Common sources of subjectivity in talent assessment of employees

Talent assessment of employees is a crucial process for evaluating their performance, potential, and fit within the organization. However, subjectivity can sometimes creep into the assessment process, leading to biased or less objective evaluations. Some common sources of subjectivity in talent assessment include:

1) Personal Biases

Personal bias is a common source of subjectivity in talent assessment. Assessors may have unconscious biases based on personal preferences, stereotypes, or prejudices that can influence their perception of an employee’s performance. These biases may relate to factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, or personality traits.

2) Halo/Horns Effect

The halo effect occurs when a single positive trait of an employee influences the assessor’s overall perception, leading to an inflated rating of the employee’s performance. Conversely, the horns effect is when a single negative trait dominates the assessment, resulting in a lower rating. These sources of subjectivity in talent assessment is referred to as fallacies in critical and creative thinking since they obscure a person’s ability to use reason in assessing employees’ abilities.

3) Leniency or Severity Bias

Some assessors may tend to be overly lenient or overly harsh in their evaluations consistently. This can lead to inflated or deflated ratings across the board, rather than providing accurate and fair assessments. Being lenient about employees’ standards is a detrimental source of subjectivity when assessing employees’ skills and abilities.

4) Recency Effect

The recency effect as a source of subjectivity in employees’ assessment affects recruiters’ judgement. Assessors might focus heavily on recent events or performance, overlooking long-term trends or accomplishments, which can distort the overall evaluation.

5) Central Tendency

Central tendency is a major source of subjectivity in talent assessment. Assessors may avoid using extreme ratings and instead opt for average or moderate scores for most employees, resulting in a lack of differentiation and meaningful assessment.

6) Similar-to-Me Bias

Subjectivity may occur during assessment due to employers’ tendency to choose people who share similar attitudes and values with them. Assessors may unconsciously favor employees who share similar backgrounds, experiences, or attitudes to their own, leading to a preference for those they perceive as more familiar.

7) Contrast Effect

The assessment of an employee may be influenced by the performance of other employees evaluated before or after them. If a strong performer is evaluated first, subsequent employees may be rated comparatively lower, even if their performance is objectively strong.

8) Stereotyping:

Stereotypes are common sources of bias and subjectivity everywhere. Assumptions based on stereotypes about certain roles, departments, or job positions can affect the evaluation of employees in those roles, regardless of their individual performance.

9) Single Source of Input

Relying solely on one assessor’s feedback can increase subjectivity during talent assessment exercise. Utilizing multiple sources, such as peers, subordinates, and self-assessments, can provide a more balanced and holistic view. One source provides only one way of looking at talents, ignoring other alternative measures or standards that could help in getting the right talent.

10) Lack of Clear Criteria

The last source of subjectivity in talent assessment is lack of a clear performance standard or criteria. When assessment criteria are vague or poorly defined, assessors may rely more on subjective judgments rather than objective data and metrics.


To minimize subjectivity in talent assessments, organizations can implement several measures, including:

  • Providing assessor training on bias awareness and conducting fair evaluations.
  • Using objective performance metrics and data wherever possible.
  • Standardizing the assessment process to ensure consistency across different assessors and evaluation periods.
  • Utilizing a combination of assessment methods, such as peer reviews, self-assessments, and 360-degree feedback, to gain a comprehensive perspective.
  • Implementing regular calibration sessions to align assessors’ evaluations and ensure fairness in ratings.
  • Encouraging ongoing feedback and communication between assessors and employees to clarify expectations and address any concerns.

By being aware of potential sources of subjectivity and taking proactive steps to address them, organizations can enhance the fairness and accuracy of talent assessments and support their employees’ development and growth.

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