Criteria's Employee Testing Blog

Quality vs. Quantity – The HR Dilemma of Finding Qualified Applicants

Every week I speak to a lot of hiring managers and recruiters and repeatedly hear their frustrations at not finding enough qualified applicants. Similar sentiments were echoed in Elena Holodny’s Business Insider article The US economy is turning into a nightmare for recruiters. Finding quality employees is always at the top of the to-do list for those in HR, and while receiving a ton of applications may seem like a good thing in the hiring process, sometimes the “more-the-merrier” doesn’t quite apply when so few of the applicants are qualified.

With more and more businesses moving to online applications as the primary, if not the only method to apply, job applicants can sit at home and apply to dozens or more jobs in an hour.  Job board aggregators like Indeed and ZipRecruiter push the job postings out to multiple websites, making them visible to millions of candidates from a single platform. While this convenience certainly makes the application process more efficient, it can also dilute the overall quality of the candidate pool. Invariably, you will receive applications from people who don’t possess ANY of the minimum job requirements.

Online job applications also mean that the individual candidate may not be as invested in the application process – research indicates that applicants spend less than 2 minutes reading each job description, so it’s no surprise that employers are reporting a lack of qualified applicants. Lack of investment also diminishes the chances that a candidate will show up for interviews or complete other steps of the application process. All of this leads to a lot of wasted time and frustration that falls squarely on HR’s shoulders.

Application statistics

One of the biggest trends in pre-employment testing, and a key factor behind the growth in this space, is that employers are now increasingly using pre-employment tests early in the hiring process as a means of finding out whether or not a candidate meets the basic qualifications for the job.  By assessing an applicant’s critical thinking ability or basic work readiness skills, for example, an employer can quickly filter through large applicant pools to focus their energy on the most qualified applicants who are most likely to succeed.Hiring FunnelThe data gathered from pre-employment tests can help recruiters and hiring managers have more meaningful and productive conversations with their applicants. Furthermore, applicants become more invested in the process when they take 20 or 30 minutes to complete a pre-employment test, which increases the chances that they’ll show up for interviews or follow through on other steps in the hiring process. Most importantly, pre-employment tests help you find the needle in the haystack within your large applicant pool, making it easier to find the best talent to join your team.


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Our Pricing Explained

We often get asked why our pricing is structured the way that it is. When we launched our service in 2007, we were the only testing provider to have a flat-fee, subscription pricing model.  Now some other providers have followed suit. With the annual subscription fee, you get unlimited testing for every test in our portfolio.  The subscription price is based on the number of employees in your company, or the number of employees in a particular department or branch for which you want to administer pre-employment tests.

We believe that for most companies, flat-fee pricing has a number of advantages over per-test pricing models. For one, you will have more predictable costs. You know exactly what the total cost will be before getting started, and you don’t have to factor in additional costs if you decide to administer more tests or hire more people than you expected.

Second, flat-fee pricing almost always helps customers lower the total costs of administering pre-employment tests. With online tests, the incremental cost of delivering tests is relatively low, and the transactional pay-per-test model, which originated in a time when test scoring wasn’t automated, doesn’t make much sense anymore.

Third, flat-fee pricing actually helps you drastically reduce time spent in the hiring process by encouraging you to test early in the process. Pre-employment testing adds the most value when it’s done early in the hiring process because it helps you cut through large applicant pools to find the candidates who are most qualified for the job. However, testing early in the process as opposed to testing a smaller, pre-filtered group of candidates later on requires you to administer a massive number of tests. Flat-fee pricing allows you to administer tests to large groups of applicants in the early stages of hiring without having to worry about the additional fees associated with per-test pricing models. No more rationing tests!

But why do we structure the prices of our subscriptions around employee head count? We use employee head count as a proxy for a company’s level of hiring activity. Companies with 200 employees are likely to hire more people within a year than companies with just 5 employees. The number of employees at a company allows us to make a (pretty accurate) estimation of how many people that company is likely to hire in that year.

If you’d like a quote for your company, email

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Criteria Corp Now Integrates with Greenhouse

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Greenhouse! Greenhouse is an applicant tracking system designed to help you make more data-driven hiring decisions across the whole recruitment process. Our partnership with Greenhouse means that you will now be able to seamlessly integrate Criteria Corp’s testing platform with your Greenhouse account. Streamline your hiring process by administering tests and viewing candidate test results all within the Greenhouse system.

Want to learn more?  Check out this post on the Greenhouse blog about the integration process to find out how the partnership makes it easy to merge Criteria’s test results into Greenhouse’s streamlined recruiting platform.

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Hiring Fail: The Humor in Hiring the Wrong Person

All employers can remember a time when they hired the wrong person for the job. The hiring process is both art and science, and it’s impossible to get it right every time. Adding pre-employment tests into your hiring arsenal can help you increase your hiring success rate and reduce the occurrence of what we like to call “hiring fails.” We know how much of a pain point these hiring fails can be for recruiters and hiring managers alike, so we made a video to poke fun at the comedic side of a hire gone wrong. Enjoy!

