9 Steps to an Effective Talent Assessment Strategy | Toggl Hire
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9 Steps to an Effective Talent Assessment Strategy

Elena Prokopets Elena Prokopets Last Updated:

Finding top talent, either on the market or within your organization, is like scoring a four-leaf clover. You feel pretty lucky in the moment but wish it happened more often. 

Most hiring managers, however, don’t have the luxury to gingerly linger through an endless field of clovers (ahem, talent). Most of us need people for…yesterday. 

If you’re looking for a proven way to equip yourself with the right data and methods for hiring and retaining the best talent, then what you need is a great talent assessment strategy — it’ll help you fill your applicant pool with the right talent and identify qualified people internally for mobility opportunities.

TL;DR — Key Takeaways

  • Talent assessments provide a standardized, data-backed method to determine an individual’s skills, competencies, and personality characteristics. Use them to identify and pre-screen qualified applicants, assess ongoing employee performance, and plan for career progression.

  •  A talent assessment strategy, in turn, is a collection of methods and processes your company relies on to evaluate the candidates’ and workforce competency levels, make informed hiring decisions, determine missing skills, and determine training needs. 

  • Popular types of talent assessments include technical skills tests, job simulations, competency tests, soft skills assessments for hiring and performance appraisals, employee development plans, and 360-degree feedback for workforce development. 

  • To create an effective talent assessment strategy, you’ll need to set aside a budget, determine key characteristics of great talent, determine the assessments’ position in your hiring and workforce development processes, select the optimal assessment methods and tool(s), ensure transparency in the process, and act upon candidate feedback you receive. 

  • To capture even more benefits from talent assessments, experiment with different talent evaluation methods, educate your hiring managers on scoring criteria and incorporate assessment data into other processes like employee onboarding or talent pool management. 

What are talent assessments?

Talent assessments are the building blocks of a talent assessment strategy. They’re what hiring managers use to determine an individual’s skills, competencies, and personality characteristics using objective scoring criteria. Ensuring employees possess the qualities and competencies necessary for success within a company is the ultimate goal of talent assessments.

Hiring managers typically use talent assessments either to:

👉 Identify and pre-screen the most qualified applicants for open role

👉 Assess ongoing employee performance and get insights for workforce development 

Purpose of talent assessment for new hires:
Determine if the candidate has the necessary skills, personality traits, and potential to perform well in a specific role
Purpose of workforce talent assessments:
Assess ongoing performance, identify areas for development, and plan for career progression
Assessment methods:
Technical skills tests
Job simulations
Competency tests 
Soft skills assessments
Language proficiency tests 
Cognitive ability tests 
Assessment methods: 
Performance appraisals
Employee development plans
Peer reviews 
360-degree feedback
Career path assessments
Talent gap analysis 
Here’s how to implement talent assessments into your hiring processes.

What is a talent assessment strategy?

A talent assessment strategy refers to the approach hiring managers use to identify and evaluate the skills and abilities of potential candidates and existing employees to inform hiring, development, and promotion decisions 

As such, a talent assessment strategy can combine different assessment methods for job candidate evaluation (skills tests, structured interviews, job simulations, etc.) or workforce development (performance reviews, skills gap analysis, employee development plans, etc.).

For talent acquisition, a good talent assessment strategy helps:

✅ Determine future job performance

✅ Reduce the risks of bad hires

✅ Remove bias from the recruitment process

For talent management, a good talent assessment strategy helps:

✅ Identify skills mismatches in the existing workforce

✅ Develop better internal mobility plans

Inform other workforce planning activities (like recruitment levels, training programs, etc.)

Implementing a talent assessment strategy has several benefits.

Types of talent assessments

Whether you want to compare candidates or get more insights about existing human resources, you have a pretty strong lineup of assessment methods available. 

Candidate screening 

To better evaluate candidates’ skills and abilities while working to eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring process, try the following testing methods.

Skills assessments 

Pre-employment skills assessments are an effective way to measure a candidate’s knowledge and expertise in a particular area. You can use them to determine proficiency in various technical skills — coding, language, or even WordPress administration.

They’re also great when used simultaneously to evaluate job-specific skills (e.g., all competencies for a customer support role). Online skills assessments provide a clear and objective measurement and can usually be easily administered to multiple job candidates at the same time.

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

To maximize the initial phase of the hiring process, we recommend testing no more than 3-5 skills at a time. Of those 5 skills, we recommend testing for 3 hard skills and 2 soft skills to keep the test diverse and meaningful at the same time.

