Assessing Candidate Potential – Part 1: Why ask someone else to do it?

By Kemala Hayati & David Knowles


Why do organisations public and private ask companies like ours to undertake assessments of their people and candidates? Surely if managers have worked together with colleagues and subordinates for more than a very short time they themselves can draw reasonable conclusions about whether or not some one is ‘right’ for another role, a promotion or an assignment? And for companies with sound HR recruitment and selection practices and good specifications of what a vacant role requires, the HR people plus managers can also make sound judgments?

Evidence shows us that this is not the case, however. Perhaps when the need to fill a vacancy is pressing, optimism takes over from objective assessment, – and a warm body with paper credentials for the job gets the appointment! Whatever the reasons, companies lose hundreds of thousands of dollars incurring the cost of poor selection.

What happens when the selection is internal? The first search should surely be among the existing employees, to keep a healthy circulation of assignments and activities, and open up opportunities for promotion or development. However selection of one, means de-selection of others. In many companies in Indonesia there is discomfort in picking out one among others for promotion.  Fear of accusations of unfairness, fear of upsetting people, uncertainty over the ‘right’ choice – all these feelings conspire against good decisive judgment and clear leadership in decision-making.

For this reason, companies frequently come to assessment consultants to get an objective view, an additional input to the decision making process. External assessments should never replace management decision. So it is really not about substituting managers’ judgment. It’s more like supplementing their opinion with an assessment that has been formed through a well-defined, transparent and well-documented process. It is defendable, statistically reliable and provides useful inputs and tools for the manager.

The other beneficiary of assessment will be the individual who is assessed. For the person assessed, the report provides the opportunity to see him or herself through a new set of glasses, in a different mirror… it can open the door to new perceptions of what we can do, and of how we can change what we do to be more effective in our roles or in our lives. Carefully planned communications about the assessment and development process will allow people to see messages that stimulate change, and empower them make new use of their natural talents, rather than be nervous or resentful of the process.