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Resources: Pre-Employment Testing • The Complete Guide (2019)

This informative guide will present you with everything you need to know about pre-employment testing.

Throughout the article, we will highlight the best practices for using these assessments, detail how to understand the different types of tests available for use in the hiring process and provide other helpful tips for incorporating this method of assessment easily into your own hiring practices.

In short: if you’re looking to improve your hiring process though the use of pre-employment assessments, this guide is for you.

The Complete Guide To Pre-Employment Testing

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What is Pre-Employment Testing?

Pre-employment tests are a set of assessments that aim to measure a person’s behavior, personality, reasoning, competence, integrity, skills and cognitive ability. Measure these things in candidates can help with identifying the behaviors and natural inclinations of candidates that are linked to job satisfaction, retention, and engagement over long periods of time. Knowing this and other information measured with traditional assessment tools before hiring a candidate is helpful in making significantly more effective hiring decisions.

Why do we use Pre-employment Testing?

The simple answer: Pre-employment tests can help an employer gain valuable insight on a client that cannot be obtained through resumes or interviews.

Every business wants to find the right employees - the people who will fit in, become top performers, and contribute to the company’s success. There are several figures regarding the costs of a bad hire. Some claim that bad hires cost businesses from 1 to 5 times the annual salary of that person and still, others claim turnover is as expensive as 150% of an employee’s salary.

The argument for using multi-measure pre-employment testing is designed to prevent these expenses by preventing turnover, and ultimately, by preventing poor hiring decisions in the first place. According to a study by Aberdeen, companies that use pre-employment testing have reported a 39% lower turnover rate.

The practice of administering personality tests to potential hires in order to achieve this goal continues to rise in popularity. It is estimated that 82% of employers use pre-employment testing to assess their candidates in the hiring process, measuring critical candidate skills like competence, attitude, aptitude, and personality.

The purpose of using pre-employment tests is multifaceted; throughout history, using assessment methods in science and psychology have traditionally been accepted as an established way to effectively measure a specific topic or relationship from which we have formed a hypothesis.

Using pre-employment testing in the screening and hiring process aims to do much of the same thing. Aside from screening resumes and interviewing candidates, we really know very little about a person, their experience, or how their talents translate to success on the job and how that might look in our business. Measuring skills, personality traits, and level of competence through the lens of pre-employment testing is, therefore, one of the most objective and unbiased methods for gaining insight into a candidate’s potential and likelihood for success on the job.

Businesses who use pre-hire testing in their screening process have a better chance of selecting employees who will fit with their company culture, are a great behavioral and personality fit, who are capable, have the necessary skills, will stay engaged over time and ultimately experience greater success on the job. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

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Types of Assessments

There are several types of pre-employment screening tests on the market that assess for nearly everything possible. As mentioned, when selecting your assessments, it’s important to consider the role and ensure that the testing you choose is strategically matched to that role so you avoid any discriminatory practices.

The following pre-employment assessments are the most common types used for pre-employment screening:

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How Pre Employment Testing Benefits Your Talent Acquisition Efforts

The benefits of using pre-employment tests as part of a solid talent acquisition strategy are endless. From saving money and time to streamlining the screening process, using pre-employment testing to measure skills, competence and personality can help address and improve a host of business challenges.

The following are just a handful of challenges testing addresses in your talent acquisition process:

1. Talent Management and Labor Market Challenges

With the effects of economic recovery from the recession of 2008 still being felt across human resource teams, HR leaders have been challenged with labor shortage challenges and a candidate skills gap.  Research from the Korn Ferry Institute suggests that nearly 60% of employers struggle to fill jobs within 3 months and confirm these skills gap challenges will only continue growing. This has led hiring managers to place increasing pressure on their HR executives to fill positions faster and with more dynamic talent.

To address this, HR leaders are increasingly turning to tools like pre-employment assessments that might help them screen a higher volume of candidates faster and more thoroughly, earlier in the talent management process, as these assessments have been shown to better identify candidates who have the core abilities and behaviors that allow them to excel on the job.

