In clinical research, we love to label potential candidates with traits like “organized” and “detail-oriented.” At sites, we have our wish lists of the educational background and experiences ideal employees should have to perform the job successfully. Beyond the educational and experience-based must-haves, what do we really know about the most sought-after behaviors that seem so crucial? What are we actually measuring these desirable traits against? With the wider availability of tools like behavioral assessments for further insight, sites are increasingly screening candidates prior to hiring. These assessments allow interviewers to understand a candidate beyond their resume and performance in a structured interview. 

What Are Behavioral Assessments?

Behavioral assessments are designed to act as “a systematic evaluation of candidate personality profiles used to gauge the viability of a candidate based on things like culture fit, work style and potential.1 Based on the responses, individuals will usually be categorized as a certain personality type or profile at the end of the evaluation. For example, perhaps your responses suggest a tendency to be more of an introverted contributor to a team, or maybe the assessment highlights an ability to work well under pressure. These tools are helping more employers find candidates with the traits, temperament and innate talent best suited to the jobs being filled. In addition, the latest technology lets companies customize the tools using predictive data about their own top performers. 

Why Are They Important? 

Research shows that placing an employee in a position that doesn’t fit their personality often leads to lower levels of engagement. Low employee engagement results in 21% lower productivity and about 45% higher turnover, not to mention the fact that replacing employees is expensive2. Consider the time and money that goes into interviewing a new hire, processing and training them, then having to repeat it all over again If a candidate doesn’t work out. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the cost of a bad hire is at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings; many other sources indicate that the cost is significantly higher3. In today’s metric-based work culture, employers are searching for a recruitment tool that gives them quantifiable measures on which to base decisions. 
To meet this need, pre-employment personality tests are now processed instantaneously online. Results are then verified and normed against thousands of other candidates, speeding up the hiring process and ensuring that the candidates who move forward are compatible with the company. There are even tests to see how employees will interact with managers and teams on an interpersonal level. These types of measurements are ideal for sites with high turnover and culture challenges or those that are willing to take a chance on someone who lacks experience but seems to have the right soft skills to be successful. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to rely on a “gut feeling” and have some actual data?

What Do They Tell Us?

After all, there are reasons for both employers and employees to make sure the right people are being hired for the right jobs. “According to Gallup research, an astounding 70% of U.S. employees are not showing up to work fully committed to deliver their best performance. Adding insult to injury, 52% of those workers are basically sleepwalking through their day, and 18% of them are busy acting out their unhappiness4.” Beyond lower employee satisfaction levels, these site culture and career mismatches negatively affect companies’ bottom lines, too. With a limited supply of an experienced workforce available, it is becoming increasingly crucial to make good hires.
The Joint Task Force for Clinical Trial Competency (JTFCTC), which is comprised of representatives from AMCs, sites, CROs, sponsors and professional societies, developed a list of core competencies and cognitive competencies for clinical research professionals (see figure below). It is difficult to generalize skills and qualities that are equally important across all organizations, jobs, and experience levels, but those who can master these competencies are positioned to succeed in the industry5. In partnership with the traits identified through behavioral assessments, these competencies outline the fundamental requirements to be successful in the position and in the field. Together, these measures help mitigate some of the risk in hiring and building successful teams. 
Behavioral assessments, also referred to as personality assessments, come in many shapes and sizes, but the goal is ultimately the same – to identify what drives potential employees in order to hire the right people for the right roles and maintain healthy working relationships.
Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall, 2019 edition of SCRS Insite: The Global Journal for Clinical Research Sites.

  1. Roberts, B. Make Better Hires with Behavioral Assessments. Accessed August 6, 2019 from:
  2. Feldman, J. Get to Know the 5 Most Popular Pre-Employment Personality Tests. Accessed August 6, 2019 from:
  3. Cardenas, R. What’s the Real Cost of a Bad Hire? Accessed August 6, 2019 from:
  4. Schwantes, M. Research: Why 70 Percent of Employees Aren’t Working to Their Full Potential Comes Down to 1 Simple Reason. Accessed August 6, 2019 from:
  5. Lopienski, K. 8 Must-Have Competencies for the Clinical Research Professional. Accessed August 6, 2019 from:

About the Author
Nicole Mills is Director of Clinical Research at Medix and currently works in our Scottsdale, Arizona office. Read more of here work here!