Benchmarking Basics: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Jul 12

The State of Hiring

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the world in a few short months, and one aspect of daily life that has been hugely affected is the job market. Before the pandemic, there was a war for talent and an enormous human resource crisis. Businesses were competing for the consideration of quality candidates, and the U.S. was enjoying a historically low unemployment rate. All of that feels like a dream to workers in our current situation; unemployment is the highest it has been since the Great Depression in the U.S., and many businesses are struggling, period.

However, this means your business is in a unique position to find a perfect fit for your next open role. If your business is stable enough to consider hiring soon, you will now have access to a higher quality talent pool than ever before, as more professionals are on the market and looking for work. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to prepare. On the contrary, now is the time to polish up your hiring process and make sure it works well for your organization. Consider benchmarking! This process is an upfront investment that will save you money, resources and frustration in the long run. I had a conversation with Sarah Merkle, TTI SI’s VP of People, to answer all the questions you might have about benchmarking. Here’s how you can use it, why the process works so well, and what to do to move forward, right now.

What is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the process of creating the profile of the ideal candidate for a position, and then measuring all candidates against that profile. It’s most commonly used in the interview process, but can also be used to measure an employee in their current role.

How Do You Create and Use a Benchmark?

The ideal candidate means a lot of different things to different people. This diversity of thought is a good thing, until it becomes a hindrance to the hiring process. Get the multiple perspectives you need while saving time by putting together a team of Subject Matter Experts, or SMEs. While a panel of SMEs is not necessary, it is a best practice. It can include employees who previously held the role, the candidate’s future direct report, and/or their future co-workers.

“Working in a collaborative environment with multiple stakeholders gets you a variety of opinions and removes internal biases and personal agendas.”

The SMEs each build out the results of an assessment as if they were their ideal candidate. Then, an average is found from each of those ‘ideal’ profiles. This average is your benchmark! After the benchmark is created, introduce it several steps into your interview process, after the initial rounds of reviews. Most organizations only use a benchmark with their top 3-5 candidates. This way, the normal screening process isn’t disrupted; it just gives deeper insight into each candidate, and a professional way to measure that insight at the end of the process.

What Makes TTi SI and DG SI Different?

DG SI uses TTI SI's patented Benchmarking Process that leverages data to make the best decisions about candidates. In addition, as an outcome of the process, roles have concisely defined responsibilities. Our benchmarking process defines the role instead of the individual. “The beautiful thing about benchmarking is that it’s not focusing ultimately on qualifying or disqualifying a candidate,” said Merkle. “It’s about discovering what the business needs. It removes bias and relies on logic.”

Isn’t This a Biased Process?

If you’re not familiar with the concept, it might sound like benchmarking is a way to discriminate in the hiring process. It’s actually the opposite; benchmarking a job minimizes bias and provides a clear objective and collective voice to what behaviors, motivators and skills the job needs. “People have a tendency to like and relate to others similar to them,” explained Merkle, “But similarities might not be what the position needs. These benchmarks can be used for as much as 30% of the hiring decision, but the other 70% should be made based on resume, experience, skills, validation of those skills, and personal fit.”

Clear up any uncertainty by building a scoring method into the interview process. It can look like the following:

  • Resume: Determine the minimal qualifications for position

  • Interview: Hold several rounds of interviews on the phone, and one or two in-person as your company sees fit

  • Shared work: Analyze shared work from the candidates

  • This can be samples of writing, completion of a project, etc)

  • Benchmark: Measure top candidates against the benchmark and make a decision after final round of interviews

“Benchmarking is a tool to hone in on top candidates, not a blanket dismissal of talent.”

Something important to remember is that you don’t have to pick the candidate with the closer score to the benchmark! By using the process, you get to make a conscious decision about the individual you are choosing to join your organization. “Or