Pre-employment tests are one of the most powerful ways to predict job success and drive better quality of hire. However, candidate assessments are only able to drive these results if the right tests are being administered for your positions.
Test selection is one of the most important steps to consider when incorporating pre-employment tests into the hiring process. The tests you select serve as a foundation for all the insights you will receive about a candidate’s abilities and qualifications. To ensure that you are selecting the right tests from the start, here are three questions you should be asking:
1. Are the tests job-related?
The types of tests you select will depend on the position for which you’re hiring. The most commonly used pre-employment tests include cognitive aptitude, personality, and skills tests, and most companies use some combination of these types of tests in order to get a clearer picture of their candidates. But which types of tests are right for your position?
The qualities and skills required for a particular job will significantly inform the types of tests you end up choosing because the tests should ultimately be assessing those qualities. A number of factors relating to the role might influence the types of tests you ultimately select, including:
- Required skills or qualities
- Years of experience
- Entry level vs. mid-level vs. managerial roles
- Customer-facing vs. independent work
- Amount of on-the-job training provided
- Required education level
The first one, required skills and qualities, is usually the most influential factor for test selection. For example, if you are hiring a software developer, it makes sense to administer a cognitive aptitude test to evaluate the candidate’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It also makes sense to administer a skills test to make sure they have the requisite coding skills needed at your particular organization. These tests are job-related because they are testing skills and abilities that are clearly within the scope of that particular role.
On the other hand, it’s equally important to recognize when a test is NOT job-related. For example, there is no need to issue coding tests to an administrative assistant who won’t be engaging in that type of activity, just as it is not job-related to ask a landscaper to take a typing test when that role doesn’t involve working on a computer. The whole point of administering pre-employment tests to your candidates is to get impactful information on their future potential in that role. Tests that are not job-related ultimately provide irrelevant information that misinform the hiring decision.
Even more importantly, companies need to ensure that the pre-employment tests they administer are job-related in order to be compliant with the EEOC’s guidelines. Within the hiring process, the EEOC’s guidelines affect pre-employment tests just as they affect every other type of criteria used to make hiring decisions. Generally, using pre-employment tests is legally defensible as long as the test is assessing a skill, ability, trait, or competency that is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
Often the test selection process is pretty intuitive, but if you’re uncertain about which tests to choose, you can always rely on your testing provider to provide guidance based on their expertise and internal validation studies.
2. Are they validated?
Pre-employment tests are essentially useless if they are not validated. A test is considered “valid” if it is scientifically shown to evaluate what it is supposed to be evaluating, and that the tests are correlated with job performance. The validation process requires a ton of data on the part of the testing provider in order to correlate the test results with the outcomes it seeks to predict, such as quality of hire, retention, training completion, etc. (For a more detailed look into the validation process, read here.)
Remember that the main reason any employer would administer pre-employment tests is to drive positive business results, which means that the tests you choose should be validated to predict those outcomes. Not only that, but the tests you choose should be validated for use specifically in the context of pre-employment hiring. Some commonly used personality tests (such as the Myers-Briggs or DISC) are great assessments for team-building and leadership development, but they are not validated to be used in the pre-hire stage. Providers of these two assessments even explicitly state that the tests should not be used to make hiring decisions, specifically because they have not been validated for that purpose.
So how do you select tests that are validated for pre-employment purposes? A lot of this has to do with the testing provider, who can provide validation studies to demonstrate test validity. In order to remain EEOC compliant, make sure to seek out testing providers that can demonstrate the validity of their tests
3. How long are the assessments?
As we mentioned earlier, most companies administer a combination of pre-employment tests in order to get a well-rounded understanding of their candidates’ skills and abilities. In a desire to get the most information about your candidates, you might feel inclined to administer as many relevant tests as possible - after all, more information is better than less, right?
However, most employers need to balance their need for high-quality candidate information with a positive candidate experience. You may want to administer 4 hours of tests to your candidates, but you will likely lose a lot of candidates along the way. While our data shows that most serious candidates are more than willing to take the time to complete assessments in the hiring process, that willingness has a limit. It turns out that candidates are less likely to complete pre-employment tests once they start to exceed 40 minutes in total. Surprise! Candidates don’t want to take 4 hours of tests, especially if they don’t know how likely it is that they’ll make it to the next stage of the hiring process.
The amount of testing you can administer to candidates depends on a number of factors. The stage of the hiring process in which you administer tests can have an impact. For example, if you administer hours of testing right at the start of the application process, you’re more likely to see drop-off since candidates feel less committed at that stage. However, if you administer assessments to a candidate after they’ve gone through one or two in-person interviews, they might feel committed enough (and optimistic enough about their chance of getting the job) in order to complete a greater amount of testing. Similarly, if you have an enormous applicant pool, you may be willing to administer longer assessments because the risk of candidate drop-off is less of an issue for your organization (not the worst problem to have!)
Typically we recommend keeping the total test-taking time to under 40 minutes, but as always, it depends on the circumstances. And fortunately, most well-validated pre-employment tests can provide highly predictive insights into your candidates through just 15 to 20 minutes of testing.
The test selection process is ultimately very specific to your company's needs and the positions for which you are hiring. These three questions are a starting point to selecting the right tests that will provide the most useful information to help you drive better hires within your organization.