2. Creating a Positive Candidate Experience in the Interview Process

Measuring candidate traits as part of the selection process contributes to a positive candidate experience by helping to make sure the candidate ends up in a career where they are most likely to be successful. There is no sense in filling a role with a candidate whose personality and preferences are ill-aligned with the activities of the role. Measuring these traits during the interview process can help both the candidate and company understand where they might be the best fit, or not.

Communication is one of the most important components to be mindful of in the talent acquisition process. Be sure to communicate your purpose and intent to use assessments in your interview process. You might explain to candidates that these tools help you make better hiring decisions by ensuring the candidate is a good fit, which will, therefore, increase their chances of personal and professional success, job enjoyment and overall satisfaction with work.

One research study found that, after a 3 year check-in, employees who have a positive candidate experience and onboarding process are 69% more likely to stick with your company. Helping candidates see how pre-employment assessment tests are used not only as a screening tool, but also as a way to help provide a sense of clarity that benefits both them and you, allows for transparency, respect, and a level of communication that many candidates appreciate during this phase in the interview process.

3. Accelerate the Hiring Process by Up to 7 Days With the Use of Pre-Employment Tests

Using pre-employment testing early in the hiring process helps candidates and employers identify sooner whether they are a likely fit for the job or not. If you have several candidates applying for a job, it can become a daunting and overwhelming task to review and screen all of them in a timely manner. Having a screening tool like an assessment that you can use to verify certain skills and abilities can help you narrow down your candidate pool more quickly and efficiently.

Similarly, being able to confirm whether candidates are a fit sooner frees up your other employees who may be filling in for the vacancy, and reduces any lost productivity for the business as a whole. Every day your business has an unfilled position or an underperforming employee filling a key role is a loss of new sales opportunities, reduced capacity to produce or deliver your products and services, and increased cost to support your clients.

Another key point to consider in wanting to execute a speedy hiring process is to avoid candidate drop-off. In a tight labor market, good candidates are hard to come by. Inc. claims that the best candidates are off the market within 10 days anyway, so having a long and drawn out hiring process only increases the chances of them dropping out or getting poached by another company. The quicker you move, the better your chances are of hiring a really great candidate.

Mismanaging any of these factors can result in both reduced profitability and overall business growth.

4. Improve Poor Hiring Practices with Pre-Employment Tests

Hiring a candidate who is not a fit for your role, for reasons of work style, personality, or competency, increases the likelihood of them quitting prematurely or you having to terminate them for lack of performance. Pre-employment testing used to screen out candidates who won’t be successful in the role or who are not up to par with your requirements will save you the trouble, time and cost of making a poor hiring decision. The less time and financial investment you put forth for the wrong candidates frees you up to focus on those candidates who do meet your standards and have the necessary skills and motivation that will drive business growth.

Implementing a system of assessment for your talent acquisition process sets your business up to address previous poor hiring practices and sets your business up for success with more deliberate and better structured future hiring objectives.

5. A Way to Improve Interview Skills for Emerging Leaders

Because pre-employment testing provides an in-depth and comprehensive look into a candidate’s skills and personality style, interviewers can better understand and hone in on areas a candidate scored particularly well or poorly during initial interviews.

This insight will help interviewers identify the most important components of their position and how they pose their questions to get the most out of each interview with candidates. Focusing in on these interest areas helps interviewers further develop their process for interviewing.

Understanding the nuances of the candidate’s test results will help interviewers analyze and evaluate the most important components of their position and what makes someone successful in the role in order to better evaluate candidates against the position.

Further, using this data allows interviewers to develop and pose questions that elicit significantly more insightful information from candidates. This process of refining questions and digging into candidate results helps managers develop their interview skills and get the most out of each interview with candidates.

6. Serves as a Guide for Employee Development

Researchers have found that pre-employment assessments can predict a candidate’s future  performance at work. Employees who have desirable personality traits, including strong levels of motivation, empathy, and self-confidence have been shown to perform better in the workplace when compared to those who don’t.

