The Pros And Cons Of Pre-Employment Testing

To make sure they hire the best possible candidates—and to help ensure candidates actually possess the abilities they claim—many companies are now opting for pre-employment testing before setting up in-person interviews or making a job offer.

These pre-employment assessments offer some distinct advantages as well as some potential disadvantages for both the employer and the candidate. Below, we’ll break down the two main types of pre-employment tests and look at their associated benefits and drawbacks:

Types Of Pre-Employment Tests
There are several types of pre-employment tests, but they generally fall into two categories: personality and skills tests.

Personality Tests
Personality tests, also known as “strength finders,” are used to measure the core behavioral traits central to job performance. In some cases, a position may require specific personality traits—such as strong interpersonal skills—to be successful. There are no right or wrong answers, but these tests can provide valuable insight into whether a candidate will feel comfortable in the role, and fit into the company culture.

Skills Tests
In a customer service or sales-oriented environment, the best candidates will likely have strong interpersonal skills. For a deeply technical or IT-focused position, personality traits may be secondary to a candidate’s hard skillset. In these cases employers may choose skills-based testing to ensure jobseekers have the expertise necessary to do their job well—or to help narrow the field between candidates with similar qualifications.

Benefits Of Pre-Employment Testing
Recruiters and hiring managers often judge candidates base on subjective, rather than job-related criteria. One of the main benefits of pre-employment tests is that they help eliminate human bias from the hiring equation, placing more emphasis on the skills and behaviors required to be successful in the position.

These tests are also more standardized than typical job interviews, which can be different for each candidate based on interpersonal reactions. This helps ensure all applicants have a level playing field.

Finally, pre-employment assessments provide an opportunity to make your hiring process more efficient by identifying candidates who demonstrate basic suitability for the position before spending time and resources on full job interviews.

Drawbacks of Pre-Employment Testing
While tests can be valuable, they rarely paint the entire picture of a candidate’s abilities, knowledge and motivations. For example, pre-employment tests do not take into consideration how willing (or able) someone is to learn new things or improve upon perceived weaknesses.

There is also a risk that tests can discriminate. This might seem like a paradox, since tests are designed to be objective, but tests that focus on cognitive ability, personality and physical ability tests have potential to break anti-discrimination laws if they are not designed and implemented responsibly.

Faked answers can also be a problem, especially for personality tests. If a candidate believes you are looking for a certain type of person, they may attempt to answer the questions accordingly, throwing off the results.

On a related note, testing may also create an assumption that all employees need to fit a strict mold in order to be successful, which may not be the case. Taken to the extreme, this can actually prevent the development of diverse teams—a true competitive advantage that results in greater innovation.

The bottom line is that well-designed pre-employment testing can add some value objectivity to your hiring process. However, these tests should never be used as the only deciding factor when making hiring decisions.

As an employer, it’s up to you to choose tests that provide insight, without fostering sameness or eliminating the human factor. As a candidate, it’s important to answer these tests truthfully and use the feedback to help in your own career development, since you are unlikely to be happy in a job that doesn’t fit your true strengths and weaknesses.


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Posted in Talent