Behavioral interviews 

Behavioral interviews help evaluate candidates’ situational judgment to better understand how they think, solve problems, and react to different social situations. They can be used to assess the candidate’s personality traits and provide greater insight into the candidate’s aptitude for problem-solving. 

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

Try situational judgment tests as an alternative. When mass hiring, pre-screen candidates with situational judgment tests (SJTs). SJTs assess candidates’ decision-making abilities by presenting them with hypothetical scenarios and asking them to choose the most appropriate course of action from a list of options. You can also gauge the person’s behavioral tendencies and evaluate cognitive reasoning skills

Toggl Hire Cognitive Ability Test

Job simulations

Job simulations are a type of assessment where job candidates are presented with mock exercises that resemble real-world tasks to assess their job performance. These simulations can vary in complexity, from a simple homework task or test day to a case study assignment.

Such mini-job trials help determine if the candidate has the right skills for a specific role, like a sales development representative, social media marketing manager, or financial reporting manager, and can be a better predictor of job performance.

Soft skills and personality assessments

Standard personality tests aim to measure different personality attributes such as character, behavior, and emotions. Many popular personality assessments, however, don’t provide objective data about the candidate’s performance potential or ability to fit with an existing team.

Soft skills assessments offer a better way to identify candidates with strong teamwork, leadership, and communication skills through standardized behavioral assessments. They’re typically more accurate than personality tests as long as you’re using the right talent assessment process.

Soft skills vs hard skills vs personality traits
Soft skills assessments are often a much better measure than personality tests.

Cognitive aptitude tests

Cognitive ability tests evaluate a person’s critical thinking, reasoning skills, numerical aptitude, problem-solving, or decision-making abilities. Cognitive ability tests help pre-screen entry-level candidates with strong analytical and problem-solving skills, but they’re less suitable for assessing role-specific skills.

Work samples

Incorporating work samples into the hiring process may not be necessary for all roles, but it can be a good screening step for filling in creative positions: copywriting, design, photography, etc. A work sample offers a tangible representation of a candidate’s creative abilities and can usually be collected and evaluated online.

Pre-recorded video interviews

If you don’t have much time to create situational judgment tests or customize online cognitive ability tests, use async video interviews to evaluate candidates’ soft skills and personality. They’re a more time-efficient option than standard phone pre-screens, and candidates benefit from a faster interview process and meaningful feedback (which is the case for asynchronous hiring in general!).

What is asynchronous hiring?
Async video interviews and hiring processes can help evaluate candidates’ soft skills and personality.

Game-based assessments

Game-based assessments transform standardized skills assessments into a gamified, engaging recruiting experience. Instead of asking applicants to complete some generic aptitude tests, you can test their abilities via an interactive coding challenge or a situational role-play game.

PwC uses digital game-based assessments to recruit recent graduates, while ManoMano administers coding games for development roles. However, simply offering an online talent assessment can be enough to “gamify” the talent assessment process in most cases (as long as you’re using a fun, engaging platform like Toggl Hire).

Job trials

A job trial is often the last step in the talent assessment process when shortlisted hire(s) join the company for a fixed-time “test” period. A hiring manager uses trials to determine if an employee is capable of performing the duties of the position.

At Toggl, we ask all successful applicants to do a “paid test week” with us, rather than a standard three-month-long trial, as the final step of their interviewing process. This way, we can see the applicant in action before extending them an offer, which reduces our chances of bad hires and saves the awkwardness of letting someone go after just a few weeks. 

talent assessment process
This is (usually) how the talent assessment process works at Toggl.

Talent management 

To build out a comprehensive talent assessment program for managing your existing workforce, consider the following types of assessments.

Performance reviews

A performance review, also known as a performance appraisal, is a formal evaluation of the employee’s work performance, typically based on the person’s KPIs. A performance review serves two purposes:

☝️ Evaluating an employee’s performance

✌️ Developing their skills according to their job role

Talent assessment tools like soft skills tests or competency-based assessments can help managers gather more objective data on the employee’s abilities and help identify further areas for improvement. 

360-degree feedback

360-degree feedback is an assessment method for collecting confidential, anonymous feedback from both the person’s peers and superiors. 

By providing a comprehensive view of an individual’s performance, communication skills, and leadership abilities, this talent assessment method helps enhance employee’s self-awareness and build stronger working relationships with their colleagues.

With a focus on constructive feedback and continuous improvement, 360-degree feedback systems can improve employee engagement and advance self-learning in your workforce. 

Talent gap analysis

A talent gap analysis is a structured evaluation of the workforce’s skills, plus their capabilities and talents, aimed at identifying projected training and hiring requirements.

By regularly performing talent gap assessments, your hiring team can prevent skill mismatches between new and existing job requirements and talent capabilities.