These qualities are essential in employees who will be able to stay on task, present a positive attitude towards their jobs, and perform effectively.

During the onboarding phase, HR leaders can use the information gleaned from pre-employment testing to target these areas where an employee might need improvement. Now, in addition to being a tool used to help assess for hiring, an employee’s test results can also serve as a starting point for improving their performance and creating SMART goals to increase productivity over the duration of their career. Because assessments highlight current level of ability with skill and competency testing, employers and employees have a unique opportunity to review these areas for underdeveloped skills and use this information to create performance management plans for employee development and improvement.


Predicting Candidate Outcomes with Pre-Employment Testing

Pre-Employment Testing Predicts Employee Engagement

Utilizing employment testing in your hiring process helps contribute to overall employee engagement by ensuring the job is a good fit for the candidate in terms of personality, behavior preferences, and work style, before hiring. Nobody wants to be in a job they don’t like, aren’t good at, or can’t be successful in. In this way, pre-employment tests help candidates uncover the likelihood of whether a job will be a great fit for them by measuring key traits of a candidate and matching them to the activities of the job in order to estimate the level of long-term job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Pre Employment Testing Predicts Employee Retention Rate

Just as is the case with employee engagement, using pre-employment assessments helps improve an employer’s retention rate. By assessing candidates in the screening process for skills and characteristics that are tied to their success on the job, their ability to retain employees and reduce their company turnover increases.

The predictability of assessments in measuring candidate personality and aptitude, for example, lend insight that an employer can use in placing the candidate in the best position for their type and interests. Going through the process of hiring and onboarding only to result in quick turnover has huge hidden costs to businesses. Hiring and onboarding talent often takes a substantial amount of time and the time dedicated to this process is extremely costly, especially when a hire doesn’t work out.

Using Pre-Employment Screening to Gain Insights About Candidate Skills

Identifying qualified talent can be tricky in this tight labor market. With highly specialized skills required for many jobs, it’s even harder to find qualified candidates. And how are we supposed to know whether a candidate who applies for our position truly has the working knowledge to execute the tasks required of them on the job?

Using skill tests in the screening process, either before interviewing a candidate or during another phase in the hiring process to identify specialized job skills can make the candidate evaluation process faster and more meaningful for all involved.

Using personality tests or aptitude tests to identify core behaviors and natural inclinations that may indicate success on the job is one way to narrow down your candidate pool to distinguish the top performers from those who are not.

Likewise, using tools like an ability test to measure logical reasoning, cognitive ability and interpersonal skills and strengths related to job skills is also a great way to identify high potential talent for development when specific trained skills are still underdeveloped.


How Validity Affects the Predictive Quality of Assessments

Assessment validity is essential to any pre-employment testing program because it assures three things that should be present with any assessment being used to aid in making hiring decisions. They are:

  1. The test is actually measuring something.
  2. The test is specifically measuring what you want to measure.
  3. What the test is measuring can predict an outcome.

To provide a quantifiable way of verifying that an assessment possesses validity, formal processes have been developed by researchers over the years. The following are different types of validity used to determine the efficacy of pre-employment tests as they relate to our testing:

Content Validity

An assessment has content validity when the questions being asked can be reasonably associated with the measurements they are intended to measure. For example, every question that relates to the trait of “Patience” should be asking the test taker about their preferences with being patient.

Construct Validity

An assessment has construct validity when the traits it purports to measure are actually being measured. For example, if a test taker scores 100 on an “assertive” trait, then they should, in reality, be a very assertive person.

Criterion Validity

An assessment has criterion validity when its results can be strongly associated with an outcome. For example,when testing for a sales role, we find that a test taker’s level of extroversion is a good predictor of whether or not they will be a good salesperson.

When a test meets all of the above checks for reliability and validity, we can say with confidence that the assessment is predictive in what it measures. So, if you want to identify certain traits and characteristics of a candidate for the sake of making a good hiring decision, choose an assessment with strong validity.

