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The perfect blend

At Sova Assessment, we adopt an ‘ask less, learn more’ approach when building personalised assessments for our clients. Rather than inviting candidates to complete a series of long, separate and generic off-the-shelf assessments, we combine personality, ability, motivation and situational judgement questions into one highly condensed and personalised assessment. We call this ‘blended assessment’ and believe it offers organisations the opportunity to assess people in a more holistic and fair way.

In this blog post, we ask Dr. Alan Bourne, CEO and founder of Sova Assessment, some questions about blended assessment and what it means for organisations and candidates.

What is a blended assessment?

A blended assessment is one which has been personalised to an organisation and job family, combining different types of questions (situational, behavioural and cognitive) around the specific needs of the client.

Think of it like having a targeted playlist – focusing only on what is relevant for the situation and ensuring there is no non-essential content.

The net effect is an experience which feels far more relevant for the candidate, and can take half the time to complete when compared with traditional off-the-shelf methods.

What’s the problem with traditional assessment?

The analogue approach to assessment typically involves completing long and repetitive questionnaires or tests. This takes a lot of candidate time unnecessarily, especially when only some of the content is relevant to the job in question.

The traditional approach also means everyone is doing the same test regardless of the organisation, which can lead to over-exposure of the assessment. The process can also feel quite ‘detached’ as it lacks any personalisation to the hiring organisation or its roles.

Finally, many cognitive tests (such as verbal or numerical reasoning) bring with them adverse impact which negatively affects diversity and social mobility. While the research shows that these tests can predict some elements of performance, the problem is they are prone to adverse impact: female candidates, individuals from minority backgrounds and those older in age are less likely to score highly.

What are the benefits of a blended approach to assessment?

If designed and implemented in a scientific way, there are several key business and practical benefits to using a blended approach. These include more accurate prediction and selection of high performers, balanced diversity and social mobility, improved applicant-to-hire ratios, cost savings in the recruitment funnel, higher completion rates and reduced time-to-hire.

Tracking and evaluating the impact of an assessment is a core part of our approach, and we’re delighted that clients are seeing tangible outcomes following the implementation of a blended assessment:

  • Santander have seen a reduction in the time it takes candidates to complete the assessment stage of their selection process, from 11 days to 1.5 days for customer service agents. They’ve also seen the completion rate increase from 41% to 69%. And most compelling of all, the assessment is identifying high performers with 84-90% accuracy.
  • Zurich have seen a 40% reduction in spend on assessment centres and a 50/50 gender balance throughout their graduate assessment process.
  • RSA Group have improved their applicant-to-hire ratio from 3:1 to 2:1, reduced the number of required assessment centres by one third, and identified strong candidates with 70% accuracy.

How are blended assessments being used by organisations?

Blended assessments are particularly suitable for two scenarios: firstly, volume hiring where there are significant numbers of people in the same job family and/or high volumes of applications, and secondly, where there is a shared model such as organisational values or competencies which are being applied across a wide range of roles.

A good example is the John Lewis Partnership who wanted a robust, consistent and engaging way to screen the 400,000 Partner applications they receive every year. We designed an online, personalised, video-based, branching questionnaire, which measures the desired values and behaviours of future Partners. The whole assessment experience feels like it’s part of the John Lewis Partnership recruitment experience, and gives every applicant feedback so that they learn something from the process, irrespective of whether they were successful or not.

So, if enhancing the candidate experience, making the best hires and/or delivering social mobility are key drivers for an organisation, then blended assessment is likely to offer significant benefits over traditional assessment methods.

How is technology driving innovation in blended assessment?

Advances in technology mean that we’re able to design and deliver assessments in ways we could never do before.

The growing sophistication and use of smartphones means that more people are using their phone to apply for jobs. But completing an assessment on a mobile hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do – one of the reasons for this is that many test providers simply took their legacy paper assessments and optimised them for desktop computers only. But, designing an assessment process to work well on a mobile requires careful consideration to ensure it is fully accessible and fair.

We’re also seeing greater use of rich media and video to really bring assessment scenarios to life for candidates. For the John Lewis Partnership, we filmed scenarios in John Lewis retail stores, their warehouse and head office and in a Waitrose supermarket. This makes it much more welcoming and engaging for applicants.

One of the other innovations we’ve been able to introduce is ‘branching’ technology for assessments such as a situational judgement test. Here a candidate is shown a scenario and based on their response, the next scenario will change. Just like in real life, there is a consequence to an action and the story develops in real time as a result.

If you would like to find out more about blended assessment, please contact us at

Changing assessment for good
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