Pre-employment tests: Everything you need to know
May 31, 2023
With a huge influx of applicants in recent years owing to ease of applying, post-application screening can have a dramatic impact on a company’s overall recruitment strategy.
Hiring managers who utilize pre-employment assessment tests report 36% more satisfaction with their final decision than those who don’t.
Companies that make a strategic investment in recruitment tools, assessments, and tactics can expand their reach locally and globally, improve the candidate experience, strengthen their talent brand, and improve the overall quality of hires. Using the wrong test can hurt candidate experience and in the long term, the talent brand. A well thought out pre-employment test can help companies save time and money by helping gather useful insights about the candidate pool.
With an increased focus on making the hiring process data-driven, recruiters and employers ask potential candidates to take pre-employment assessment tests as part of the interview process to identify candidates who have the highest potential and filter out those who are not qualified for the role.
Pre-employment tests are used for pre-screening job applicants for employment and can include testing of technical skills, cognitive abilities, specific knowledge, physical and motor abilities, personality, emotional intelligence, language proficiency, and even integrity.
As skills become more technical and roles become more specialised, it is no longer sufficient for employers to rely on resumes, cover letters, and interviews to make an informed decision on who is the right candidate to hire.
Studies have shown that multi-measure tests have proven to be most directly correlated with positive job performance.
Some researchers argue that these tests are perhaps even more effective than in-person interviews. Other assessments that have proven to be beneficial include cognitive tests, integrity tests, and reference checks. Although there have been fluctuations in the type of assessments used by employers over the years, measuring job-specific skills is still No. 1.
Here are the main types of pre-employment assessment tests that companies use:
A coding test is used to evaluate a candidate's ability to write code. It is usually done as part of the interview process for programming jobs.
Coding tests can vary in difficulty, but they typically involve solving a problem by writing code in a programming language. The code may need to meet certain criteria, such as being able to compile without errors, or run without errors on a given input.
Pre-employment aptitude tests assess abilities involved in thinking (e.g., reasoning, perception, memory, verbal and mathematical ability, and problem-solving). Such tests pose questions designed to estimate applicants' potential to use mental processes to solve work-related problems or to acquire new job knowledge.
A psychometric test is an assessment used to measure an individual's cognitive abilities and personality traits. The tests are usually administered by psychologists and help to provide insights into an individual's mental abilities and potential.
They can be used to assess an individual's ability to perform certain tasks, to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to select individuals for specific roles.
Personality tests are designed to systematically elicit information about a person's motivations, preferences, interests, emotional make-up, and style of interacting with people and situations.
Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) refers to one’s ability to recognize and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. Pre-employment emotional intelligence tests help employers identify which candidates have better relationship management skills and who can be aware of and in control of their emotions.
The language proficiency test is an evaluation of how well a person can use language to communicate in real life.
An integrity test is a specific type of personality test designed to assess an applicant's tendency to be honest, trustworthy, and dependable.
A lack of integrity is associated with such counterproductive behaviors as theft, violence, sabotage, disciplinary problems, and absenteeism.
The usage of pre-employment testing has grown dramatically in the last few years. With candidate pools getting bigger due to the ease of applying online leading to more resume-spam, hiring managers and recruiters are starting to rely more on data-driven talent acquisition practices that streamline the hiring process.
The hiring process is just one big test to find out who the most suitable person is for the role is, and pre-employment screening tests play a major role.
Pre-employment assessment tests help companies filter out unqualified candidates early on in the process to make sure they're investing time and money only to engage and interview qualified candidates with the validated ability to do the job.
It is widely known that bad hiring decisions are the most expensive mistake you can make. According to a CareerBuilder study:
It is clear that the cost of a bad hire is huge, and so are the implications. Making a bad hire not only costs companies a lot of money but can also have a significant negative impact on team productivity and morale.
According to a study:
To avoid the risks associated, companies need to find a way to measure a candidate's suitability for the role accurately for the hundreds (or thousands) of candidates who apply for every role. Pre-employment screening assessments are a scalable and evidence-based way to help you find the most qualified candidates and avoid a bad hiring decision.
Pre-employment screening is used at the beginning of the hiring process to assess applicants’ skills, knowledge, and general suitability for the role.
By definition, tests are objective. Properly developed and well-validated tests are a reliable and objective means of gathering job-related information on candidates. For example, interviewers sometimes judge candidates subconsciously based on demographic or background factors that aren’t essential to the job. Studies have shown that many employers end up dismissing qualified candidates because they went to a certain school, dressed a particular way, or simply gave off “bad vibes.” Also, sometimes interviewers push forward less-than-qualified individuals because they have something in common.
Pre-employment assessment tests offer the most time-saving value when administered at the top of the hiring funnel. By requiring that applicants take the tests early on, companies can weed out a lot of the "resume spammers" who send out their resumes with minimal thought or effort.
Pre-employment tests attach a score to each candidate making it easy to compare candidates with each other and against the benchmark for that role.
With 250+ candidates applying for each role, companies often need to screen candidates out based on a quick look on the resume and picking candidates with a high pedigree. Using a test filter at the top allows companies to widen the net, and still be able to identify the top candidates accurately.
