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Recipe for Proof Pudding – measuring candidate requirements

Minimal ‘must have’ requirements – the gates to the job. These requirements separate true job candidates from the rest of the population. Without them, the organization will not consider evaluating the individual for the job.

If meeting the requirements are the key to get past the gates, then it stands to reason that organizations would be really good at defining those gates and verifying their candidates hold those keys – right?

Not so much.

Many requirements are vague or subjective or ill defined, which makes them very hard, if not impossible, to prove effectively and consistently. Without proof, you have no idea if the candidates getting through the gates are qualified or a waste of time (yours and theirs). And if one of those unqualified candidates end up being hired, wasted time becomes the least of your problems.

There are also requirements that are easy to prove but are unnecessary and therefore keep out great candidates – but that is a topic of a different blog.

So how do you make sure that the candidates hold the right keys and meet the requirements?


Here are three basic measurement types to prove candidates meet requirements. Each has its strengths and limitations. And each has its place.

One note: measurement steps take time, and in some cases money, so they don’t need to be done up front. Schedule these steps for the middle or end of the process as a validation step.

TIP: Let the candidate know you will be measuring/verifying the information. Candidates who stretch the truth are less likely to do so and waste your time or theirs if they know they will be caught.

External Validation – fact checking

Some requirements are simple binary truth – you either have it or don’t. Requirements like degrees, certifications, titles, years of experience at a specific role or organization, work authorization status, are all examples of this type of requirement.

This is the easiest type of requirement to measure and prove – usually requiring a simple phone call or message to the appropriate organization to verify the claim.

Proof: Fact check.

  • Step one: Identify the organization that can validate the claim such as a former employer, educational institution, government agency, background check organization.

  • Step two: Identify the process through the organization to validate the piece of information such as who to call/message, what form to fill out, what service to purchase.

  • Step three: execute to verify the requirement.

Pros: Easy to measure and prove, highly accurate.

Cons: Most binary content (have it or don’t have it) is not highly valuable in determining quality of candidate as they don’t speak to quality or fit for your organization.

For example, you can verify someone has a degree and their GPA, but that piece of information doesn’t tell you if the candidate has retained that knowledge or if they can apply it to your job.

For example, you can verify someone held a job but it’s rare that you can verify that they were successful at the position, why, or how they impacted the organization (as many organizations have rules around what they can disclose to protect against liability).

Objective measurement – assessments

Requirements around skills, knowledge, or traits are perfect candidates for objective measurements through tests or assessments. For example, requirements such as familiarity with Microsoft Office, proficiency coding in Java, and having high levels of dependability or problem solving.

However, before jumping into testing candidates, know that not all assessments are created equal. Creating effective, valid assessments that measure what they intend to measure in a fair and repeatable way is an art and science, as is selecting the right assessments for you.

Proof – assessment results

  • Step one: Identify the skills, knowledge, or traits you want to measure and to what level (note: more is not always better. Make sure that both the level of proficiency for the role and the time required by the candidates are appropriate).

  • Step two: Select assessments that measure what you need. (Note: make sure the assessments are validated to measure what you need, with relevant use cases and low adverse impact – check out link for more information).

  • Step three: Based on the selected assessments, define what it is to “pass” for each measured trait/skill/knowledge. (Remember, more is not always better and don’t just use top scores as that can add bias).

  • Step four: execute – passing all candidates that meet the “pass” criteria.

Pros: Consistent, easy to measure, accurate (depending on the assessment).

Cons: Assessments can be expensive, both in candidate time and in employer money. Organizations also need to invest time and resources to assessment selection as there are also a lot of bad assessments with low accuracy and/or high adverse impact (i.e. inappropriately favoring one demographic over another) and good assessments that measure the wrong thing for your position/organization.

Subjective evaluation – demonstration

Requirements around the ability to apply skills, knowledge, or traits that emphasize results, approaches, styles, and strengths are perfect for candidate evaluations through demonstration. Demonstrations are those questions that give candidates the opportunity to prove they meet the requirement by performing a task or giving examples of past performance. For example, requirements such as ability to cold call, ability to draft concise press releases, and people management skills.

The key to demonstration proof is to define success (or good answers) before administering this form of proof. Knowing what you are looking for creates a foundation of objectivity and equity for all candidates, focuses the evaluation team on what matters, and helps reduce risk of biases influencing results.

Proof – demonstration evaluation

  • Step one: Identify what you want to assess and to what outcome (i.e. what is success or a good vs. bad result).

  • Step two: Define a question, scenario, or request that will allow the candidate to demonstrate the outcome (or not).

  • Step three: Establish an answer key or ‘grading system’ for the responses so all candidates are evaluated by the same standards. Make sure to use a scale that creates differentiation in the results (again, more on this in Month 5).

  • Step four: execute.

Pros: When done correctly, this method is highly Insightful and applicable.

Cons: This requires time from both applicants and employers, and it is the most bias prone without an established answer key.

Bringing it all together

Requirements are only as good as you can prove if a candidate meets them or not. All requirements must be measurable – either by external validation, objective measurements through assessments, or subjective evaluation. If a requirement isn’t measurable (in other words, you can’t prove if a candidate meets it or not), then it’s of no use to screen candidates.

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