Printbuyers Online

How can I evaluate a prospective new hire?

I am tired of relying on my gut feelings when making the final decision on hiring an employee. During the interview a person may appear to be bright enough, but within a short period of time, that brightness seems to disappear. Or they appear to be outgoing and energetic, but once on board and under a little stress, they become impossible to work with. In an effort to do a better job of hiring, what tools would you recommend to give me a heads up on these concerns prior to making the offer?

You are not the only one with these concerns. In the August 17, 2001 issue of USA Today, Stephanie Armour wrote an article about the fact that "employers are no longer eager to take just anybody. Instead, they're being more selective, using tactics such as team interviews, phone screenings and written tests. More than 40% of employers require basic skills tests of applicants according to a May study by the American Management Association."

I am a strong believer in testing before hiring. I suggest that you conduct three types of assessments and incorporate them into your hiring process. Finding the right person for the job involves finding a combination of the right skills and the right behaviors. All of your recruiting and screening should be conducted with the sole purpose of finding someone who fits the criteria which you established in the job description. The job description is the blueprint with which you must match the candidate with. It is the foundation of the hiring process.

First, complete the structured interviews and check references of the best candidates. Then, narrow the field to those candidates who are truly credible and whom you believe can fit the bill. Once all of the obvious non-matches have been ruled out, you’ll need to determine if the candidates possess the skills and behaviors that are needed for the job.

Mathematics and Comprehension Testing
As part of the interview process, I recommend you do a basic skills test that addresses mathematics and comprehension. This testing is important for all candidates. I find the Wonderlic© Personnel Test to be an accurate measure of general intelligence. It is a 12-minute timed test that gauges the applicant’s learning ability, problem-solving abilities, and understanding of instructions. I personally began using this test in the early 80’s when hiring for my own printing company. I continue to use it today assisting my customers in hiring. I also know many companies across the country that swear by it.

The test is quickly scored and the results can be compared to the minimum acceptable scores for the particular position. As a result of the massive testing that they have done, Wonderlic© has benchmarked scores for more than 12,000 different positions, and they can provide minimum acceptable scores for these positions. For example, I have listed on my website the minimal acceptable scores for 25 of the positions in the printing industry.

Personal Profile Analysis
Stephanie Armour also stated in her article that "Employers are turning to behavioral interviewing techniques". This is an effort to find out more about the nature of the person and their likely response to certain situations. For this purpose I recommend the Personal Profile Analysis, which is based on the DISC system. This tool is not considered a test since there are no right or wrong answers. The profile takes approximately 8 to 12 minutes to complete. Upon completion you will be given a report that provides you with the essential behavioral characteristics of the candidate. It will give you keys for coaching, communicating, motivating and also give you information on their behavior under stress. It will help you identify if the candidate is suitable for the position. As with the Wonderlic© test, there are benchmark profiles of the top performers in the different positions within various industries.

Equipment Testing
The third skills test I highly recommend is having the candidate actually produce. Depending on the nature of the position, I would suggest that the candidate demonstrate their ability to operate your equipment. This would apply to specific disciplines and may include operation of computers, manipulation of software tools in desktop publishing or the operation of any appropriate production equipment. Arrange to bring the candidate in for a four to eight hour period and offer to pay the candidate a flat rate for those hours of actual work. Having the individual work a full day can be a very interesting and informative investment. By the end of the test period, you should be able to have a good idea of their skill level. You might even find that the candidate steps out to take a break and never comes back. This is a definite heads up that they were not a fit for the position.

Remember, you can not take on blind faith everything that is on a candidate’s resume or what the candidate says he or she can do. If it is critical to the job, you need to get a sample of their abilities. In the desktop area, where an artistic ability is paramount, you might have the candidates tackle one of your jobs to see whether they are merely a technician or really have the necessary creative ability. Have them actually work with real jobs to test their ability. Of course, you shouldn’t expect perfection as a candidate will likely be nervous and may not be at ease with your equipment, but you will definitely be able to assess some critical skill information.

Evaluating candidates prior to hiring them is critical and you can not afford to make a bad hire. There are many different types of tests and profiling systems available. However, since I have extensive experience using Wonderlic© and DISC in the graphics industry, I tend to recommend these tests. They are user-friendly, inexpensive and extremely accurate. But the bottom line is that it doesn’t necessarily matter which assessment tools you use. It is just important that you use something more measurable than intuition and gut feelings.

Good luck,

Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, specializing in Human Resources for the Graphics Industries. She can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or Visit for FREE Tip Sheets on Managing and Motivating people. Debra is now offering individual HR Forms for printing industry personnel including the New Employee Orientation Checklist at

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