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Pre-employment testing essentials

HR departments have long appreciated the benefits of pre-employment testing as a tool to guarantee, or at least improve the chances of, successful staff recruitment. 


Screening not only provides an objective way to reject candidates that do not meet the job requirements, but also helps to predict a candidate’s suitability for a role and how well they would integrate into the company. 


Keep reading for more information about pre-employment testing. 



What is pre-employment testing?


Pre-employment tests are assessments or exercises that a company asks job candidates to complete before hiring them. These activities aim to identify an applicant’s personality traits or features, cognitive abilities, workplace skills and behaviour. 


In short, they provide an objective and standardised means of collecting data on job applicants during the recruitment and hiring process. A well-designed and verified test guarantees an efficient and reliable way to obtain information about potential employees’ skills, experience, and expertise. 


Employee hiring tests have become a valuable tool that gives employers more information on candidates before taking that all-important decision on who to select.


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The importance of employment tests


Pre-employment tests tell us much more than a CV and 30-minute interview ever can, giving us a better chance of making the right choice. 


They also help companies save time and money:


  • Quickly build a candidate shortlist by setting objective criteria to reject unsuitable applicants.
  • Improve individual interviews by using the test results to focus questions on key issues. 
  • Ensure candidates possess the expected traits, skills, and conduct. Once you have established the essential criteria, you can target the tests to gauge the suitability of each applicant. 
  • Mitigate the risk of making the wrong choice, which also results in a lower staff turnover rate.


It is also worth bearing in mind the following statistics:


  • 80% of Fortune 500 companies carry out pre-employment testing (Haver).
  • 91% of Human Resources specialists trust psychometric testing to predict success in the workplace. 
  • 78% of CVs contain misleading statements and 46% contain entirely false information. (CriteriaCorp).
  • Companies can increase organisational productivity by measuring and hiring the most competent workers. An analysis using a real life example of a particular retailer, found that employees who had been preselected through testing were 20% more productive. 
  • 65% of employees who go through testing stay with the company for at least six months, thereby increasing the company’s retention rate. 



What skills should you assess in pre-employment tests?


There are many different types of employment tests which all pursue different objectives. We can group them into three general categories according to the skills or expertise we want to measure: 


  1. Aptitude and skills: these tests provide an objective way of assessing candidates’ expertise or hard skills. For example, we can measure their ability to carry out specific tasks, or their tool handling or IT skills.
  2. Personality: these tests are centred on soft skills and aim to identify the applicants’ unique qualities or character traits, to then decide which one is most suited to the job. For example, we can check if someone is patient, calm, empathetic, etc.
  3. Integrity: in this case, we ask candidates about conflicts or key issues that they may need to deal with in their day-to-day work. The questions will focus, therefore, on areas like honesty, integrity, problem-solving, etc.


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Types of employment tests


Regardless of what we want to assess, there are different types of pre-employment tests that help the human resources team gather the information they need.



Personality tests


One pre-employment test you can use is a personality test to get to know the candidate in depth, check if they fulfil the requirements of the role and will fit in with their team. In other words, you can evaluate them from a psychological point of view. Normally, you will consider elements such as self-control, leadership, independence, sociability, etc.


These tests are divided into two types: objective and projective. In objective tests, the applicant will answer a set of closed questions from which we attempt to assess their personality. In contrast, projective tests present open situations for candidates to respond to, enabling us to analyse conflicts, desires, and fears, for example.



Group dynamics


In group interviews, several candidates are brought together in one room with a recruiter who moderates and facilitates the session. In this case, the company is analysing how the candidates behave, how they relate to the others, what role they assume within the group, etc. 


These tests usually involve posing a certain situation and assigning a role to each candidate, who then explains how they would act in these circumstances.


This can also work for idea generation or problem-solving, whereby each person must convince the others their proposition is the best. 


Ultimately, group interviews aim to glean information about the candidates’ skills, personalities, and teamworking abilities.



Skills assessment tests


Another type of hiring test in which the company sets exercises to measure a candidate’s expertise, training, skills, and experience. These are normally designed around the requirements of the job in question. 


For example: for an IT developer position, you can ask the applicant to program a page in a specific language. The result, and how long they take to complete the task, etc, will tell us their level.



Psychometric tests


Psychometric tests are also known as cognitive ability tests. Candidates are given problems to solve within a specific time limit. 


These help to objectively assess attention, memory, mental agility and of course, performance under pressure. 



Tips for preparing and carrying out pre-employment testing 


Now that you know almost everything about pre-employment testing, all that’s left is to give you some tips for making them a success:


  • Give clear instructions during the tests to avoid confusion or errors among the candidates.
  • If there is more than one candidate in the room, resolve queries out loud so they all have the benefit of the same information. 
  • Estimate the time required for candidates to complete the tests. 
  • Choose the tests carefully so you can analyse or collect information on the aspects you need.
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