Pre-employment tests are objective methods of gathering information about potential candidates during the hiring process. The tests are well-validated and professionally developed with a common factor. This makes them reliable and efficient for use in gaining insights into the traits and capabilities of potential hires. Depending on the type of test being used, hiring managers can get relevant information about the potential candidate’s performance ability in the organization.

Advantages of Using Pre-Employment Tests

Some of the general benefits of using pre-employment tests include;

  1. Better evaluation of skills

If applicants understand that pre-employment tests will be used during the hiring process, they will likely not try attempting to talk their way into the position. This is because organizations relying on pre-assessment tests do less of talking and more screening. During the interview, there will be less to discuss what is expected as the job assessment tests will help hiring managers to determine who is fit for the job position.

Note that saving time is not the main goal of using pre-employment tests. The tests should give hiring managers a chance to evaluate the applicants’ abilities to handle pressure, show applicable skills, and other essential things that can be hardly identified through oral interviews.

  1. Reduces employee turnover rate

Research done by the Center of American Progress concluded that organizations spend approximately 16% of their annual salary on entry-level employees after every new hire. Similarly, the company spends 20% of their annual salary every time they replace mid-level employees and 200% or more for high-level employees. Evidently, the cost increases with the increase in position. To prevent such costs, organizations should hire high-quality and well-trained employees. The best way to find such is using an aptitude test or job knowledge test that helps hiring managers to determine candidates’ potential and predict performance.

  1. Team Placement

Apart from evaluating the potential candidates’ skills, pre-employment tests help hiring managers to determine which specific category in the organization that the applicant fits. This is essential, especially if one of the departments in the organization requires specialized skills or is short of necessary skills, which a potential candidate demonstrates.

Types of Pre-Employment Tests

Hiring managers can use one of the following job assessment tests during the hiring process.

  • Cognitive assessment tests
  • Aptitude or job knowledge tests
  • Emotional intelligence tests
  • Integrity tests
  • Personality traits tests
  • Physical assessment tests
  • Skills assessment tests
  1. Cognitive Ability Tests
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Cognitive ability tests provide a perfect way for hiring managers to evaluate potential candidates’ ability to comprehend ideas, plan, organza, learn from experiences, apply new knowledge at work, abstract thinking and adapting to new situations. Since most of the abilities mentioned above are essential in an individual’s performance, cognitive ability tests are probably the best predictor of potential candidates’ future performance once hired

Candidates who score highly in cognitive tests means that they are capable of learning new skills can adapt to situations with ease and make intelligent decisions. These are vital skills that will help new employees adapt to their new working environment. Additionally, candidates who score high on cognitive tests require lesson training compared to those who score low, as they need to increase their productivity.

Some of the common questions included in cognitive tests include;

  • Numerical questions – these number-based assessment questions, which range from simple mathematical tests to advanced numerical problems.
  • Spatial awareness questions – these questions test the candidates’ ability to work with patterns and shapes. In most cases, they will have to rearrange patterns to make new shapes and much more.
  • Abstract reasoning – abstract reasoning tests requires candidates to work with concepts and abstract ideas. Questions in these tests use visual diagrams that candidates should use to complete given statements or fill missing information.
  • Deductive reasoning tests – employees should apply certain rules given to support an argument that leads to a specific conclusion.
  • Verbal reasoning tests – these cognitive tests enable the hiring managers to assess the potential candidates English skills such as vocabulary, critical reasoning and grammar. Verbal tests also include classical questions where candidates should read a passage and identify true and false statements from selected statements.
  • Logical reasoning – logical reasoning questions requires the potential candidates to read, conceptualize, understand and draw conclusions from complicated statements.
  • Mechanical reasoning – these tests evaluate the ability of the candidate to use simple mechanical principles such as working with levers, springs and cogs.

Nearly all these questions used in cognitive tests can be done from a computer. Some are multiple-choice questions with different levels of difficulty. In the end, the results drawn from these questions will provide an accurate profile of the potential candidates’ capability.

Types of Cognitive Ability Tests

Organizations and hiring managers draw their cognitive ability tests from different providers based on suitability and needs. Some of the common test providers and companies that use the tests include;

  1. SHL Tests

SHL is a leading provider of cognitive ability tests. There are several versions of SHL tests, which are designed to assess individual competency. The tests are done in two stages. The first test is usually done online by the respective candidates. The second test is done during the assessment day, which is a shorter version of the first test, and used to verify the answers that were given previously. Common SHL tests include;

  • Verbal reasoning test – this short test has 30 questions and done during the assessment day.
  • Inductive reasoning test – it is a 25-minute test with 24 questions. They are designed to evaluate candidates’ logic skills.
  • Numerical reasoning test – they are of two versions. The first has 10 questions to be answered in 15 minutes. The second has 18 questions to be answered within 25 minutes.
  • Deductive reasoning test – this test has 20 questions that should be answered within 18 minutes. It requires candidates to use logic to evaluate arguments, identify errors and make conclusions.
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Companies that use these tests include Microsoft, Gannett Company and Phillip Morris.

2. Wonderlic test

This test evaluates a candidates’ attitude through facial recognitions, puzzle recognition, word problems and verbal reasoning. Wonderlic tests are of two versions. The first is a 12-minute personnel test with 50 multiple-choice questions. The second is an 8-minute test with 30 multiple-choice questions. Common companies that use Wonderlic tests include;

  • MENSA international
  • Apple
  • ThoughtWorks
  • Chevrolet
  • Gulf Coast Commercial Group

3. Revelian Tests

Revelian tests are the most popular psychometric tests taken by graduates. So to say, more than 200,000 people worldwide have done this test. Main areas identified by Revelian tests include numerical reasoning, cognitive reasoning, verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning. Companies such as BMW, Deloitte, Median Hotels and PepsiCo use this test.