This will also help strengthen capacity planning and workforce development practices, improve internal mobility, and implement targeted development opportunities.

How to conduct a skills gap analysis
Know when and how to conduct a skills gap analysis.

Employee development plans

An employee development plan defines steps an employee has to take to achieve their next career goal. Effective professional development plans are based on qualitative (e.g., formal performance appraisal) and quantitative feedback (e.g., assessment data) from managers and peers.

It includes a clear timeline and precise goals an employee must hit to advance their career. When done right, employee development plans help streamline succession planning and improve employee engagement.  

Career path assessments

Finally, career path tests aim to gauge the person’s aptitude and capabilities for certain roles. Such tests can evaluate the candidate’s skills, strengths, values, personality traits, and professional aspirations to determine their suitability for a new role.

This talent assessment method helps hiring managers identify internal transfers, create team rotations, and strategize new horizontal or vertical mobility paths

9 steps to design a talent assessment strategy

Now that you’re basically a pro (look at you!) on the different types of talent assessment strategies and tools let’s explore how you can combine them into a comprehensive talent assessment strategy, covering both the recruitment process and subsequent workforce development. 

1. Budget it

The total cost of hiring employees is quite high — justifying yet another expensive line item might not fly with the higher-ups in your company. To create a strong business case for implementing a new strategy, you need to identify the expected return on investment (ROI) from talent assessment tests. 

Talent assessments have many benefits, but the two easiest ones to quantify are quality of hire and employee turnover rates. By integrating assessments into your talent acquisition process, hiring managers can:

  • Improve candidate pre-screening speed, advancing more qualified prospects through your funnel 

  • Remove redundant, labor-intensive steps like having multiple interview rounds 

  • Reduce the time hiring managers spend on resume reviews, interview scheduling, and preparation for structured interviews

  • Eliminate bias and situational judgment from the hiring process, which increases the risks of bad hires

Let’s look at the above in a real-world scenario (because, you know, your manager’s likely going to ask for statistics to back this all up).

Before adopting talent assessments, the Sked Social hiring team had to go through ~200 resumes per role and needed over six weeks to make one offer to the best candidate. 

The average hourly rate of a hiring manager is $50-$64. One hire would cost $1,000 if they spent about 20 hours on it. Toggl Hire test assessments start at just $25/mo and save teams like Sked Social 80% time on candidate screening.

In other words, hiring managers can spend only 2-4 hours ($100-$200) on reviewing all applicants per role, leading to substantial cost savings. So…you’ll be saving about $775/month in hiring costs, with your plan paying off multifold within one month. 

Sked Social success story
Use talent assessments to reduce time spent on candidate screening.

Talent assessment tests also help prevent employee attrition, which can cost companies between one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. Replacing an employee with a $50K salary would cost between $25,000 to $100,000. 

The sad part? 52% of voluntarily exiting employees say their company could have prevented them from leaving their job (but chose not to do anything). 

Now let’s put this into a monetary perspective: 

The cost of an annual Toggl Hire Plan with unlimited talent assessments for an unlimited number of users is $670/month, or $8,040 annually (though you can pause your account anytime you’re not hiring). 

The average annual salary of a hiring manager is $60K annually, and this person can take full charge of your talent assessment strategy. 

Effectively, if they prevent one person from leaving your company, you’re already breaking even. And if they manage to reduce employee turnover by 5% or even 10% — you’d be making a solid ROI. 

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

Use a formula to estimate talent assessment ROI. Calculate the ROI of improving your hiring process with talent assessments, using this formula:

Lifetime employee value (cost per hire + cost to retain an employee) = ROI

2. Define what “great talent means

Talent assessments can help identify the most promising hires for the open roles….as long as you can articulate who that is. 

Before administering any tests, clearly define what “top talent” means for each role: 

  1. Conduct a job task analysis to determine the key responsibilities and tasks of the role. Also, benchmark performance standards and determine a fair compensation range.

  2. Work with hiring managers to identify ideal qualifications for each position. Include a mix of soft, technical, and job-specific skills. 

  3. Determine which personal qualities and traits would make a strong organizational and team fit. 

  4. Include a list of nice-to-have experiences and credentials to expand your talent pool. Check that all your job requirements are realistic and you’re not looking for the mystical “purple squirrel”. 

  5. Create an inclusive and clear job description, articulating your expectations and selling the advantages of working for your company. 

By setting your expectations straight from the get-go, hiring managers can reduce waste in the hiring process, coming in the form of poor-fit candidates, lengthy interviewing processes, and prolonged time-to-hire. 

