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Assessing values in selection: What’s important?

There’s a common view (among many other interesting perceptions) that talking about values is a bit “fluffy”. You mention the term “Values” and people’s initial reactions often fall into two camps – the enthusiastic, knowing nod or the blank, indifferent look. Common beliefs are that values are so obvious or universal that there’s little merit in exploring them explicitly, or that they are so intangible it is impossible to measure them in any scientific guise. These more critical perceptions aside, we have recently seen a surge in clients interested in exploring values as part of their selection processes and I’ve been considering the big question at stake: “How can we use values to select candidates with the best ‘fit’ to the organisation?”

Do values really have a part to play in selection?

Put simply, values are guiding principles – a kind of life GPS, but do they have a place as part of selection processes and where has the recent wave of interest among clients come from? Given the now fairly standard features of online selection solutions – marketing with a realistic job preview – it isn’t a surprise that more organisations are looking to implement tools that reflect, communicate and assess candidates’ values. In a world where two-way selection is now the norm, candidates are more conscious than ever of how their choices reflect on the public identity that they project. Indeed, these values-based questions are relevant to us all:

  • What do we want to stand for in our working lives?
  • What does our organisation stand for?
  • Is there a strong level of ‘fit’ between our own and the organisation’s values (and what might it mean if there isn’t?).

Our clients now want their selection processes to reflect their company values, adding a dimension to the realistic job preview that informs candidates about the way in which the organisation operates and the kind of people that would thrive there.

Don’t all organisations have similar values?

Although on the surface the values sets of organisations often look similar, the detail and definitions behind these add granularity and uniqueness. For our clients, assessing values fit usually comes as an exploratory/self-sift phase at the very early stages of the selection process; perhaps in conjunction with other variables. It is important therefore to make sure that the values espoused by the organisation are really reflective of what’s happening on the ground. Recruiters need to ask themselves a few key questions.

  • Who sets the company values and how do they feature as part of the organisation’s daily life?
  • Are the organisation’s values leading principles (inspirational) or desirable ways of being (aspirational) and where do they come from?
  • Are they revisited and revised over the years, or is a quick glance by employees walking down the corridor where they sit framed the only attention they get?
  • In short, how alive and well are the values of the organisation?

Is there a ‘robust’ way to look for ‘values fit’ in candidates?

Although psychometrically pinpointing values and directly assessing them is difficult, it is possible to build values into a selection approach. To form a solid and appropriate foundation for assessing candidates, values need to be well-defined and accurate to the organisation. Our team of HR and psychometrics experts can assist employers with exploring their values through a process similar tojob analysis. This means we can identify behavioural indicators from a values-base and work to incorporate values-driven behaviours into online assessments that can assess the level of a candidate’s values ‘fit’ with an organisation.

We can then take information about level of ‘fit’ further and use values as the basis for a holistic discussion that takes the whole individual into account: values, attitudes, working style and personality as well as competencies. As a result, employers can rigorously examine values-driven behaviour, and candidates can self-select from their own value-standpoint.

Assessing values is a two-way street

There’s no disputing the fact that the responsibility for defining and using values as part of selection decisions is two-way. Organisations are responsible for clearly stating their values, and candidates are responsible for reflecting on their own values and identifying organisations which will be a good ‘fit’.

This means that, as selection professionals, we’re responsible for aiding the identification of values and for designing creative assessments that reflect these values and enable candidates to access the information they need to self-select as accurately as possible. From a personal perspective, it’s exciting to see values progressing further into everyday selection vocabulary and to see selection moving into a more holistic space. We look forward to working with our clients further in the values space and to exploring the benefits of this work for our clients and their candidates going forward.