Pre-employment testing makes the hiring process faster and more precise. By removing candidates who don’t show needed skills or personality types from the pool, you will reduce the strain on your HR department. The remaining applicants will be of a high caliber, improving the quality of the candidates your company hires.

What Is Pre-Employment Testing?

Pre-employment examinations include a variety of screening tools used to find the best people for a specific job. The most commonly used screenings are background checks to see if an applicant has a criminal past, but employers have other options to choose from including credit checks, medical exams, personality exams, strength tests, and cognitive or skills assessments. Employers frequently administer skills assessments and strength tests using a computer to record and score the answers.

Personality tests look for a variety of traits such as honesty, dependability, conscientiousness and openness. These tests attempt to predict whether an employee has the necessary temperament for a position in addition to if they might engage in theft or absenteeism.

Skills tests give applicants the chance to prove their ability to do the tasks a job may require. For example, someone who has to create transcripts may take a typing test to verify typing speed.

While you have the right to screen applicants using certain types of tests, you cannot use assessments not related to the job or those that might discriminate, per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Choose the screenings carefully and administer them to all applicants to ensure fairness. For example, you cannot administer a physical test for someone who would never need to lift heavy loads, since the skills don’t apply to the job.

Companies have embraced assessments, with 82% requiring some type of pre-employment test from their applicants. Skills tests are the most popular, with 54% requiring them, and tests for cultural fit are a close second, with 51%.

Purpose of Pre-Employment Testing

Without pre-employment testing, you may not know about skills gaps or incompatible personalities until after hiring. It can be difficult to teach a person to have certain personality traits, such as the friendliness or flexibility that many customer service positions need. Workers without necessary traits may not fit well into the position or might find the work difficult, even after undergoing training. A hire who’s not a good fit skills- or personality-wise won’t last long at the company.

Employee turnover carries a high price tag. The cost to replace a worker can range from one-third to one-half of the employee’s former salary. It costs much more to replace managers or highly skilled workers, one to two times the former worker’s wages. The wrong hire could be a costly mistake. Using pre-employment testing helps to reduce expensive turnover.

Another reason to use tests is to make the hiring process fairer. While some fear discrimination from employment screening, the use of standardized tests given to all applicants evens the parameters used to evaluate candidates. Using the same information for everyone reduces the influence of personal biases in the hiring process, making it fairer for all candidates.

Pre-employment testing can also help your company pare down a large field of applicants to a more manageable number. You can give tests to people immediately after they apply for a position and only consider applications from candidates who pass the tests.

What Is a Skills Test for Employment?

Skills test determine the applicant’s ability to perform specific, job-related tasks. For example, an office worker may need to do a test to prove proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and typing.

By giving skills tests to workers, you improve the caliber of those you hire and possibly reduce the amount of training required. For example, by requiring proficiency in Microsoft Word and then testing the applicant’s abilities, you can ensure all new hires have the same basic level of skill.

Types of skills tests include cognitive ability exams, job knowledge assessments and work samples. Each test the applicant on a different aspect of their skills.

Cognitive ability exams look at the applicant’s general thinking skills in reasoning, quick learning, logic and reading comprehension. The generalized tests apply to many different fields that require workers to think on their feet or to read and respond to a variety of materials.

Job knowledge tests reveal whether the applicant has the basic skills to perform a job. For example, does someone applying to be an accountant know basic principles? Can a software developer use programming language?

Similar to job knowledge tests are work samples. These tests determine if the applicant can do the same work as they would encounter on the job. For example, how well can an administrative assistant use a Word document?

Applicants may need to take one or all three of these types of skills tests, depending on the job. A general office worker may need a cognitive ability assessment and a work sample exam, but an accountant may need all three to show learning ability, knowledge of basic accounting principles and the capability to use accounting software.

Do Pre-Employment Tests Work?

A measure known as validity determines whether pre-employment tests work. The measure looks at how closely correlated the hiring practices are to performance on the job. Generally, most tasks do not exceed 0.5 for validity, and those with values of 0.3 or higher indicate a good means of determining the applicant’s potential ability in a job. The more requirements you ask of applicants, the higher the validity coefficient.

General cognitive ability tests conducted on their own have a validity coefficient of 0.51, which makes the tests a very good indicator of future job performance. Work sample tests, which mirror the actual tasks required of the job, administered alone have a coefficient of 0.54. When you combine work sample tests with cognitive tests, the result has a value of 0.63.

While factors that assess personality, such as integrity tests and conscientiousness exams, don’t rank as high in validity scores as cognitive ability and job knowledge, they both still have coefficients above 0.3, making them good measures. The validity for integrity exams used alone is 0.41 while the validity of conscientiousness tests is 0.31. Using either of these in conjunction with cognitive tests raises the combined validity to 0.65 and 0.6, respectively.

The statistics demonstrate that pre-employment tests can serve as useful hiring tools, but combined with other means of sorting through applicants, the tests can improve validity.

Learn More About Total Pre-Employment Tests Available

Total Testing is the only pay-as-you-go testing service. We have pre-employment personality and skills tests in addition to employee training and cognitive exams. If you don’ find the one you need, we will customize one for you. Take a look at the full array of the tests we have available and contact us with any questions you have.