What is a Cutoff Score?

Definition of Cutoff Score:

A cutoff score is an established score used to filter out unqualified candidates on any particular test or assessment. In employment testing, cutoff scores can be established to filter out job candidates who did not score high enough on a particular pre-employment test.

How do organizations use cutoff scores when hiring? 

Many organizations opt to not use a “hard” cutoff score, meaning they will still consider applicants who do not score in the desired range. If a hard cutoff score is used, deciding where to set a cutoff score depends on a number of different factors. 

To establish a reasonable cutoff score for a particular position, a company can administer the test to its current employees in that position, and then determine a cutoff score based on the current employees’ scores. 

This technique for establishing cutoff scores requires a large pool of test takers, so companies that do not already have a large number of current employees in that position can instead rely on standard cutoff score recommendations provided by testing companies.

What other factors can impact a cutoff score?

Another factor to consider when establishing cutoff scores is the size of the applicant pool. If a company is faced with a rather large applicant pool for a particular position, it can afford to set a reasonably high cutoff score. 

Setting higher cutoff scores not only makes it more likely that the candidates will be qualified, but it also helps reduce the amount of labor involved in the hiring process by narrowing the list of qualified candidates to move through the hiring process. 

However, if a company is dealing with smaller applicant pools or needs to hire a lot of people for a particular position, setting high cutoff scores may unnecessarily constrict the list of qualified applicants, making it more difficult to find and hire employees for that position.