Pre-employment tests provide incredibly useful information that allows you to make more informed hiring decisions. By incorporating professionally developed pre-hire assessments into the hiring process, you gain relevant, objective data that, when combined with other factors such as interviews and work experience, can present a more comprehensive view of your candidate’s capabilities.
However, it pays to be mindful about how to use pre-hire tests in a way that provides the most value to your organization. Here are three of the biggest mistakes you could be making with pre-employment testing:
1. Choosing the wrong tests.
This is by the far the most important pitfall to avoid when using pre-employment tests. Test selection is vital because no matter how well-validated a test may be, it has little value if it isn’t measuring job-related capabilities. Test validity is often misunderstood—it does not exist in a vacuum, and even a well-validated test can be problematic if it’s being used for a purpose for which it was not validated. For example, you wouldn’t give a typing test to candidates applying to be maintenance workers if they won’t be expected to use a computer on the job. Their scores on such a test would prove meaningless for making a hiring decision.
Even more importantly, as the EEOC has made clear in its Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP), the crucial standard in assessing compliance with respect to any criterion used in making hiring decisions—including tests—is that it must be job-related. Taking the time to evaluate the skills and abilities required for a particular position will enable you to select the tests that will provide the most valuable information while remaining legally compliant.
2. Having unrealistic expectations.
The right employment tests will help employers predict work performance. However, while pre-employment tests are predictive of success, they are not a crystal ball. When a pre-employment test has predictive validity this means that, on average and across a large sample of data, the test correctly predicts business outcomes. It does not mean that the test correctly predicts performance in every single individual case. Outliers can and do happen now and then, but on average, there should be a significant correlation between test results and work performance. Weather reporters make predictions that don’t always come true, and so do pre-employment tests. It is unrealistic to expect a pre-employment test to make the right prediction every time.
Fortunately, pre-employment tests, and aptitude tests in particular, are some of the most predictive hiring criteria you can use. In fact, one study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that pre-employment tests are consistently better at predicting job success than are hiring managers.
3. Ignoring the candidate experience.
Let’s face it, not everyone loves taking tests. Pre-employment tests are designed to help employers find the best talent, but making the testing experience too burdensome can have the unintended consequence of turning off some candidates. Being cognizant of the candidate experience not only improves your employer brand but also minimizes the amount of drop-off you may experience from candidates who don’t feel invested enough to commit to a lengthy testing process. One of the most important elements of candidate experience when it comes to testing is the amount of time it takes a candidate to complete the tests. We generally recommend administering tests at the beginning of the hiring process to get the most value out of the test results. When testing candidates early in the process, a pre-employment test may be one of the first touchpoints a candidate has with the company, which means that if the company immediately assigns a 3 hour battery of testing, the candidate may quickly lose interest. We’ve done our own research on the subject and found that the level of candidate drop-off is minimal so long as the total testing time remains below 45 minutes.
There are a lot of other ways to be mindful of the candidate experience, and a lot can be accomplished through thoughtful messaging. For instance, explaining to candidates why they’re being tested and what the tests measure can be helpful. Similarly, sending an email confirming that the candidate’s test results have been received goes a long way towards making your candidates feel that their time is respected.