Earlier this year, Accountests began working with researchers to find out more about the use of work skills (technical ability) testing in accounting and finance hires. Here are some of the results from our survey:
Survey results #1.
When hiring accountants our survey showed 37% of firms use only their internal recruitment resource. 17% use only a recruiting firm. The remainder use a combination of these. This indicates to us the employers are picking and choosing what they can get from recruiting firms - using them for more complex roles whilst completing more simple hires internally.
Survey results #2.
In our survey we asked respondents what evaluation process they used for finance / accounting vacancies.The chart below that summarises the responses. It’s heartening that all respondents still use formal interviews, though slightly surprising that 20% do not use reference checking. What is most surprising however is that only about one third of respondents say their organisation uses any testing processes. The science behind testing, whether it be work skills, ability or personality, is robust – showing a strong correlation between a good testing regime and job performance in the role.
Having worked as a partner in a large chartered accounting practice I can fully sympathise with those who just want to get a replacement staff member going, but the heart ache when that person is the wrong person is much longer lasting! We do hear comments that ‘our interview process is so powerful we don’t need to test’ I’m afraid the science cannot not support that assertion!
Survey results #3.
We asked our respondents to tell us what technical competency testing they undertook when hiring accountants. Most organisations are trying something, but many are limiting this to targeted interview questions. Unless you've got a comprehensive set of questions relevant for the level you're hiring to, keep a database of scores, and compare candidates across roles, it's hard to see this as a robust method. About 25% of organisations say they use a written question set, 15% use an on-line question set (e.g. Accountests), with 10% using either an internal case study or a presentation type process.This is in line with our previously published question showed only about 30% of organisations use ANY testing processes.
Any technical competency assessment is trying to see what knowledge the person has, and whether they can reproduce this under an element of time pressure. Any of the processes used have pro's and con's around reliability and accuracy. Most importantly they need to be relevant for the role, pitched at the required competency level, and have a way the results can be objectively compared between candidates.
Technical competency is only one element of job suitability, and any red flags raised during a robust testing process can be compared to your candidates other qualities and considered in light of the importance of technical knowledge to the role outcomes.
Survey results #4.
In our survey we asked “Based on recent hires how would you rate candidates actual technical ability in comparison to your expectation from the hiring process?” Here’s how our respondents rated their recent hires:
- Fully competent 12%
- Competent most areas 58%
- Competent some areas 27%
- Limited or no competence 3%
So out of that 70% of candidates might be considered “OK” whilst 30% appear to have significant shortfalls in competency to what the role required.
For those who were not deemed competent we asked what remedial actions were required. The chart below shows the range of added time and cost organisations had to take on. Sometimes more than one remedial action was required. More than 1/3 of these actions could be called ‘drastic’, involving changing job requirements, redeployment or the employment being ceased.