work sample approach is the best fit for your position, and giving guiding on the design, to handling the setup and execution of the work samples, we’re here to take care of the details that you’re unsure about. Contact us today and let us help you find the best candidate for your next job opening.

Anisa is a Hiring Advisor at Fitzii and a lover of all things glamorous.

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