3. Align your objectives

Talent assessments can add value to different stages of the recruitment process and inform workforce development. But you need to determine where these best fit and how they serve wider business objectives pegged to your recruitment metrics

For example, your objective may be to “interview fewer but better-fit candidates.” In this case, adding talent assessments as a pre-screening step is the best option.

By implementing a talent assessment step product engineering studio, Producement saved over 400 hours on pre-screening over 5,000 job applicants. Out of all applicants, only the top 3% made it to the interview stage, resulting in both time-savings and better quality of hire. 

Or your objective may be “improving employee attrition rates to below 10%.” In this case, a talent assessment framework that combines 360-degree feedback with career path assessments could provide insight into employee skill sets, engagement rates, and readiness for new career challenges. 

Ultimately, your objectives will inform the most suitable talent assessment methods, the depth of the evaluation process, the type of people involved in the hiring process, and follow-up action (e.g., new training program development). 

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

Accurately measure your recruiting metrics by downloading our FREE recruiting metrics template.

Free recruiting metrics template

4. Choose assessment methods

Your objective will also inform the most appropriate candidate assessment method. Look at each open role through the pane of ideal candidates’ skills and experiences. Then think which tests can help best identify these. 

For example, personality tests assess mostly general character traits and values, while soft skills assessments provide first-hand data on the candidate’s abilities to collaborate with others, communicate well, and fit into the company culture. 

Similarly, standard cognitive tests assess the person’s logical reasoning or problem-solving skills in the abstract context, while job-specific competency assessments evaluate these in the context of a particular role.

4. Plan out your hiring process

Talent assessments provide value at different stages of the talent acquisition process. The exact position of the talent assessment in your recruitment process will depend on the problem you’re trying to solve.

If you want to improve the candidate screening process, you may want to use tools such as technical skills tests, one-way video interviews, or role-based job knowledge tests to quickly evaluate candidates’ competencies and aptitude for the role. 

To make more informed hiring when selecting candidates, combine structured interviews with open-ended homework assignments or job simulations to gain more objective data for decision-making. 

Talent assessment tools like soft skills and personality skills assessments can add value to the shortlisting stage, where you want to determine a strong fit with the organization’s culture. Job trials and gamified role-play, in turn, can dispel any final doubts about the job candidates’ competencies. 

Think about your current issues and then decide how talent assessments can help address these at the top, middle, or bottom of your funnel. 

Where do pre-employment tests fit in the recruitment process?
Where you use skills assessments in your hiring process depends on your hiring goals.

5. Select the right talent assessment tool

There are several recruitment assessment tools on the market, all promising to fix your hiring processes in one way or another. To find the best match for your company, evaluate the following:

Reliability

Do you get objective, quantifiable data that highlights relevant skills and traits for the role? What is the logic of test design, and what types of scientific methods (if any) are used? The last thing you’d want is to pay for a tool that lacks validity and brings more bias in your hiring process. 

Customization

Does the talent assessment platform offer any premade assessments or a question library? Is the information regularly updated? Job requirements and skill sets change fast, especially in “digital” industries. Ensure you’re getting up-to-date tests, plus the ability to customize and extend the available assessments. 

Process Automation

How much time does it take to create a candidate assessment? Is there an option to reuse tests? Are there any other recruiting automation features, included in the product? Talent assessments should be a time-saver, not another time-sucker in your human resource management function. 

Anti-Cheating Measures

What does the platform do to avoid copy-paste replies from ChatGPT, multiple test-taking, or other types of abuse from users? Look into software offering meaningful protection against such behaviors. 

Scalability

How many tests can you administer? Are there any usage caps? Does the new tool integrate with other recruitment software you own? The last thing you’d want is spending a ton of time on onboarding only to realize three months on that you’re outgrowing the tool. 

Look for these top features when comparing talent assessment tools.

6. Put your talent front and center

The modern job search is plagued with frustrating experiences. An alarming 75% of candidates never hear back from a company after applying for the job, and 60% are unimpressed by how time-consuming recruitment processes are. 

From a job seeker’s perspective, talent assessments shouldn’t look like yet another hoop they need to jump through just to prove their basic competency for a role. Prioritize tools that elevate, rather than hinder, candidate experience with features like:

  • Instant, descriptive test results 

  • Automatic updates on the next hiring steps

  • Video intros from your hiring team 

  • Option to rank the assessment 

Separately, ensure that your job description clearly outlines all the steps in the hiring process and the level of commitment each one assumes. 

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

If you’re losing great candidates halfway through the hiring process because there are too many steps, use skills assessment to reduce the number of steps. Skills tests and video interviews can replace redundant steps in the hiring process like having multiple structured interviews. 

