Flunking the Test: Demystifying Pre-Employment Testing

Sep 5, 2013

The sad truth is, in the pursuit of money, needing a job and fear of failure, people create false resumes and falsify information when they go to an interview. To help ensure candidates are who they say they are, many companies do pre-employment testing before even doing an interview, let alone making an offer.

Questions to consider when choosing a testing or assessment program include:

  • Why should we do pre-employment testing in the first place?
  • What type of testing/assessments should we administer?
  • How do you address testing with our candidates?

Let’s take a look at these.

Why should we do pre-employment testing in the first place?

The point of testing is to make sure that you hire the best possible applicants. In general, if the benefits from the information gathered from the interview process outweigh the cost.

  • We have high turnover: Testing can help prevent some hiring mistakes. In the article “Pre Employment Test Myths”, “The costs associated with a bad hire that leads to turnover are significant. When you factor in additional recruitment costs, training costs, management costs, low productivity, and poor morale, most HR professionals would agree that these costs would run at least twice that person’s yearly salary.”
  • We can’t make a decision: Do you have enough applicants to justify a test to choose the best one? If you have 100 applicants, testing could be helpful in narrowing the field.
  • We have to by law: Certain industries like childcare, cosmetologists, public workers education, healthcare, etc. require testing in order to operate.

What Type of Testing Should We Administer?

While the laws detailing what types of testing should be administered, common pre-employment testing and assessments include:

  • Cognitive
  • Physical ability
  • Sample job tasks
  • Medical inquiries and physical examinations, including psychological tests, assess physical or mental health
  • Personality and integrity tests
  • Criminal background
  • Credit checks
  • Performance appraisals English proficiency tests determine English fluency.

But remember to put the human in human resources. Starting or changing jobs is ranked in the top 40 of life’s most stressful events (Spurgeon, Jackson & Beach, 2001), and the process of getting the right job can be very stressful.

Ensuring that candidates have a positive experience when completing assessments is not only an ethical issue; it can influence individuals’ perceptions of your organization and the job.

Studies have shown that perceptions of fairness influence attractiveness of the position and intention to accept the job offer. What can we do to ensure candidates not only actually go through a fair recruitment process, but they feel that they have been through a fair process too?

Here are five tips for how you can increase candidate perceptions of justice and fairness in the selection process:

  1. Selection procedures that are related to the job — candidates want to be assessed on criteria related to the job they will be performing. An easy way to ensure this is to provide accurate information about what they can expect during the recruitment process
  2. Opportunity to perform — candidates want to be able to display their skills, knowledge, and abilities to their employer. If candidates feel that they are assessed on irrelevant criteria they feel they have missed the opportunity to show what they can really do.
  3. Consistency of administration — similar to employers, candidates want a level playing field to ensure fairness. Assessments are one way to ensure this, as all candidates for a position are assessed using a standard, non-discriminatory test. This level playing field can be contrasted to a recruitment process based solely on interviews, which are subjective and leave the candidates wondering whether the process was consistent.
  4. Honest, timely, and informative feedback — feedback is important in making the candidate’s experience positive and helps candidates feel like recruitment is a two way process. Provide assessment feedback to candidates in addition to whether or not they got the job. Providing timely feedback or an accurate estimate of when a candidate can expect to hear about the progression of their application is a low-cost but effective way to create a perception of fairness and provide a positive candidate experience

Not only should you choose a fair selection process, but it pays to take this a step further by conveying this to the candidates to ensure your future employees have a great start in your business.

You could be interviewing your future boss, reference, or client when you go through any part of the interview process. Dr. Charles Handler put it best when he wrote:

“If companies are actually serious about treating candidates as customers, they need to give serious consideration to extending the following rights to their job applicants.”  —A Pre-Employment Assessment Candidate Bill of Rights.”

Right #1: Candidates have the right to a proper introduction to the assessment and why they are being asked to take it.

Right #2: Candidates have the right to an assessment experience that is of a reasonable length.

Right #3: Candidates have the right to know where the assessment fits within the overall hiring process, and what they can expect next.

Right #4: Candidates have the right to a good user experience.

Right #5: Candidates have the right to technical support, no matter when they are applying.

Right #6: Candidates have the right to assessment content that appears job related.

Right #7: Candidates have the right to an enjoyable assessment experience.

Right #8: Candidates have the right to know what to expect in terms of feedback from the assessment

It is not enough to rely in “gut instinct” or hire people you simply click with. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you don’t want to be so dependent on tests that you scare away the candidate. If you want to recruit hire and retain the right people every time, decide on the necessary job skills and educational level. Outline the soft skills and traits would boost employee performance. Once you know what you want, implement consistent, telling, and fair pre-employment testing to make smarter employment hiring decisions.

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