Advice for Managers:
7 Tips for Selecting a Pre-Employment Aptitude Test

Using a pre-employment aptitude test is one of the best ways to narrow down a large list of applicants. Here are 7 tips to ensure you’re doing it right.

Keyword: pre-employment aptitude test


7 Tips for Selecting a Pre-Employment Aptitude Test

Hiring people is expensive. Making a bad hiring decision can be even more expensive.

According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it takes an average of 42 days and costs $4,129 to hire a new employee. In another study, SHRM said it can cost up to 50% of an employee’s annual salary to refill a position.

So what can a company do to reduce these costs? And how can they reduce the chance that the person they hire to fill the position will be a bad fit?

For many more companies each year the answer is to use some sort of pre-employment aptitude test. The first of these tests was believed to have been developed at the beginning of the 19th century, but the need for them has never been as great as it is today.

Here’s a look at the various applicant test types you can employ. We’re also going to give you specific tips to make sure you know how to select and develop the right aptitude test for your company.

Benefits of Pre-Employment Tests

These days it’s not uncommon to get anywhere from 2-500 resumes for an open position. Those resumes have been carefully polished to show off a candidates strengths and to hide any weaknesses.

All too often, those resumes also include a little (or a lot) of truth-stretching. Even the best recruiters and hiring managers may not be able to uncover the real truth during an interview, when considering the coaching and prepping many candidates receive.

But there’s no reason to throw up your hands in defeat. Pre-employment aptitude tests reveal a sneak peek into your candidates. In addition to testing an applicant’s industry skills, career aptitude tests allow you to test for soft skills like verbal communication, cognitive abilities, and integrity. You’ll also be able to glean valuable information about how each candidate might fit onto teams and into your corporate culture. 

Types of Pre-Employment Tests

There are many different types of tests that have been used over the years. In general, they fall into one of these four types:

  • Aptitude
  • Personality
  • I.Q.
  • Integrity

Of these four, I.Q test have fallen out of favor or changed drastically over the last fifty years as the courts challenged the use of an I.Q. threshold for employment eligibility. It is also often difficult to prove the correlation between peak performance and higher IQ for most jobs. Therefore, many companies abandoned I.Q. test for more comprehensive aptitude testing.

Integrity testing too has come under some fire. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, polygraph tests were used to determine a candidate’s honesty and integrity. In 1988, the Federal Employee Protection Act virtually outlawed the use of lie-detector tests.

But as theft, shrinkage and absenteeism has become a significant problem for many businesses, other forms of integrity testing have evolved. Integrity tests are now a fast growing niche in the employee assessment industry, offering valuable information about a candidate’s character and safety profile.

Personality tests take many different forms. While their value is often debated, the overwhelming evidence suggests they do have merit, especially those personality tests that follow the “Big 5” model. These Big 5 tests measure five job-relevant personality dimensions: extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

Pre-Employment Aptitude Test

Personality assessments may tell you how likely a candidate is to approach people, projects, and even fit into your work culture. They might even suggest how a candidate approaches decision making and problem solving.  What they don’t do is reveal if a candidate has the capacity to deal with complicated problems or keep up with a fast pace or changing environment. Only aptitude tests can do this.

There are a growing number of aptitude tests being used with even more job-specific variations being added as job descriptions and job skills change. However, you can break them down into two categories.

General aptitude test types include:

  • Numerical Reasoning Tests – Which assess knowledge of numbers, statistics, figures, and charts
  • Verbal Reasoning Tests – Assessing verbal logic and capacity to quickly digest information
  • Cognitive Ability Tests -Which provide a measure of general intelligence
  • Abstract or Inductive Reasoning Tests – Which test an ability to see underlying logic in patterns, rather than words or numbers

Specific aptitude test types include:

  • Specific Skills Tests – Which measure things such as typing or computer use skills
  • Mechanical Reasoning Tests –  Measure the ability to apply mechanical or engineering principals to problems
  • Critical Thinking Tests – Measure the ability to follow instructions, focus, reason (logical, verbal, inductive) and perform tasks involving spatial relationships, graphs, maps, and details.
  • Situational Judgment Tests – Assess the ability to resolve work-based problems; these are customized to suit a particular industry or job role

As you can see from these lists, there would never be a time when you would want or need to use all of these tests. There are, however, certain legal and practical considerations you need to be aware of when you use any of them.

Legal Considerations

In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that businesses have to prove that the test is reasonably related to the job for which the test is required. No aptitude tests could be used to discriminate against a certain set of applicants.

There are three ways you can make sure that any aptitude test you choose to use will be in compliance with the law. The first is to pay attention to who developed the test. These tests must be developed by professionals.

The second area is to be very specific in creating the questions for your test. All the questions on the test must be directly applicable to the job. This is a very fine line that you must tread.

For example, if you are hiring for an outside sales position you should not have questions on your test about medical terminology or construction blueprints (unless of course, you’re hiring salespeople in the medical or construction industry.)

Finally, if you’re going to use pre-employment tests, you must be consistent. All applicants being considered for the same job should receive the same test. That doesn’t mean you have to test every applicant.  It does mean that if you test some candidates after the 2nd interview (or whenever you start testing), then you should test all candidates that you’re still considering at this point.  Inconsistent and random use of assessments is what creates most employment law challenges, not the test itself.

Employ A Professional

Fortunately, the legal criteria for using a pre-employment aptitude test is well documented by the Department of Labor and EEOC. A skills test offered to every applicant who applies for a position will help you accomplish two things immediately.

Because not every applicant will bother to complete your aptitude test, you have already weeded out those who were not very interested. Second, the assessment will also help you quickly determine who really does have the skills needed to do the job.

Of course, choosing the right assessments to use and designing your own custom aptitude test is something you’ll need professional help to do. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources online and experts like Success Performance Solutions you can turn to for help.