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Credit checks for job candidates are losing favor as hiring criteria

Using credit checks as a factor in the hiring process has always been controversial. According to data from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 47% of employers in the U.S. run credit checks on potential hires.  Critics argue that using credit checks on candidates is discriminatory by unfairly filtering out people who are struggling financially. The thinking goes that, in order to repair their credit, job seekers need jobs, but eliminating candidates based on bad credit makes this much more difficult. More importantly, there is no evidence that credit checks relate to job performance in the first place. The result: employers cannot prove a credit check adheres to the rule of “job-relatedness,” which is required for any factor used in hiring decisions.

With this in mind, New York City recently passed legislation banning most employers from using credit checks to discriminate against job applicants or current employees. Brad Lander, the bill’s sponsor, calls the new legislation “a civil rights bill,” and it seems likely that more cities will follow New York City’s example. If background credit checks for job candidates continue to lose support across the country, employers will likely stop using them in the hiring process. Overall, this is a positive development for recruiters because credit checks have little utility as a means of predicting future job performance, and frankly it’s about time they be discarded as a variable in making employee selection decisions. More predictive criteria, like pre-employment tests, can help fill the void: well validated and professionally developed employment tests are far more predictive of job performance, resulting in job-related and legally defensible tools for the employer that are less biased and fairer to job candidates.

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How Much Testing is OK?

In the social media age, when a company’s employment brand is more important than ever, it’s a great idea for companies to always keep the issue of candidate perception in mind when implementing pre-employment testing. Given that the trend is increasingly towards testing early in the hiring process — as we discussed here and here — it’s important to consider the question of how much testing is appropriate when the tests are one of the first points of contact a candidate may have with your organization.

We analyzed a lot of data (about half a million tests) to help answer this question. As the graph below makes clear, candidates complete the tests much less frequently when the length of the test exceeds 40 minutes.

The completion rates for batteries less than 40 minutes in length always exceed 75%. If this seems low, consider that many candidates encounter the test through a link in a job posting, and may simply close the test window after deciding they don’t have the time, ability, or inclination to take the tests. If candidates won’t spend 20-30 minutes applying for a job, chances are they weren’t serious about working for your organization in the first place—we call this group “resume spammers.” Interestingly, this 75%+ completion rate is no different for a very short (less than ten minute) test than it is for a 30-40 minute test.

However, in cases where candidates are asked to take a test battery that is longer than 40 minutes, the completion rates are significantly lower: 66% for 41-60 minute tests, and 60% for tests lasting longer than an hour. It seems that the point at which “test fatigue” begins to discourage candidates can be pinpointed: it’s after 40 minutes. This is why we recommend that our customers keep test batteries under 40 minutes in length whenever possible. This is especially true for remote testing done early in the hiring process. It is impossible to know from the data, although it seems highly likely, that candidates will have higher completion rates for tests given on site, for several reasons—the main one being that if candidates perceive themselves to be under serious consideration for a job, they are much happier to spend a long time being assessed.

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The Secret to Google’s Hiring Revealed: Cognitive Ability

Last summer we reacted to an interview with Laszlo Bock at Google who seemed to say that tests scores and grades were useless predictors for hiring decisions. We said that what constitutes information for hiring purposes at Google may well differ from what constitutes information for hiring elsewhere, and we pointed out that validating a selection tool after it has been used, and only for those who were selected will typically yield lower estimates of the usefulness of that tool.

This week, in a widely read New York Times column, we get a more elaborated answer about Google’s hiring goals. What do they look for? Number 1, says Mr. Bock, is cognitive ability. Although Bock is quick to distinguish this from IQ — he sees it as demonstrating an ability to learn quickly — the fluid intelligence he’s trying to evaluate likely correlates well with traditional clinical, academic, and business oriented measures of cognitive ability. Bock is also looking for leadership and a sense of responsibility.

In short, Google is largely looking for the same things that organizational psychologists have been telling us for decades predict job performance — cognitive ability and personality. Measures of conscientiousness are often the second best predictor of job success (after cognitive ability). Other preferred aspects of personality will depend on the nature of the work and the workplace.

For any given selection process, those making decisions want predictive information. What constitutes predictive information will vary from setting to setting. For a company like Google, the composition of the applicant pool and the nature of the workplace might mean that certain traditional sources of information are less useful, and Google has the resources to invent a new, tailored interview process to gather new information. However, the underlying constructs they are looking at — cognitive ability and conscientiousness — are ones that pre-employment assessments have been highlighting for some time. Every organization must also deal with its own costs — what are the consequences of hiring the wrong person? What are the consequences of failing to hire a qualified person? We mostly think about the cost of hiring the wrong person (false positives), but there is also a cost to missing a diamond. Facebook paid $19 billion to buy what Brian Acton built (WhatsApp) 4 years after they didn’t hire him.
But even if they go about it differently, all companies are trying to maximize the information they have about the cognitive ability and character of the people they hire.

