Productive employees are among the core assets of any organization. But as employers face the daunting challenge of selecting the best possible candidate from potentially hundreds or even thousands of applicants, pre-employment tests are becoming a valuable tool in screening and evaluating job seekers.
“Pre-employment tests are a good way to test a person’s abilities and check if they’re a fit with an organization and its culture,” says Cecile Peterkin of Cosmic Coaching Centre in Toronto.
“They’re designed to test your abilities, which are your natural talents, and your personality. Are you a team player? How do you manage your time? Are you organized? Do you have integrity? Are you honest?”
By narrowing down the pool of qualified candidates, pre-employment tests can save an employer time. Because applicants can’t prepare for a test like they can for an interview, it provides a truer picture of their abilities and personality, proponents believe.
“People are well trained for interviews. They hire career coaches like me,” Peterkin says. “Interviewers look at past performance as a predictor of how you will perform in the future. You’re asked questions that begin with words such as, ‘Describe’ and ‘Tell me about.’ People are able to prepare for those interviews, but aren’t able to prepare for pre-employment tests … That person can ace the interview, but aren’t the right fit once they’re on the job.”
It’s in your best interest to answer pre-employment tests honestly. “It’s difficult to lie and it’s best not to lie,” Peterkin says. “For example, you may indicate you’re a team player, but if you’re not and you prefer to work on your own, you won’t benefit and the company won’t benefit by hiring you. It should be a fit for both. If you have the personality and attitude the company is looking for and fit the organization’s culture, then you can certainly be trained.”
Pre-employment tests aren’t replacing face-to-face interviews, but are designed to complement them, advocates maintain. The results can even be used to generate a list of questions for the live interview and create a level playing field among applicants.
“The most common reason for administering the test is to shortlist candidates after the first round of interviews,” says Rebecca Heaslip of Leadership Insight in Oakville. “The reason for that is that a candidate can mask behaviours in an interview, whereas a validated instrument would be able to detect that.”
She encourages candidates to follow their gut when completing a test or assessment. “Trying to do assess in your mind the ‘right’ response will distort the results and the report will be flagged. Tests are sophisticated and are sensitive to that … Don’t over analyse and you’ll get the best results.”
Employers can purchase pre-employment tests for specific careers — such as sales, customer service and management — through any of a number of testing services and can even custom design a test. Before conducting any assessment, Heaslip encourages employers to assess the job they seek to fill. That assessment will be used as a benchmark when selecting candidates and can later be used for performance evaluations.
Pre-employment tests benefit both the candidate and the organization by ensuring the best possible fit from the get-go. “This process also shortens the learning curve for the employer who now has an ‘operating manual’ on their new employee and already knows this person quite well. Everybody wins,” Heaslip says.
For companies, screening tools can save both time and money. “It’s protection against hiring someone who doesn’t work out, which is costly in terms of the manpower required to interview and hire, not to mention the termination costs. Screening candidates using assessments is the best investment a company can make,” Heaslip says.
Pre-employment tests can save job seekers time and frustration. “A lot of people are in positions they’re not suited for. There’s a lot of job dissatisfaction … largely because people are working for someone they don’t like or respect or… they are simply in the wrong job,” Heaslip says.
She encourages candidates to request their assessment results. “It provides insight into your tendencies under pressure, ideal work environment and strengths. You get to learn more about yourself and how to position yourself … while being conscious of your areas for improvement.”
Skill, personality and aptitude tests or behavioural assessments are commonplace in many workplaces. In the United States, 30% of companies, including major corporations and more than a third of the Fortune 100, reportedly use pre-employment tests to help make hiring decisions.