Reinventing recruitment: Pre-vetting for Precise Role Fit

Theo Dawson
6 min readMar 26, 2022

This article is about what happens when Lectica (the nonprofit that owns me) and DTS (the for-profit that funds Lectica) deliver job candidates who have been pre-vetted with an assessment of the fit between the complexity range of a targeted role and the complexity level of their thinking—in other words, when all candidates considered by an employer exhibit high Precise Role Fit.

Pre-vetting for Precise Role Fit requires putting an assessment of mental ability at the beginning of the hiring process rather than at the end. This is a major change that many recruitment personnel find uncomfortably disruptive. It’s not surprising. When humans are confronted with a shift of this magnitude, our first instinct is to defend current practices. After all, we’ve been getting along just fine by using mental ability tests near the end of the hiring process. Haven’t we?

Putting the cart before the horse

Well, I don’t think we’ve been getting along just fine. On the contrary, I think we place many people in roles that aren’t a good fit for their mental capabilities, while simultaneously eliminating many candidates whose mental capabilities are just right. Conventional recruitment processes often begin with ineffective or arbitrary practices that have little predictive power—for example, practices that eliminate applicants because they don’t use the “right” language in their resumes or because they seem uncomfortable in an interview. When we eliminate candidates with criteria that have little predictive power, we’re putting the cart before the horse.

Mental ability has so much predictive power that putting it anywhere other than the beginning of the recruitment process makes little sense. It wastes time and money during the hiring process and leads to sub-optimal hiring decisions that waste even more time and money. If we want to leverage the predictive power of mental ability, we need to put the horse before the cart. This means putting the best predictor first.

How prediction works

It’s a general rule that the best predictors of any outcome should be weighed more heavily than other predictors. In fact, they are almost always the first criteria you want to consider. Here’s an extreme and rather silly example: Your business owns the only wet-suit in existence and you need to hire a diver. You send out the job announcement, asking applicants to lay out their diving experience in detail. You then whittle down the candidates to the five most experienced and skilled divers. But during the final interviews, you discover that none of the divers currently fit into the wetsuit. In the end, despite the fact that she’s not your first choice, you hire the diver who almost fits into the wetsuit—on the condition that she loses 15 pounds during the first month of her employment. (I warned you that the example would be a bit silly.)

Clearly, in this scenario, the first thing the employer needed to know was whether or not potential divers could wear the wetsuit. It’s obviously a total waste of time & money to consider any candidates who don’t fit the wetsuit. By putting wetsuit fit first, we can be assured that every candidate to be considered will have met the most heavily weighed criterion, and it makes sense to proceed to the second most heavily weighed criterion—diving skills.

Here’s a more realistic example. Let’s say you’ve paid a recruiter thousands of dollars to bring in ten candidates for a role. You read the resumes, conduct long interviews, and whittle the total number of candidates down to three. You then order mental ability assessments for the final three. The scores come back and not one of the candidates in the final group has the mental ability scores required for the role. What do you do? Eat the expense and start the process again? Ignore the best predictor altogether and choose the candidate who made the best impression?

What experience tells us

We know how this goes because for many years Lectica allowed its assessments to be used in the conventional way—as one of the last steps in the recruitment process. The problem in the situation described above was not uncommon, and it wasn’t the only problem. Hiring managers often simply chose the candidate with the highest complexity score, regardless of qualifications or performance in other areas. Others ignored the complexity score and hired the candidate they liked best. Needless to say, this led to several failed hires.

One instance particularly stands out for me. A few years ago, one of Lectica’s certified consultants used a Lectical Assessment during the final step of a hiring process for a senior leader in a technology company. We’ll call the company T-Rex. All three final candidates took the assessment, but only one of them, Tig, exhibited good Precise Role Fit.

During the recruitment process, the hiring manager, Sheena, and her team had become fond of another candidate, Jay. Unfortunately, Jay’s Precise Role Fit score was quite low. The consultant warned Sheena that it would likely be several years before Jay would accumulate enough experience to build the skills required for the role, but Sheena and her team decided to hire Jay anyway, based on their personal judgment and instincts.

Within weeks it had become clear that Jay was unable to handle his new role. The company did everything it could to support Jay, including investing in additional training and coaching, but a year later, Jay’s performance had not improved. In fact, Jay, who knew he was underperforming, felt increasingly deflated and anxious. The stress was not only causing him to make poorer decisions at work. It was also contributing to problems at home. In the end, a new position was designed for Jay and the company began searching for his replacement.

The monetary cost in situations like this can be enormous, but it’s the harm done to Jay that bothers me the most. Jay is a bright, well intentioned, and industrious employee who spent more than a year feeling like a complete failure. He was lucky to be employed by a company that was willing to find a role that better suited him, but the damage done to his confidence and sense of wellbeing will take time and effort to heal.

Fortunately, when T-Rex did a second search for the senior role, the recruitment team agreed to putting the assessment of mental ability (A Complexity Level Assessment with Precise Role Fit) at the beginning of the process. This time, the only problem they had during the hiring process was choosing between the top two of the five vetted candidates they had ordered. Sheena’s and her teams’ judgment and instincts worked well when comparing the top two candidates with respect to role-related skills, team fit, and culture fit, and they continue to be delighted with the candidate who was hired.

Putting the horse before the cart

Conventional hiring processes put assessments of mental ability near the end of the process for a pretty compelling reason: Most decent mental ability assessments are expensive—usually several hundred dollars each. Pre-vetting candidates would mean conducting too many such assessments, making already costly recruitment processes outrageously expensive.

Lectica has solved this problem with a novel and rigorously researched assessment technology that makes it possible to conduct dozens—even thousands—of top-notch mental ability assessments at the very beginning of a recruitment process, then bill only for a predetermined number of candidates that exhibit the mental skills required to meet—and enjoy—the challenges of a particular role. In other words, all delivered candidates are comfortable wearing the wetsuit, so the employer can confidently shift focus to their diving skills and how well they’re likely to fit into the team and the organizational culture.

More on recruitment

This article focuses exclusively on one important aspect of Lectica’s approach to recruitment. If you’d like to go deeper, check out the following articles:

ViP info | ViP rationale



Theo Dawson

Award-winning educator, scholar, & consultant, Dr. Theo Dawson, discusses a wide range of topics related to learning and development.