Blog post

The Spotted Zebra spotlight on… Building skills-based assessments

Read time:
4 minutes

Spotted Zebra uses best-in-class technology to drive our platform - but it’s our people that are the real secret to our success. We speak to our superstar Consultant Lois Hills-Williams, as she explains her all-important role in the creation of our industry-leading skills profiles and assessments.

Skills-based practices promise to deliver dramatic improvements in all areas of the talent management lifecycle for HR leaders. But when choosing a partner to work with, you have to have confidence in their data - and that means the robustness and accuracy of their skills assessment and the validity of the skills they’re assessing. 

One of Spotted Zebra’s USPs is the unparalleled reliability and robustness of our approach. We use multiple sources to validate the hard and soft skills required for success in a role. Our industry-leading skills assessment uses the latest science to make it quicker and more accurate than any other solution. And we can assess candidates at the granular level of each skill related to the role and provide insight into adjacent skills that can be trained into jobs - something that traditional assessment providers are unable to do. 

But it’s not all about the technology and the science, because the Spotted Zebra people - or Dazzle, as a group of Zebras are called - also have a critical role to play in our data dynamism. And one of the main responsibilities of Spotted Zebra superstar Consultant Lois Hills-Williams is creating the all-important skills profiles and assessments. 

Building a skills profile

A key differentiator for Spotted Zebra, that sets us apart from other providers in the market, is that we create a skills profile for each role. 

“Our whole premise is that we focus on the skills required for success in a role - and you won’t know what those skills are unless we create a skills profile,” explains Lois. “The skills profiles are very much the blueprint for the assessments, because you can’t assess candidates and decide which are going to be a good fit for the role without a skills profile. So it really is step one.”

The skills profile consists of the behavioural and technical skills that are required for success in the role itself - and which are validated through multiple sources to ensure their accuracy. The first sources used are industry data and benchmarking from job descriptions and job adverts, which are collated and analysed by Lois and the team using machine learning techniques. 

“We’ll always start with our industry data,” says Lois. “We have lots of other clients and a whole host of data from looking at what other clients are wanting to assess and what they are finding important for certain roles and lead to success. And then I'll always supplement that with the job description or a job ad and sometimes a call with the recruiter - anything that can provide us with greater insight into what is required on a day-to-day basis and what success would look like in that role.”

These are the initial foundations, but crucially there are multiple other sources of data also utilised during the profile build to ensure a comprehensive and accurate skills blueprint for each role. One of these is a hiring manager survey.

“This is such a great opportunity for the hiring manager to engage in the process and really have input into everything that will happen afterwards,” continues Lois. “They’re able to think beyond CVs, education and prior experience to really consider what skills are required, to give us input which will directly drive what we’re assessing and what behaviours we’re looking for.”

Elsewhere, employee surveys and assessments are also conducted for High Volume recruitment programmes, gathering insight and data from current staff to provide further rigour to the profile building process. 

“If we’re going to be assessing thousands of accountants, for instance, we would conduct a current employee assessment where we would assess some 30-50 current individuals that are working in that role,” explains Lois. “We can then find out who are the high performers and who are the low performers, and we can then look at the data and establish the skills and characteristics that set the high performers apart - what really makes them special. We can use that to refine the assessment so that we're prioritising the same behaviours that those high performers are demonstrating.” 

Having identified the skills required for success during this comprehensive process, they are then divided into three categories: 

  • The skills that make a candidate right for the organisation, which cover the organisation’s values;
  • The skills specific to the position that make the candidate right for the role; and
  • The skills that make the candidate right for the future, which cover the potential to build a career within the organisation.

Building the skills assessment 

Based on the skills identified, the Spotted Zebra platform creates a blended assessment to measure each candidate’s alignment to the skills profile. The assessment will always include behavioural content, but also encompasses personality, motivation and cognitive elements, as well as skills self-assessment.

As the assessment only targets the skills defined within the profile, the assessment is much more accurate and shorter than other typical tests of this type, and can be completed in as little as 10 minutes. This ensures a much better experience for the candidate. 

To ensure that clients optimise their results, Lois and the team have created content such as videos and handbooks to provide extensive guidance during the assessment programme. This comprehensive support ensures a thorough understanding of how to invite candidates, interpret results, use the results and so on. Therefore, even for projects such as volume hiring and early careers, it is easy to manage large volumes of candidates. 

“We always ensure that hiring managers and recruiters are constantly supported throughout the process,” says Lois. 

Reporting and support

Once an individual has completed their assessment, the system generates a Digital Interview Guide summarising the individual’s performance, and how well the candidate aligns with the skills profile for the role. The guide includes an overall job-fit score and a more granular breakdown of their fit according to each relevant skill from the profile. 

In the event that the individual will be asked to attend an interview, there’s an additional valuable component in the guide for the hiring manager - a set of proposed interview questions based on the candidate’s responses in their assessment. These are specifically designed to reduce preparation time for hiring managers, and having mapped the client’s skills to the Spotted Zebra model, Lois and her team have ensured that these questions are hyper-relevant. 

The questions cover each of the three categories in the skills profile and focus on the lowest score in each section, allowing the interviewer to dig deeper into that area to see if the candidate can give specific examples or demonstrate that they would be able to exhibit this skill in the role.

I love the fact that the clients are able to open up the Interview Guide and see a question about their business that is really specific to them.

“The interview questions focus on development areas because while the candidate’s assessment responses may have indicated a particular weakness, it gives them the opportunity to elaborate on it and address it,” explains Lois. “They’re given the opportunity to talk through any techniques they may use to ensure it won’t hold them back from being successful in the role and maybe give an example of a time they’ve actually excelled in that particular area.”

For Lois, this is the most rewarding part, as it closes the loop on the involvement of the recruiters and the hiring managers.

“I love the fact that the clients are able to open up the Interview Guide and see a question about their business that is really specific to them, because they were involved in the process of creating the skills profile by highlighting the values, behaviours or capabilities they wanted us to assess.  

“It’s great to see the reaction of Hiring Managers and recruiters when they start to use the Digital Interview Guide and it is completely aligned with their values and the skills required for success in the company”.

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