The prospectors of the California Gold Rush of 1849 might have a surprising amount to teach today’s recruiters. Using a centuries-old technique, they would find a likely location, submerge their shallow pans into a riverbed and, with luck, they’d unearth gold particles that could be separated from the sand. In the same way, recruiters need to know where to look for talent and how to sift the golden nuggets from the sediment.

The digital revolution has created a new ‘riverbed’ where talent can be found. 82% of job seekers now search for new roles online, so the modern equivalent of a ‘shallow gold pan’ is a mobile hiring strategy.

When nearly everyone has a smartphone or a tablet, it makes sense not only to promote your jobs online but to allow candidates to apply via mobile devices. This offers the benefits of speed, convenience and privacy, which are important because job seekers believe they stand a better chance of being considered for a role if they apply as soon as it’s posted – and many candidates now prefer the ‘anonymity’ of applying from their mobile device rather than their company computer.


To benefit from this trend, your careers site must be optimised for mobile access. A good way to test this is to apply online for a job at your own company, via your phone. Putting yourself in the shoes of a candidate can be an interesting and revealing experience.

The new technology option for ‘sifting your golden applicants from the sediment’ is to utilise mobile assessments. This not only speeds up the selection process – because candidates don’t have to switch devices to sit the tests – it puts them in control of when and where they participate. In other words, they can interact with you at a time and place that suits them.

Best practice is to allow prospective applicants to self-assess their suitability for a job before they apply. Realistic job previews, situational judgement and gamification tools enable potential applicants to see how their skills and abilities match against your available roles. They also enable you to showcase your employer brand, culture and values. If the individual feels unsuited to the role or your organisation, they won’t apply. That saves them – and you – time and effort. The great advantage of this is that it optimises the quality of the candidates who do apply. They make a conscious choice to proceed with their application, because they think they are well-matched to your requirements and your culture. As a result, your applicant pool is more likely to be populated with better-suited candidates.

Just like every previous generation, today’s talented individuals want to work for a reputable company. They want a job with a purpose, work-life balance, a chance to develop and control over their career. They also want to be treated with respect when they apply. That means you need to have an efficient and effective screening process that provides a positive candidate experience.

Choosing the right assessment option

A bewildering array of choice is available when it comes to selecting staff, including traditional assessments, video interviews, game-based assessments, virtual reality assessments, social media analysis tools and job navigators. More new options seem to be launched each week, because the truth is it’s relatively easy to create an assessment tool that looks good on the surface. The question is: will it tell you which candidates are the optimum match for the job? That is essentially what you need to answer.

In every role, there will be certain competencies and job-related attributes that you’d like recruits to possess – and there will also be particular values that you’d like them to have, to ensure they’ll fit the culture of your organisation. All of these factors can be easily defined and, if you can successfully assess them, you’ll appoint the right sort of people. In turn, that can help your organisation to achieve greater productivity, higher engagement and lower attrition.

However, you’ll need to create an efficient selection process which doesn’t disadvantage potential applicants or discriminate against any group. It has to be fair and free of any bias or adverse impact. Your assessments must not only be valid and reliable, they should feel relevant and appropriate to candidates. Test providers call this ‘face validity’, which simply means that the test should ‘look like’ it measures what it’s supposed to measure. You can’t simply create a Candy Crush-style game and use it for assessment. You need to choose the right tools and use them at the right stage of your hiring process.

One feature of mobile assessments is that they tend to be shorter, to allow candidates to undertake the process quickly. Shorter tests have the advantage of ‘reduced drop-out’ – candidates are more likely to complete them – but the test still has to be psychometrically valid. Mobile devices can also speed up the process of video interviewing. As a result, you can now start to incorporate assessments and video interviews much earlier in your selection process. Minimal effort is required from the candidate and you’ll gain a rich source of data, which you can use to make a quick and informed decision about whether or not to progress that person through the application process.

Even in the days of prospectors, there was a big difference between finding golden nuggets and turning them into something tangibly valuable in society. Throughout history, mankind has held gold in the highest esteem and used it to make significant objects such as wedding rings, Olympic medals and Oscars, not to mention jewellery. Likewise, your raw talent must be developed, once recruited.

The data gathered from assessments can be used to create personal learning plans for individuals. Predictive talent analytics can also be generated by combining employee assessment results with existing talent and performance data. The additional insights gained from this can drive better talent decisions and help recruiters to identify high performers more consistently.

These golden rules for assessment might seem new but actually they’re the same as the old rules. The goal is – and always has been – to find the optimum person-job match. However, some recruiters say this has become more difficult to achieve because so many seemingly-attractive applicants are out there. But as the prospectors used to say: all that glitters is not gold.





Andreas Lohff is co-founder and managing director of international talent measurement and assessment specialist cut-e (

A strategic assessment specialist and a distinguished business psychologist, Andreas has led the group’s growth and international development, transforming its marketing and sales potential and managing its global partner network. Andreas runs major HR consultancy and management assessment projects for some of the world’s leading employers. He oversees recruitment and employee development at cut-e and is responsible for creating the mission, values and culture that have ensured the group’s global success.

Recognised as a thought leader in the assessment industry, Andreas is a frequent speaker at recruitment and psychology conferences and a regular contributor to the talent management and assessment media.

Prior to co-founding cut-e, Andreas set up the German subsidiary of occupational psychometric company SHL Group and spent 13 years with the firm, latterly as European Sales & Marketing Director. He holds a diploma in psychology.