7 Myths About Pre-Employment Testing

Pre-employment tests are growing in popularity as a way for employers to learn more about their candidates – 82% of companies are now using some form of pre-employment test. These tests provide objective insight into your applicant pool beyond what you can get from intuition alone. But there are still a number of misconceptions that some employers may have about pre-employment tests. Let’s dive into a couple:

1. All Tests Are Created Equal

The world of pre-hire assessments is vast – there are tons of different types of assessments designed for all different types of purposes. But not all tests are able to provide they same value. One key differentiator to look for when investigating pre-employment tests is whether or not the test is scientifically validated to be predictive of job success. This “validation” is what gives a test the ability to predict job performance in your candidates. The main purpose of a pre-employment test is to provide useful, predictive information that helps you as an employer make a more informed hiring decision. Without being validated, you have no way of knowing if a test is strengthening your hiring decision or potentially weakening it.

It also helps to know just how predictive a certain type of test is. For example, cognitive aptitude tests are the most predictive types of tests, and they’re also significantly more predictive of job performance than traditional hiring factors like interviews and resumes. If you’re looking to drive tangible results in your quality of hire, it helps to prioritize the most predictive types of assessments.

2. They Increase Your Legal Risk

There’s a belief that using pre-employment tests in the hiring process can expose you to additional legal risk if your hiring decisions were ever to be challenged. But pre-employment tests don’t create any more risk than any other element you might use in the hiring process, from interviews and resumes to background checks and work samples.

The most important legal standards related to testing are contained in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP), which explicitly recognizes the right of employers to use pre-employment tests to make hiring decisions as long as those tests are job-related. This part is key. The tests need to be related to the job you’re hiring for – you wouldn’t administer a typing test to a gardener, just as you wouldn’t give a coding test to an administrative assistant. If the tests aren’t job-related, then you may in fact be exposing yourself to legal risk. However, your testing provider will typically guide you through the test selection process to ensure that you easiliy fall within the guidelines.

One common misconception about pre-employment testing is that using tests as part of the hiring process increases a company’s legal exposure or somehow leads to additional  legal risk. For companies that use professionally-developed, well-validated tests, the opposite is in fact true. If properly implemented, pre-employment testing actually enhances the objectivity, equitability, and legal defensibility of an organization’s hiring process because testing makes the selection process fairer and more objective for all candidates.

3. They Discourage Candidates from Applying

Employers are more and more concerned with creating a positive candidate experience, so it’s reasonable to question how testing might affect this element of the hiring process. As we mentioned in point #1, not all tests are created equal, so not all tests will deliver the same type of candidate experience. There’s a big difference between forcing your candidates to undertake a 4-hour assessment akin to the SAT, versus asking them to take a 5-minute gamified assessment. It’s clear that the former would likely create a less positive (or at least exhausting) candidate experience, while the latter would be a lot more fun from the candidate’s perspective. Obviously most assessments exist on the spectrum between 4-hour SAT and 5-minute game, but what our own data shows is that most candidates really aren’t deterred by being asked to take a reasonably timed assessment.

Based on data from about half a million tests, we looked at how likely a candidate was to drop out of the hiring process depending on the length of the assessment. What we found was that candidate drop-off was relatively low until the tests started to exceed 40 minutes. The majority of candidates were perfectly willing to take assessments lasting up to 40 minutes. Now you may come across some candidates who simply won’t want to take an assessment, and that’s unavoidable, but if a candidate isn’t willing to spend a relatively brief amount of time on an assessment, chances are they weren’t that serious about the job. Completion of the tests can serve as a basic threshold for knowing how interested someone is in the position.

4. They’re Only Useful for Certain Types of Roles

Another myth is that pre-employment tests are only relevant for certain types of roles or certain types of job levels. You might think that, for the particular position you’re hiring for, there aren’t any relevant pre-employment tests that can help in the decision. But research in I/O psychology demonstrates that there are quite a few types of pre-employment tests that are widely applicable to just about every type of role because they measure qualities that are core to job success. Take cognitive aptitude, which measures the ability to think critically, solve problems, learn new skills, and digest and apply new information. These are abilities that are nearly universal, and they can help predict someone’s ability to not just perform in a job but also to succeed in the long term.

Similarly, pre-employment tests are useful for testing just about every job level. Some companies may be reluctant to administer tests to upper level VPs or Executives, but tests are often just as relevant for upper-level roles, and because there is a lot more at stake when hiring for these roles, there’s all the more reason to get an extra layer of information on your candidates before you make a critical decision.

5. They Filter Out Good Candidates

While pre-employment tests can be used to filter out candidates based on certain score thresholds, they’re really no different than any other hiring criteria. Take, for instance, the resume. As an employer, you can disqualify applicants solely on the basis of their resume, creating the same risk that you might filter out “good candidates.” Some companies may even use their ATS to filter out resumes solely on the lack of certain keywords in their resumes. Same thing goes with the interview – employers use interviews to filter out applicants that they deem unqualified based on any number of reasons.

Pre-employment tests simply provide a new lens through which to view your applicants. This lens has the added bonus of being more objective, and even more predictive, than other subjective filtering tactics like resumes and interviews.

Plus, testing provides the opportunity to have the opposite effect of filtering out candidates, by highlighting potential star employees that you may have overlooked based on their resumes alone. If an applicant aces a pre-employment test, you might be willing to give them a second look even if their resume didn’t originally seem like the perfect fit.

6. They Make the Hiring Process Too Long

Harkening back to candidate experience, some employers may be reluctant to add an additional step to the hiring process, fearing that they might lose a great candidate if the process gets too lengthy. While this fear is reasonable, most pre-employment tests don’t actually take that long, and many companies actually administer pre-employment tests up front in the hiring process, so that the testing is out of the way from the start. Once the test results help to pinpoint the candidates with the most potential, then you can carry on with your typical hiring process.

On the employer side, pre-employment tests can make the process even faster for a hiring manager or recruiter to screen candidates, especially if the tests are delivered online or through a seamless, tech-enabled platform. Testing platforms can provide employers with instant results, saving a lot of time in the hiring process.

7. They Aren’t Always Right

Ok, this one is actually true – the real myth is that pre-employment tests have to be right about every candidate in order to provide any value. In reality, that’s not how pre-employment testing works. Pre-employment tests are predictive of hiring success, which means there is a ton of data showing that the test scores are highly correlated with job performance. That doesn’t mean a high score guarantees that the candidate will be a great employee, just as a low score won’t guarantee that the candidate will be a poor employee.

The results from pre-employment tests provide an additional lens you can use to evaluate a candidate. It provides an objective perspective beyond the gut impressions you get from resumes and interviews. Test scores don’t decide who you hire – you decide who to hire based on a holistic view of all the information in front of you. Testing simply provides an additional data point to help you make a stronger, more informed decision.