By using skills assessments, Monese eliminated two steps from their hiring process for most roles, while still attracting top-caliber talent. The total time-to-hire for new roles decreased by 86% thanks to the Toggl Hire skills assessment platform. 

7. Keep the process transparent

Over half of candidates have abandoned the job application process due to poor communication from the company.  

To avoid such scenarios, clearly explain the purpose of talent assessments. Be upfront about the time commitment and the speed of feedback. Administer shorter (under 30-minute tests) to get more people in your funnel. Then shortlist the best performers using a custom pass threshold (e.g., 80% of correct answers) and invite them to do a longer assignment or a structured interview

No matter the outcome, provide short feedback post-assessment. Constructive feedback not only elevates your employer brand but also helps applicants hone their skill sets (and re-apply later on!). 

For example, with Toggl Hire, all applicants receive instant, quantifiable assessment results showing how they performed for each tested skill. Here’s what that looks like. 👇

Toggl Hire candidate experience
Offer timely candidate feedback to improve the candidate experience.

8. Know how to evaluate assessment results

You should clearly define the criteria you want candidates to meet in your assessments. For example, when hiring a customer success manager, you’d want to prioritize people with strong communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, plus prolific knowledge of customer experience management best practices. 

When creating test assessments, you can add different weights to each type of question (e.g., 20% for teamwork, 30% for customer service, 20% for active listening, 30% for problem-solving) to get a 360-degree view of the candidates’ abilities. 

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

When analyzing the results, pay attention to how different applicants performed with each group of questions to better understand their strengths and weaknesses. You can also analyze trends and patterns in assessment results to refine hiring strategies. For example: Prioritize hiring channels that bring the most qualified applicants. 

9. Collect feedback

Optimize your assessment process by asking applicants for feedback about their experience. Analyze the response to identify signs of friction you could improve to deliver an even better candidate experience.

You can also invite the most promising candidates to join your talent pool to get considered and pre-qualified for future job opportunities, which can reduce hiring costs in the future. 

Software to collect candidate feedback
Toggl Hire lets you automatically solicit quantitative and qualitative feedback.

5 tips for a smooth talent assessment process

Ready to implement your new talent assessment strategy? Follow these five tips for a process that’s as smooth as silk (or whatever other smooth material you love).

1. Train your assessors

Educate your hiring managers about the platform’s evaluation algorithm and method(s) for generating test results. This includes details about test score weights, assessment, and criteria. For open-ended assignments, develop a standardized grading framework to eliminate bias. Train your people to focus on data rather than personal judgment. 

2. Combine assessments with other methods

Talent assessment tests yield the greatest impact in combination with other evaluation tactics like culture interviews or live portfolio reviews (in hiring) and peer feedback or performance reviews (in workforce development). Assess your talent through multiple dimensions to avoid skewed results.

3. Use assessment results for onboarding

Streamline new employee onboarding by adjusting the sequence based on the assessment results. Identify employees who need extra training with higher confidence to increase their time-to-productivity. This approach promotes quicker integration and drives higher employee engagement.

4. Monitor effectiveness

Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the talent assessment process. This includes monitoring the job performance of new hires, tracking the retention rate of candidates who were assessed, and measuring other improvements in your hiring process. Be open to making adjustments based on talent outcomes and feedback. 

5. Think long-term with a talent pool

Use assessments to populate your talent pool with pre-qualified candidates. Offer rejected or dropped-off candidates to stay in touch to reduce time-to-hire in the future. You can also use test data for identifying candidates due for promotion or internal mobility programs, plus to keep an eye on emerging skills gaps in your workforce.  

Get started with talent assessments

A great talent assessment strategy helps companies find the best candidates, reduce hiring costs and times, and improve workforce planning processes. 

By taking a data-driven approach to assessing talent, you can optimize recruiter workloads, elevate candidate experience, and reduce employee turnover rates. 

With modern skills assessment platforms like Toggl Hire, you can create comprehensive assessments in under 15 minutes from our database of skills, competency, and personality-based questions. 

📚 What do current users especially love? We support the entire hiring funnel — everything from pre-screening skills tests to discovery interviews to homework assignments. 👇

Toggl Hire skills testing platform

Share test assessments with any number of candidates or internal employees and review all results from a convenient dashboard. Start testing your talent with Toggl Hire for free

Elena Prokopets

Elena is a freelance writer, producing journalist-style content that doesn’t leave the reader asking “so what." From the future of work to the latest technology trends, she loves exploring new subjects to produce compelling and culturally relevant narratives for brands. In her corporate life, Elena successfully managed remote freelance teams and coached junior marketers.

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