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How Can I Trust Test Scores From Remote Tests?

One of the most prominent trends we’re seeing with our customer base is the move to administer more tests remotely, towards the very beginning of the hiring process. As I’ve talked about previously, there are many advantages to administering tests offsite, mostly to do with the cost and time savings of using objective, reliable data to help you filter out unqualified applicants from large applicant pools. But one question that customers often raise is, “How can I trust test results from remote tests, when I can’t verify the identity of the applicant?” Well, unless you’re using a remote proctoring service (either human or web-cam based) you can’t be 100% sure a candidate took the test without outside help. But what we’ve found in working with customers is that if your messaging to candidates is well constructed, and you retest candidates onsite, you don’t need to worry about the reliability of offsite test results.

We recently did a study with one of our largest customers, who administers aptitude tests remotely at the front of their hiring process, and retests candidates later onsite, if they make it that far. What we found by looking at the data is that the likely percentage of people who didn’t take the test honestly (i.e., without outside help) offsite is actually very small, likely much less than 2% of the applicant pool. One reason this may have been the case is that when the employer sent candidates the invitation to take the test, it explicitly described its retesting policy. We really recommend employers do this, because it cuts down on any incentive applicants may have to cheat in the first place. If candidates will have to take a different version of the test onsite anyhow, they are only wasting their own time if they don’t take the test on their own the first time.

So a couple of important takeaways. Offsite cheating is not really a big problem, at least according to our data; and you can cut down on it further through proper messaging and by retesting onsite, with those candidates who make it that far.

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What Are Integrity Tests?

Today’s topic is integrity tests; what are they and how should they be used?

Well, the term integrity tests is actually used to describe a couple of different types of tests, but they all help employers manage risk by assessing the likelihood that an applicant will be a reliable employee who will follow the rules. So as I said, there are two main types of integrity tests: covert (personality-based) tests that measure traits linked to rule adherence; and overt tests which assess an applicant’s attitudes towards various counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) directly. Some integrity tests, like our Workplace Productivity Profile (WPP), combine elements of both to predict employee reliability.

What most integrity tests focus on is an applicant’s tendencies and attitudes with respect to rule adherence. Because of this, the tests can be used to predict behavior with respect to a wide variety of counterproductive work behaviors that employers want to avoid, ranging from tardiness, absenteeism, and time-wasting, to theft, fraud, drug use, and safety violations. Integrity tests are generally most widely used and are most effective for entry-level positions for which overall reliability and rule-following is particularly important. Some of the more common uses of integrity tests in specific situations are:

  1. To reduce risk of employee theft, for example in retail sales
  2. In positions where employees will be working in customers’ homes, such as home health care aides and field service technicians
  3. In manufacturing settings to assess risk for safety violations

In all of these cases, integrity tests can serve as a risk management measure, as they will determine that certain applicants represent a higher risk of engaging in these behaviors based on their responses and personality profiles. Often, employers will use background checks pre-hire for these positions, but background checks are expensive and only target people who have committed crimes in the past. By using integrity tests early in the hiring process, employers can save time and costs and help to minimize risk with respect to avoiding workplace behaviors that damage their organization.

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Why Do Organizations Use Pre-Employment Tests?

As an employer trying to make informed hiring decisions, you obviously want to gather as much relevant information on candidates as possible. The problem is that traditional methods of getting to know candidates — resumes and interviews — often don’t yield much real insight. Resumes are notoriously unreliable, and interviews — especially unstructured ones — are subjective and poor predictors of job performance. On the other hand, properly developed (i.e., well validated) tests are a reliable and objective means of gathering job-related information on candidates. Research shows that cognitive aptitude tests, for example, are twice as predictive of job performance as interviews, and three times as effective as resumes.

So companies use pre-employment tests because they are an efficient, objective way to gather data that predict employee performance. They use this data to make better informed, more defensible hiring decisions. Tests are really about giving you better raw materials out of which to build your talent management process: getting better data on candidates will lead to better talent decisions.

So what are the results of all this in terms of tangible business impact? Well when we first speak with companies, HR professionals, and business owners, their stories are very different, but we often see two common pain points: organizations are spending way more time than they’d like on hiring, and yet despite this, they are still making more hiring mistakes than they can afford. Pre-employment tests can help directly with both of these: by dramatically reducing the time you spend reading resumes and doing interviews, pre-employment tests will help you reduce your time to hire and costs associated with hiring. And by giving you reliable, objective data that predict job performance, tests should help you increase your quality of hire and reduce the number of bad hires you make. The ultimate effect of this will be bottom line improvements like increased workforce productivity and reduced turnover.

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