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Tips for Using Case Assessments in the Hiring Process

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Written by Janine Bower, Director of Instructional Design & Partnership Success at CapSource, Professor of Sociology & Criminology at Keuka College

Case assessments are a great way for companies to evaluate the capabilities of a job candidate. As a hiring tool, case assessments provide employers a sense of how the candidate analyzes information to make decisions and how effectively they communicate their ideas and recommendations. Recruiters can use off-the-shelf case assessments for quick and easy implementation, customize the content to better match the job and skills under assessment, or create their own content to maximize relevance to the organization’s jobs and strategy. Whichever option companies use, there are several factors to consider when selecting and developing case assessment content. 

 

Using case assessment as a key strategy in the selection process starts with identifying the job-related skills that are under assessment. Companies are frequently looking for candidates to demonstrate their ability to analyze information, prioritize responsibilities, offer alternative perspectives, make judgments and recommendations, and communicate their ideas effectively to the intended audience. Applicants are often eager to demonstrate their job-related capabilities, and are more likely to perceive the assessment method favorably and feel positive about the process when it is relevant to the job (Pulakos, 2005). By identifying the skills under assessment first, the case scenario can be better tailored to show how the candidate will respond when faced with a similar situation on the job, provide them the opportunity to showcase their talents, and leave them with a positive impression about the organization and the position for which they are applying. 

 

Because the skills under assessment are most often multi-faceted, case assessments are often complex. Candidates are generally asked to meet a challenge, solve a problem, or answer a question by engaging in a series of tasks, such as gathering and analyzing information, examining alternative solutions, and proposing the most effective solution using supportive evidence. They may be expected to research or utilize data and other information related to the profession such as market studies, financial documents, etc. 

 

Although they tend to be complex, case assessment exercises are generally time limited and should not be burdensome or exploitative. Keep in mind that candidates have other demands on their time; guidance varies, but we suggest keeping case assessment content to 1-2 pages in length and the assignment achievable in 1-3 hours (Sher, 2019).  Recognize that candidates may also be concerned that employers will take advantage and use their intellectual work on the case assessment even if they’re not chosen for the position (Pulakos, 2005).

 

Case assessment content should to be clear, sufficiently detailed, and resourced so the qualified applicant can meet the presented challenge and effectively demonstrate their capabilities to the employer.  Given this, when designing the case content consider the following key elements:

  1. Case scenario
  2. Supplementary information or data 
  3. Expectations and instructions for completing and submitting their materials 

Each of these elements are described in greater detail below.

 

A. THE CASE SCENARIO

Provide applicants relevant and sufficient information on the background of the case and the current business challenge, problem, or question to be addressed along with outcomes that would indicate a successful resolution.

  • Background. Set the stage for the case assessment by providing a reason for the case study and background information about the company (history, market position, etc.) as well as the relevant topic, product, or service that is the subject of the case.
  • The Business Challenge. Describe the main, current challenge or problem that needs to be resolved or question(s) needing answered. Include facts and other key pieces of information pertaining to the current challenge. Previous attempts to solve the problem that have failed can also be addressed here.

Examples:  

The company is wanting to determine the feasibility of introducing a new product…

The company needs you to prioritize the completion of the following tasks within a given deadline…

  • Desired Results: Depending upon the nature of the challenge, you may want to share with the applicant key results or outcomes the company is seeking upon the successful resolution of the challenge, problem or question. 

Examples:   

The company will have a comprehensive understanding of the competition and potential markets…

The company will have a plan for effectively completing the given tasks.

 

B. SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION

Consider providing additional information such as internal reports and communications, organizational charts and strategic planning documents, key trade publications, raw data, or links to open sources (e.g. website, social media) useful for investigating the challenge or problem.

 

C. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT

Be specific about your expectations for formatting and submitting work and how it will be assessed.

  • Deliverable. What the applicant should provide to the company (e.g. 2-3 page report including 1-2 recommendations; letter to a client/customer; ideas and suggestions memorandum).
  • Additional formatting requirements/special instructions. Any specific format or document type the candidate should use or incorporate (e.g. tables, graphics, Excel).
  • Evaluation. The criteria on which the applicant will be evaluated. For instance, you may be evaluating their ability to think critically by making comparisons, assessing the quality of information, or forecasting outcomes, and their communication skills in their ability to write effectively. Rubrics or other evaluation measures to assess applicants’ work and ensure equity and consistency in evaluation of candidates may also be shared with the candidate to promote transparency and encourage their confidence in the process.

 

CapSource is always looking for ways to connect companies with motivated, qualified candidates and help individuals demonstrate their capabilities through real-world applications. Case assessments are a great way for companies to gather additional data points and essential information to make good hiring decisions and for applicants to demonstrate their job-related capabilities in the hiring process. Let CapSource help you to integrate case assessments into your recruitment and hiring processes by visiting our Open Cases Library of curated business cases, or create your own case assessment using our Case Assessment Builder

 

References:

Pulakos, E. D. (2005). Selection assessment methods: A guide to implementing formal assessments to build a high quality workforce. Alexandria, VA: Society for Human Resources Management.

Sher, R. (2019). How To Use ‘Case-Study’ Techniques To Ensure Successful Executive Hires. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertsher/2019/12/04/how-to-use-case-study-techniques-to-ensure-successful-executive-hires/?sh=695b733e4d47