What is pre-employment testing?

A pre-employment test is an examination given to job candidates by a potential employer prior to hiring. The purpose of these types of tests is to determine personality traits and characteristics, cognitive abilities, job knowledge and skills, as well as behaviors.

In short, they help employers gain a better understanding of job applicants prior to making a hiring decision. 

There are many types of pre-employment tests that are used by hiring managers, HR departments and businesses to help screen candidates and test for:

  • Personality or character traits
  • Skills and abilities
  • Job knowledge (i.e.., technical or theoretical expertise in a particular field)
  • Software or language proficiency
  • Emotional intelligence (i.e., how well someone builds relationships and understands emotions)
  • Integrity
  • Drug or alcohol use.

Why use pre-employment tests?

First of all, because they provide much more information than you could get just looking at a resume and holding a 30-minute interview. Tests like these can also save you time and money during the hiring process because they help you: 

  • More quickly narrow down your list of applicants and determine which ones to bring in for interviews
  • Improve your interviews by using testing results to create questions that focus on key issues and questions
  • Ensure that candidates have the traits, skills and behaviors you’ve determined are critical for success in a particular role (or to fit in with your company culture)
  • Reduce the chances of bad hires and high turnover rates.

Pre-employment tests can be used at any time prior to hiring to determine whether people have the character traits and/or job skills you’re looking for. 

However, at Hire Success®, we’ve found that tests are best used early in the hiring process, because by testing all applicants who make your initial “cut,” you’ll be able to weed out any candidates who don’t really have what you’re looking for (and may have just sent out a bunch of resumes without giving the process much thought). 

Plus, you may find that some of your best candidates are those who don’t look as strong on paper, but who have just the skills and traits you’ve identified as being critical to the job. 

But are pre-employment tests legal?

At this point, you may be asking, “Can I really test people? Is this legal?”

The short answer is “yes.” Pre-employment testing is perfectly legal as long as you test every qualified applicant and can show that what you’re testing is both applicable to the job and will make a difference in a particular position for which each applicant is being considered.

For example, it’s perfectly legal to give accounting applicants a math test; however, it could be considered a discriminatory practice to screen custodial employees using the same math test, because math competency for an accountant is very different than for a custodian.  

It’s also important to ensure that the test you’re using is valid and reliable, as well as professionally developed and consistent. (For example, an applicant who takes your test twice in a row should have consistent results.) 

Ultimately, it’s not the test that’s “legal” or “illegal” ­­– it’s the application of the test that makes the difference. 

To read more on this topic, check out our post on the legality of pre-employment testing .

Using an online system

For all the reasons stated above, it’s far better to use an established hiring and testing system that offers validated, reliable tests developed by professionals if you decide to use pre-employment tests.  

An online system provides much more value – and saves you much more time – than trying to create, administer and score tests individually. Sending and receiving tests individually (not to mention scoring and recording) via email quickly becomes an organizational nightmare. 

And systems like Hire Success® give you the chance to modify tests (for instance, on topics such as math, grammar or software programs such as Excel or Word) as well as create your own custom aptitude tests on any subject. Plus, they help you organize all your hiring information in one place and offer access to tests & results from any device with an Internet connection.  

Best practices for pre-employment testsBased on years of helping companies around the world administer tests, here are a few recommendations and best practices for pre-employment testing:

  • Use testing early in the hiring processTest everyone who meets your initial minimum requirements for the job to more easily narrow down your list of top candidates
  • Test current employees – By testing your current employees, you’ll be able to create baselines and determine the skills that are necessary to succeed in every role at your company
  • Test only for job-related traits & skills – Remember, pre-employment testing is only legal if you can demonstrate that the tests measure skills, abilities, and traits that are relevant to the job
  • Tailor tests to each job – Different jobs require different skills and personality traits (as you’ll quickly see as you develop baselines). It’s usually a good idea to administer a personality profile test to every candidate, but you’ll definitely want to determine which aptitude tests are necessary for each position and if necessary, create your own .

And with a system like Hire Success®, you have an affordable, convenient and simple method for pre-employment testing and organizing all your hiring data in one place.

Ready to take your hiring to the next level?

Get a demo to see exactly how Hire Success can help you start hiring the right people for the job.

Get Started Consultation