Pre-employment testing – we have all been subjected to it at one point or another. Whether it was proving you could add and subject for that cashiers job you got at 16 or that personality test you took when you applied to be a sales person after college. Maybe it was a skills test you took to prove that you know what Ctrl C does. My point is even after you are done with school it seems like there is still a test for everything…

But why? Does my favorite TV show, book or color really say much about my abilities to sell?

The answer is somewhere between yes and no. Pre-employment testing is actually a dying practice but that’s not because it’s ineffective,  it’s because of the way it’s used. The truth is employers haven’t changed the way they use the test since it became a popular notion. This is what I call the one size fits all mentality.

This mentality is the problem. Just as Patricia Carlson pointed out in yesterday’s post, with each industry you have a unique and diverse workforce, requiring different solutions. The same goes for the work place and testing. Each workplace is made up of unique departments requiring individualized evaluations.  So how do you fix that?

Let’s start by looking at the different kind of tests and how they are used.

Skills test – This test is used to figure out if a candidate has the necessary skill set required for the job. The American Management Association shows that 70 percent of employers use this type of testing.

Personality test – Ever hear of Myers Briggs? This test is used to gage if the employee will be a good fit for your culture. Are they going to be a quiet listener or the center of every meeting? This test is supposed to tell you or at least give a good indication.

Physiological test – Slightly different from the personality test, this is to gage someone mental fitness for the job. It is mainly used for high stress positions such as police, pilot and military personnel.

Intelligence test – This is similar to the SAT. Are you intelligent, what is your GPA, can you do basic math or do you know your grammar. This test used to be very popular but has not proven to be the most valuable pre-employment test out there.

Drug testing – Now this one is really part of the screening process but it is still considered to be a ‘pre-employment test’. Although drug testing remains popular there are many debates going on surrounding medical and legal marijuana.

What Wrong with One Size Fits All Mentality

As you can see the tests vary yet there is still a standard test used by most employers today. Still don’t see the problem? I want you to imagine choosing resumes based solely on GPA and test scores. Can you picture Sheldon Cooper in a marketing role? “No. No. No. I’m just here for your money. I don’t want to shake anyone’s germy hands.”  I know that’s a little extreme but you get my point.  Many companies such as Google have realized that a great GPA, passing a standardized test and giving the ‘proper’ answer doesn’t always make for the best employee anymore.

In fact, Google recently got rid of their intelligence testing and no longer judges based on a GPA.  Why? They are looking for innovation, creativity and new ideas. They have the coders, the geniuses and I am sure the best of the best but they need to balance it out. In order to achieve that they must come up with a new hiring process unique to the type of employees they are looking for.

How to make the most of pre-employment testing?

  • Avoid the cookie cutter mistake: customize the test and update it with time. Different circumstances may offer different results.
  • Use a comprehensive test: Don’t just test one thing, get a general feel for the candidate as a whole. What one lacks in testing skills, they may make up for in other areas.
  • Don’t disqualify based on answers: use the answers to drive the interview. Just like background screening the answer may have a story behind it.
  • Think about using the testing in a different way: like using a personality test to match up coworkers. Or a skills test for an employee development plan.

So back to the beginning, should employment testing be a thing of the past? The answer is no but as the workplace evolves so should the test.  Times are different just like your employees; create an employment test that reflects that. What do you think about pre-employment testing? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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