Pre Employment Tests – Employers Love’m, Candidates Hate’m

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Pre Employment Tests – Employers Love’m, Candidates Hate’m

For many job seekers, pre employment tests seem to be just one more hurdle to jump on the road to getting hired. It seems that many candidates feel the “test” is the only thing stopping them from collecting a paycheck. That’s an inaccurate perception – or at least one that shouldn’t be true.

When used properly by employers pre-employment assessments should be one piece in bigger selection puzzle. The other pieces of an effective employee selection system should include a behavioral interview, review of past experience, verification of skills, and references. Unfortunately, a recent post on recruiter.com enumerated several reasons why pre employment tests don’t get the credit they deserve and why so many job seekers hate them.

For example, the writer begins by asking “What in the world did those questions have to do with the duties of the role?” The writer referred to a timed test she took in high school. From her description, the assessment was likely a test for general mental abilities and required her to “convert percentages and decimals and complete complex equations.”

For the grocery bagger position, I too might ask why the employer bothered with that type of testing. Surely a simple math test would suffice.  Better yet… a customer service skills test might be equally if not more appropriate.

On the other hand, they might have been testing for a future role – cashier. (FYI – while the company’s intentions might be valid, using a single assessment for both current and  future positions could pose some risk, especially if the assessment creates unnecessary adverse impact. A full discussion of when and how you can use assessment tests to evaluate potential is beyond the scope of this article. But if interested, please call 800-803-4303 and I’ll be happy to discuss in more detail.)

The bottom line in using and then selecting the most appropriate employment testing comes down to 3 factors: validity, reliability, and job relatedness.  In other words, it is critical that employers choose assessments that relevant to the duties of the job.

The writer also relayed a story about a friend who applied for job that required him to respond to 37 questions in 30 minutes. Unfortunately he “ended up not finishing the test.”

We recommend a similar assessment to our clients.  It’s not expected that candidates complete it. In reality completion rates play a small factor and clients (aka employers) don’t know who completed it or not.  The only information employers receive is how the candidate compared to other candidates and the normed population. The “score” is based on how many correct responses the candidate provides, not test completion.

When a timed test is validated, it is expected that 90 percent or more of the candidates will not complete the assessment.

But that’s okay. Not every job requires employees to fall in the top 10 percentile of processing speed. Some jobs require high levels of mental abilities and accuracy but time is not critical. For example, imagine evaluating a nurse for a school nurse position vs the emergency room in a trauma center. It’s the difference of a financial planner and the arbitrageur on Wall Street. Everyone may be experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled but the pace required in a trauma center ER or on Wall Street is exponentially faster than in a school or Main Street USA. Some jobs require lightning fast thinking skills while other jobs are best filled with employees of average mental processing abilities.

Speed and intellect don’t always go hand in hand either. For employers, it is important to distinguish between proficiency and skill tests like Word, Excel, and data entry and general mental abilities. Using the wrong tool or interpreting it incorrectly may inadvertently screen out qualified candidates, a luxury few businesses can afford these days.

The next example exposed a real problem – the hiring manager telling a candidate he “failed” the test. With the exception of a skill test, you can’t “fail” most pre-employment tests, especially behavioral and personality based ones. These types of tests are constructed and validated for job fit. In other words, will the way you approach the job be compatible with what the company is looking for? You may not fit the job in one company but be a perfect fit for the same job in another.

While this use of pre-employment testing doesn’t feel good to the rejected candidate, it in some respects does him a favor. If the company or manager is looking for an employee to approach the job in a specific way, identifying a poor fit up front saves both the employer and employee a lot of stress and heartache. Managers and recruiters who report that candidates pass or fail a pre-employment test are performing a disservice and the practice needs to be changed.

The author suggested that employers should offer a better explanation of the assessments and how they will be used. I agree. But she also suggested that advanced warning would offer a candidate time to candidate to “prepare” for a job fit test. That is a ridiculous recommendation.

There is no way to prepare for a personality type test. Attempting to game the assessment to create a different picture than who you really are does no favors for the employer or candidate. In fact high quality assessments include what is called a distortion scale that detects if candidate responses are suspicious and reflect a tendency to create a “good impression.” In this case triggering a high good impression score does not help a candidate get off on the right foot.

Pre employment testing is a valuable tool for both employers and job seekers when the right tests are selected and used the right way.

For help in selecting the right tests, call us today at 800-803-4303. We’ll be happy to help.

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