3 Steps To Improve Your Language Assessment In Recruitment

Communication assessments in recruitment play a crucial role in helping recruiters hire the right talent for their organizations. With a proper assessment in place, it is easier to identify top communicators – the ones who are likely to establish a connection with customers fairly quickly and the ones who can perform even in the most complex accounts.

However, the realities of recruitment and training tell us otherwise.

Many candidates who pass intricate assessments and make it to training are oftentimes flagged as “untrainable”. And many more who make it to operations only end up frustrating customers. In the end, these employees are terminated while the more qualified ones are rejected . And the cycle repeats.

Definitely something is amiss.

One ought to wonder:  Despite the plethora of communication assessments out there, why do we still hire poor communicators and reject the good ones? In this blog post, I’d like to explain what you may be doing wrong and recommend steps you can take to reduce these risks.


Probe the right skills

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Many general or business English language assessments do not measure the skills required for the contact center industry. As a result, you may be missing out on very good agents, or conversely hiring the wrong people.

To avoid this common mistake, you need to make sure that  tests at recruitment are probing the specific skills required for success in customer interactions. These skills can include building rapport, providing clear instructions, and listening and accurately interpreting to arrive at a resolution.

Based on Future Perfect’s study on How to Recruit the Perfect Agent, the top performers are the ones who display high scores on Discourse and Interactive skills (BUPLAS framework). Discourse is the ability to give clear and logical explanations. Interactive skills is the ability to build rapport, manage emotions, and adapt to customer needs.

Test for Writing Skills

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While many call centers expect their agents to communicate with customers via email or chat, few actually test for writing skills. Not assessing these skills is a huge risk, because speaking and writing skills are not correlated.

In a study conducted by Future Perfect, from a sample of 100 agents taken across from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, we found out that only 40% of people, who were strong speakers were also strong writers.

Customers are far less forgiving of writing errors. It is important to ensure that the candidates who will eventually represent your company through written communication have the benchmark skills to perform according to these expectations.

Interview vs. Assessment

Most applicants prepare for generic interview questions, meaning they will often perform better than they would during spontaneous speech in a call with a customer. In addition, these questions do not probe the type of skills that customers expect – confidence in complex situations and the ability to explain things clearly and logically, as well as the ability to effectively manage emotions.


Prioritize Range over Accuracy

When holistically assessing language and communication, we know that in most cases it is more important to have a wide range of structures and vocabulary than to be 100% accurate with them all of the time. Having a range and interpersonal control of language can turn a robotic transaction into a positive, interpersonal experience.

When accuracy is prioritized at recruitment, the customer is driving the call, because the agent does not have the range or control of communicative strategies to be proactive or set expectations. When the recruiter selects agents who demonstrate range, the agent is able to set expectations and use interpersonal language to reassure and build a relationship.

Contextualize the Assessment

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It’s important to measure communication in a context, ideally one that is relevant to the role you are hiring for. This means that assessments that test language in isolation, for example rearranging a jumbled sentence into the correct order, are not assessing a candidate’s ability to actually use the language, but solely their knowledge of language.

Far better is to test language in a conversation, where the candidate can be stretched, and responses probed, allowing us to build a much clearer picture of their true communicative ability

Focus on Comprehensibility and Effectiveness

While it is useful to note systematic errors, and errors that impede comprehension, they are not the be-all and end-all of assessments. In fact, focusing too much on errors can lead to disastrous hiring results, because not only are you liable to penalize people who take more risks and speak more extensively, but you may miss other crucial aspects of communication, such as interpersonal skills.


Stretch Candidates’ Skills

Live assessors are not limited to canned questions. With the ability to choose questions most appropriate to each candidate’s skill level, recruiters can stretch candidates to their full potential, so that a valid assessment can be made of their capabilities.

Interpersonal Skills Can Only be Assessed by People

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For assessing speaking, live assessors are able to evaluate intercultural adaptability, by discussing complex and sensitive topics and seeing how candidates handle them. They would also be able to ask questions that require quick thinking to judge confidence and spontaneity.

For assessing writing, live readers can pick up on the candidate’s ability to identify implicit tasks in emails. Unlike text recognition systems, they would also be able to assess for coherence of explanations in email responses. Last, but not least, readers can see if all queries have been effectively and fully addressed, thus avoiding a follow-up.

Receive Actionable Insights

If you use live assessors who have a robust framework to assess candidates, they will be able to not only score the candidates, but also give diagnostic comments that can be used for individual development purposes in training and beyond.

Gain the Ability to Differentiate Candidates

Automated tests struggle to differentiate reliably above a weak CEF C1 level (BUPLAS 3.5), which is the typical entry level score for the contact center industry. This means that automated tests are unable to effectively distinguish between borderline and top quality applicants.


In summary, consider these three factors when you’re deciding if your assessment tools meet your needs. The changes are fairly simple, yet the costs of not making them can be high and have far reaching implications across your business.

For further reading, read How To Recruit the Perfect Agent White Paper.

To get a head start, sign up for a free evaluation.  With a free evaluation, a team of business and linguistic experts from Future Perfect will observe and evaluate your recruitment process, and give you a detailed report on what you can do to ensure that your recruitment process is following best practices in the industry.

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