Pre-employment testing — do your homework first

Resumes, phone screens, and interviews are all great for getting to know your candidates. But many recruiters and hiring managers would like to have a bit more assurance that their top applicants have what it takes to do the job well and fit in at their company.

That’s why many employers turn to pre employment testing. While these tests can shed more light on many types of candidate skills and attributes, recruiters should use caution when selecting a test and in its implementation. The following is an overview to get you started.

Types of pre hire testing

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), any employment requirement set by an employer is considered a “test.” Common screening methods test one or more of the following:

  • Work skills: to assess ability to perform job-related tasks, like proficiency with certain software, writing skills, customer relations, etc.
  • Cognitive ability: to measure reasoning, memory, and other strengths related to intelligence
  • Emotional intelligence: to evaluate ability to understand one’s own emotions and those of others; to assess how well a candidate might get along with others
  • Language proficiency: usually to evaluate fluency in a language required for the position, such as English or Spanish
  • Personality: to assess traits or dispositions that fit in with the company, and to test for tendencies toward dishonesty
  • Knowledge: often looking for technical expertise in a given field
  • Physical ability: measuring ability to perform tasks that require strength and stamina
  • Drug use: to test for the recent use of illegal drugs or current alcohol intoxication

Employers interested in implementing a testing procedure must first determine which attributes are necessary for the job, and then select a test that adequately measures those attributes.

Benefits to testing

Many employers like to use pre employment assessment results to improve their chances of hiring those applicants most likely to do well at their company. Do they have the emotional intelligence to handle difficult clients? Are they skilled at navigating field-specific software? Are they adept at problem solving?

Many of these tests also allow employers to examine the way potential employees complete them. Was a given applicant able to complete the test quickly with relative ease? Did they do the bare minimum, or go above and beyond?

When done right, using candidate testing can lead to better matches, happier employees, and lower turnover. And all of that is good for business and your bottom line.

Potential testing pitfalls

Not all pre employment tests are created equal. Before you decide to use certain tests on your candidates, make sure they’re actually going to help you hire better. You especially want to avoid any tests that could violate federal, state, or local anti-discrimination laws. Forbes outlines two legal pitfalls to be aware of before implementing a testing program.

  • Validity: Make sure it actually measures what you want it to, and that what you’re testing is actually related to the position you’re filling.
  • Reliability: The test should consistently measure the traits you’re testing.

If the test you use has an adverse impact on any group with regard to race, sex, color, religion, or national origin, it will be considered discriminatory, unless it complies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines for employee selection procedures. And that’s just federal law. There are additional laws related to the timing of certain tests, like medical examinations. As with any decision rife with legal implications, it’s always best to consult an attorney before diving in.

Using pre employment testing to steal ideas?

Unfortunately, not all companies implement pre employment assessments to improve their employee selection process. Some use them to steal candidates’ ideas and work.

Not only is this unethical — requiring and using free labor in return for real or fictional job consideration — it’s bad for business. With widespread use of social media and company review websites, it’s only a matter of time before this type of dishonesty tarnishes the company’s reputation. If you want to use a candidate’s work, ask for their permission and pay them appropriately.

To avoid any concerns of impropriety, your testing could ask a candidate the steps they would take to approach an assignment or problem rather than the solution to the problem itself. Keeping the assignment to one to two hours of work is also a good idea. Both of these tactics would insulate you from concerns about taking and using work for free, but still give you insight into technical, reasoning, and performance abilities.

Selecting and monitoring pre employment procedures

Due to all the legal implications, you don’t want to use any old test, just because it has the word “pre-employment” in it. Once you’ve determined your hiring requirements, look for tests which have been validated. One entity who reviews commercially available tests for validation is the Buros Center for Testing. They publish the “Mental Measurements Yearbook” which is widely accepted as a reliable tool for test selection.

To help ensure that your organization is in compliance with all anti-discrimination laws and regulations, keep track of how you use any validated, pre employment testing methods. Keep records of the candidates who undergo testing, and of the results of those tests. If you spot a disparate impact on a protected class of candidates, let your legal department know so they can more closely examine and handle any compliance issues.

Recruit and assess better candidates for your business

Pre employment testing is just one tool among many to finding high quality candidates for your organization. Whether you’re considering various assessment tools or looking for better ways to recruit top notch employees, Monster can help. Sign up for Monster Hiring Solutions to receive expert recruiting advice, the latest in hiring trends, and even some great deals.

Legal Disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.