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Choosing the Right Assessments When Hiring

Choosing the right pre-employment assessments for your business will ultimately depend on the type of roles you are looking to fill and what you are looking to measure in your potential candidates. Before selecting your pre-hire assessments, it’s necessary to take an inventory of several items.

Thoroughly evaluate the role, including the most important aspects of the position, what the necessary skills and experiences are, and lastly, what attributes make someone successful in this role? You can determine this by looking at others who are doing well in the position, or previous employees who’ve been successful. What did they have that made them succeed?

Evaluate the role

Next, you need to take an inventory of your perfect candidate. We call this process building the candidate profile. It’s where you imagine your perfect candidate. What kind of skills and abilities do they have? What previous work or other experience do they have? Are they trained or educated in a specific discipline that applies to this role? Further, what’s their personality style or work style like? Do they prefer to be around people or are they better suited to work alone with data and numbers? Evaluating these things and how they apply to your role is a critical step in ensuring you select the most appropriate screening services for your company.

Evaluate Candidate Traits

Lastly, you must take an in-depth look at how your candidate’s performance will be measured. This is where you combine the two steps above by evaluating what the metrics of the role are. What are the necessary achievements that must be implemented for this position? How do you evaluate whether someone is meeting these objectives and if not, do you have a performance plan in place to hold someone accountable?

How will performance be measured?

Considering all of the information outlined above, you should have a pretty good starting point from which to begin evaluating what kind of assessments are the right fit for your organization and position. As a general rule, you should always be sure to select testing that relates specifically to what’s needed on the job, as this checks the box ensuring compliance with EEOC and ADA standards.

Here are some characteristics to consider when looking at testing companies and determining what assessments to choose:

The Reliability and Validity of the Program

Make sure that your testing measures what it claims to. This ensures that when you test your candidates and their results show that they’d be a good fit for a sales position, they actually display a desire to perform the activities characteristic of a sales position.

How Well Do They Match What You Want to Measure?

If you’re looking for a test to measure candidate skills and personality fit for your role, giving candidates a mechanical aptitude test probably isn’t going to yield the types of results you’re looking for. Make sure that your selected testing program matches up with exactly the things you want to know about your candidates. Ultimately, these should match the job and help you understand how the candidate may perform on the job.

Features and Benefits Offered from the Testing Company

In addition to choosing a reliable and valid assessment that matches well with your position, selecting a company that stands behind their product and supports your use of the system is a must.


Choose a company that will support your use of their assessments. This means they’ll spend time with you while you learn how to interpret the assessment results. You’re brand new to this process; they’re experts. Assessments are powerful tools that yield powerful results when used correctly. Be sure you understand how to use them and interpret them effectively to make the best, most informed hiring decisions.

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About The Hire Talent and Our Research

We’ve been assessing the likelihood of success and potential in candidates through the implementation of hiring best practices and, ultimately, our predictive pre-employment assessment tools for the last three decades. Backed by hundreds of thousands of interviews with candidates, tireless efforts to analyze, classify, and evaluate the feedback we’ve been provided by our clients, and a sheer tenacity to be the best provider of pre-hire assessment tools, we have established ourselves as one of the leading providers of talent assessment testing available on the market today.

Legal Considerations For Pre-Employment Testing

In the age of litigation, we want to ensure that the pre-employment testing and screening methods we use and recommend are legal and compliant. In general, pre-employment testing is legal as long as it doesn’t discriminate against any group in terms of age, gender, race, religion, national origin, or disability. Along those same lines, assessment testing should apply and be relevant to the job applied for. It should not be used to exclude anyone and be consistent in the way that it is administered.

Following these steps will ensure that when using pre-employment testing for screening candidates in the hiring process, you are remaining compliant and fair, and are following best practices for staying legally compliant.

Interested in learning more about pre-employment assessment tools and how they might fit into your hiring and recruiting process? Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you have about improving your hiring process, reducing turnover, or increasing employee engagement.

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