Tests can be very useful when hiring for new skills. When no one on the team has the skill they are hiring for, tests can provide a reliable way to test for technical skills.
Here are some of the top concerns employers have when considering online pre-employment screening for employment in their organization.
A test is usually designed to test a specific trait/ skill or a handful of them. Since it would be impossible to encompass everything about a candidate in a score, a test reflects only one or a few facets. E.g. a coding test is good for testing domain-specific knowledge but might not take into account a candidate's willingness to learn.
E.g. a coding test isn't going (and isn't designed) to take into account a candidate's willingness to learn, but it will help understand which candidates aren't even remotely qualified for the job without spending expensive engineering time.
Many employers believe that the results from remotely administered tests are not very reliable since candidates can cheat on these tests. The question that employers often raise is, “How can I trust test results from remote tests when I can’t verify the identity of the applicant?”
Advanced proctoring features make it harder for candidates to cheat on tests:
The best assessment tools on the market come with advanced proctoring/ anti-cheating features so you don't have to worry about candidates cheating.
Tests can intimidate candidates, and if a company uses a test that takes over an hour to complete, a lot of candidates might drop out.
That being said, you can ensure high test taking rates with short tests. Candidates are open to ~40-minute assessments as long the purpose and timelines are clearly communicated, they are confident that their scores and reports are not going to end up in a black hole, and recruitment teams are actively following up (can be easily automated).
As the market becomes more candidate-driven and more companies are looking to make their hiring processes more candidate-friendly, assessment tools have worked to create more applicant-friendly tests. Top vendors understand the importance of advancing desirable candidates quickly through the hiring funnel while preserving the validity and reliability of their tests.
Many companies continue to have high candidate drop-out rates during their hiring processes, and pre-hire assessments can add to the problem if the screening process is not candidate friendly.
While the screening process is about getting more insights into the candidate's skill set, it is also an opportunity to tell them more about the company, role, and work culture. Setting up a candidate friendly assessment leads to happy candidates.
Choosing the right assessment tool is one of the most critical parts of setting up a successful screening strategy. With 100+ assessment tools on the market, this is not an easy task. Inappropriate test selection can result in ineffective selection.
Here are the top things to keep in mind while selecting a pre-employment assessment vendor:
The most important factor to consider when choosing a vendor is the quality and relevance of questions.
Validity is arguably the most important criterion for the quality of a test. The term validity refers to whether or not the test measures what it claims to measure. Make sure that the hiring managers agree that the questions asked are highly relevant to the role.
With so many feature-packed assessment tools out there, it can be difficult to find one with an easy onboarding and straight forward user experience to convince the recruitment team to use it.
Key questions to ask:
The skills covered by the assessment vendor is an important factor for selection. E.g. if you hire a lot of developers, you need an assessment tool that provides programming tests too. Even within programming tests, make sure that the assessment vendor has the ability to test for not just the programming languages, but also the frameworks your tech team uses.
While you want to look at the logos the assessment vendor boasts of on their website, you also want to spend time looking at the feedback of candidates who have given assessments on a particular tool. Since your candidates are going to associate the test-taking experience with your company, the candidate experience of the tool affects your talent brand over the long term.
Key questions to ask:
You want to make sure that the tool you're considering has all latest proctoring features: web proctoring, webcam proctoring, IP proctoring, secure browser and questions leak check so that you can be assured that the candidate's scores are reflective of their ability to do the job, and not their ability to use unfair means.
The top anti-cheating features include:
While it is not impossible to cheat, we've seen that in practice less than 2% of candidates cheat, and these candidates are really easy to spot in in-person interviews. Even if a candidate manages to pass through a screening assessment, having a multi-hurdle selection process in place can prevent them from being hired into your organization.
Every role is unique, and the assessment should be reflective of that. Using an off-the-shelf test that can be used across companies and seniority levels can affect the results of your screening process.
Key questions to ask:
Depending on the size of your company, you might want a tool that is fully secure and compliant with GDPR, EEOC, and ATP guidelines.
Key questions to ask:
Integrating your ATS with your assessment tool can make it easy to streamline your recruitment workflow and make it significantly easier for your recruiters to stay on top of the candidate pipeline.
Key questions to ask:
Candidates associate the test-taking experience with your talent brand. You can use this opportunity to create a delightful experience while making sure that it stands out in the candidate's memory. For staffing companies, it might also be interesting to white-label a friendly candidate assessment tool to create a strong brand.
By using pre-employment testing software that has customization features enables you to create a friendly assessment experience that is consistent with your brand and website. You can also use the opportunity to give the candidates a feel for your work culture by adding photos and videos, making it a more interactive experience.
Here are some tips to help ensure pre-employment testing delivers the desired business outcomes:
Administered correctly, pre-employment testing can help companies save a lot of time and cost in the screening process and avoid bad hiring decisions.
Deepti is a co-founder at Adaface. Her online persona is extroverted, but in real life she is terribly introverted and you can startle her just by calling out her name.
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