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What are Pre-Employment Tests?

Applying for a position today requires more than just filling out applications and submitting resumes. Many jobs also require different tests and background checks. And as an employer or hiring manager, you may have questions about how to properly implement these tests. Are these procedures legal? What can they tell you about a new hire? Learn about the different kinds of pre-employment tests and which ones are appropriate for your hiring needs.

What is Pre-Employment Testing?

While they can take many forms, most pre-employment tests are done by hiring managers or HR teams to get a better understanding of how qualified a job candidate is or whether they will fit into the existing company culture. These tests can measure skills, personality traits, and critical thinking abilities. They can also recognize red flags in a potentially problematic new hire, including drug use or morality issues.

Common Types of Pre-Employment Tests

There is a large number of pre-employment tests. Some are straightforward and take very little time at all, and others are more complicated and may require an hour or more of an applicant’s time. The more common tests include the following.

Job Aptitude Tests

Does your applicant have what it takes to do the job? Sometimes, the hiring process alone isn’t enough to determine this. An aptitude test can give you insight into whether the new hire can complete the work expected of them. From business processes to technology exercises, these skills tests lay the groundwork for figuring out a work’s potential job performance.

Another form of aptitude tests include sample projects, like those given to programmers or developers. By giving them a mock task to complete, you are seeing how they would perform in the real-world. However, not all aptitude tests are this involved. Some may be a simple pen-and-paper or computer test with multiple-choice questions regarding hypothetical work scenarios.

I.Q. Tests

There are two kinds of intelligence: emotional and intellectual. Today’s hiring tests can measure both. Cognitive tests ask questions and present problems to solve that will measure reasoning, basic math and reading, understanding, and memory. It’s the one most people think of when they hear “I.Q. test.”

EQ (emotional quotient) or EI (emotional intelligence) tests are a measure of your soft skills. Soft skills include empathy, the ability to understand other people, communication through speaking, and management of emotions. While not always as easy to test, emotional intelligence abilities are considered just as important in evaluating an applicant. As a plus, the marketplace is offering more of these testing options as hiring managers demand them.

Personality Tests

For some jobs, such as sales or marketing, certain characteristics can be beneficial. Whether it’s a knack for open communication or proactive problem solving, it may help to evaluate certain value sets specifically. While not an exact science, these tests can tell employers if workers have the values your company prioritizes in its employees and employs across its workforce. They also often lead to a better-informed hire because the makeup of a good match includes a candidate’s tendencies towards specific job tasks, motivations, and interests.

Integrity Tests

Will your new hire steal? Can they be trusted with sensitive business information? Integrity tests can tell you how an employee will handle various social and work situations and may help you understand if they have the ethical foundation to avoid trouble or liability for your workplace. These tests may be more appropriate in work environments where security is tight or merchandise is of high value. An integrity test is also ideal for many government jobs and positions within highly-regulated industries. 

Physical Exams

Have you noticed that many job descriptions indicate that applicants should be able to “sit, stand, or lift 20 pounds?” Even if you don’t have these specific requirements written into your job descriptions, you may require the worker to have the physical power or agility to perform a job safely.

Firefighters, for example, must pass rigorous tests of speed, coordination, and strength. Other jobs may need workers to perform at great heights, under extreme heat or cold, or with heavy equipment. Physical ability tests can tell you if they can do the work for the duration of a shift and without injury to themselves and the rest of the team. They can also help you avoid liability for not properly communicating any uncommon physical requirements upfront—before the candidate starts their job. 

Drug Tests

Whether your state has legalized marijuana or not, your workplace may not be welcoming to some types of recreational drug use. Other drug types won’t be appropriate to use at all. To see if your new-hire has used drugs in the past few weeks or months, there are a variety of tests that use hair samples, saliva, sweat, or urine. Alcohol tests are also available. They can tell you if a person is currently under the influence, which is something that drug tests can’t currently do.

Be sure you follow your state or local guidelines for substance tests make sure you are compliant with what they allow.

Industry-Specific Testing

There are some other reasons to test your new hire, depending on your industry. If you have a restaurant business, for example, an OSHA food service test could be warranted. You may also ask about their knowledge of state laws or certifications, insurance liability, or anything else that’s needed to demonstrate job performance. Bartenders and those serving alcohol may be required to demonstrate that they understand how to sell and serve drinks without running afoul of the law. 

Why Use Pre-Employment Tests?

There are a number of reasons to consider pre-employment tests, and each test has its own perks. Some of the benefits of testing include:

  • Save money on hiring a bad fit that you’ll eventually lose or have to terminate down the road
  • Narrow down your shortlist to only the most qualified applicants
  • Warn off applicants who won’t pass a drug test or background check
  • Easily compare sets of applicants that appear to be equally qualified on paper
  • Get a sense of what the job market offers and how suitable today’s applicants are for the work you need

While job testing may cost extra and can extend the hiring process, the cost-reduction benefits are real. By making more well-informed hiring decisions from the very start, you can decrease turnover and cost per hire, lower training costs, and reduce liability associated with a bad or contentious hire.

You also avoid having your workplace culture altered by having too many job hires that aren’t a good fit. Sometimes, these cultural costs, while hard to measure, have the most negative effect on a company’s overall success. 

Is Employment Testing Legal?

Assuming you are using the testing to answer questions directly related to the job being applied for, you are legally compliant. You must use the test as directed by the test developer as well. You can’t use test results to discriminate against any applicant based on those reasons listed by the EEOC, either. These include age, sex, or disability.

It’s also advised that you communicate to the applicant any information that is being recorded and stored, and how that information will be used in the future. Make sure that any data you get from tests is compliant with local and federal privacy laws.

Best Practices for Employment Testing

Employment tests can be beneficial if used correctly. Some tips include:

  • Test new hires who meet the minimum requirements as soon as you can in the hiring process
  • Test for only the qualities that impact the job at hand
  • Use the same test for all applicants for the same job, but feel free to use a different test for each job
  • Test your current workers to see where they measure
  • Use a test for only as long as it is useful, regardless of your relationship with the testing center or provider. Feel free to move on to more relevant or updated tests as they come to market

Pre-employment testing can give additional insight into job applicants and can make your hiring  process more efficient and affordable.

To change the way you implement testing, consider pairing your methodology with an applicant tracking system like Comeet.

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Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith is a content strategy consultant working with high-growth businesses on their brand messaging, content strategy, and content creation. A digital nomad, she's exploring the world's cultures and cuisines as she works.

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