4. Predictive Index Test

Predictive assessment tests evaluate skills including verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and pattern recognition. This version is a 12-minute test with 50 questions. Companies using this test include Chevron, Microsoft, Dell, and IKEA.

Characteristics of Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Tests

At first glance, criteria cognitive aptitude tests can be intimidating. However, job candidates should not panic at all, as they don’t have to score all the questions right to impress hiring managers. As a fact, most CCAT takers don’t make it all through, with average candidates scoring only 24 questions right.

CCAT test has 50 questions and candidates should answer as much as they can within 15 minutes. The 50 questions involve mathematical, spatial reasoning, verbal and logical questions, all combined. To make it interesting, calculators are not allowed in the test. With these conditions, less than 1% have been able to answer all the 50 questions correct. Once you complete the test, the hiring managers will check your raw score, questions that you scored right, and how you performed compared to other test takers.

  1. Aptitude Testing/ Job Knowledge Testing

Aptitude tests are best suited for use by industries that require candidates with specific skills. As the name suggests, job knowledge tests measure the theoretical expertise and technical knowledge of potential candidates in a specific field. Companies looking to recruit an accountant, for instance, should test the candidates on accounting related questions, such as the basic principles of accounting.

Other fields that require specific expertise include law enforcement, information technologies and many others. Using aptitude tests enables the hiring managers to be certain that the candidate has basic training and are equipped with the knowledge to fit the vacant position. Job knowledge tests clearly show if an applicant has some grasp of certain skills that are essential to work in the department.

Example of aptitude test.

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NOTE: Despite being much important, job knowledge tests do not guarantee that applicants who pass are the right professionals for the position. This is because this test doesn’t consider the most desirable attributes when it comes to hiring an employee, which is learning abilities. In the majority cases, candidates could have a lot of knowledge about the specific field but could turn out rigid and unable to adjust to new ideas, knowledge and technological innovations once employed. That aside, there is a big gap between candidates who are good in theory but cannot translate their theoretical prowess to practical. This is why you should use other job assessment tests apart from job knowledge tests.

Some top companies that use aptitude tests during their hiring process include;

  • Samsung – this is yet another globally recognized tech company. Samsung uses a customized pre-employment job knowledge tests during their hiring process. This helps them screen out candidates who best fit the vacant position.
  • Apple – it is everybody’s dream to work for this super-tech company. With applications from all over the globe, the company must use various tests to sift through these applications. Before getting on board, shortlisted candidates are invited for an aptitude test, which, unlike Johnson and Johnson, is done physically.
  • Johnson and Johnson – this is one of the largest pharmaceuticals company in the world. Due to this, it attracts hundreds of applications for every advert they make. Once shortlisted, potential candidates are required to complete an aptitude test online.
  • Microsoft – Microsoft uses a traditional approach to conducting aptitude tests. After several online scrutinies, potential candidates are required to complete an aptitude test online.
  • Deloitte – this is another global company that uses customized pre-employment aptitude tests. The company uses a five-step recruitment process that helps them manage their applications. It is within these steps that the company can disqualify a great number of candidates who don’t meet their requirements.
2. Emotional Intelligence Tests
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Commonly referred to as EQ, emotional intelligence tests evaluate an individuals’ ability to recognize and manage their emotions and emotions of those around them. Emotional intelligence tests done during pre-employment tests help employers to identify potential employees who are aware of their emotions and can control them.

These tests guide employers on potential candidates with management and leadership skills. Note that most people with better emotional control have the following characteristics;

  • Always self-aware
  • Can perceive the emotions of people around them
  • React accordingly and not quick to react
  • Help others in all situations
  • Have social empathy
  • Very adaptable
  • Curious
  • Can manage their impulses and solve problems

Measuring emotional intelligence tests, just like cognitive ability tests, can be done during pre-employment assessment. To assess this in a candidate, hiring managers can use a combination of tests and gut instincts. For instance, specific behavior and observational questions can be used during assessment to give insights into the candidates’ emotional intelligence.

Questions asked during these sessions should seek to identify how the candidate takes criticism, whether they admit to mistakes, and how to rise and learn from them. Hiring managers can also note if the candidate listens more and talks less or talk more and listen less. The importance of this test is that it gives an organization or business the advantage of hiring employees with a high level of emotional intelligence.

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Candidates with a good degree of self-awareness, have the ability to control compulsions often bring positive impact to the organization. Emotional intelligence tests also help an organization identify how a potential candidate can fit into the company’s culture and score based on global versatility, teamwork, teamwork, social responsibility, development, and leadership.

3. Integrity Assessment Tests
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As the name suggests, integrity tests generally evaluate the potential candidate’s work ethics, honesty, and dependability. Integrity tests have been in use for more than 60 years, and employers use them to avoid hiring risky candidates. This test became popular in the US after EPPA banned the use of lie detector tests. Integrity tests can be either covert or overt.

Covert tests are based on personality and assess integrity using a proxy. Overt, on the other hand, are used to assess counterproductive behaviors and dishonest traits such as cyberloafing, theft, and absenteeism.

Benefits of using integrity tests

Well-developed integrity tests enable an organization to employ honest employees. Hiring honest employees of high integrity is beneficial for any organization. For instance, if they will have to be absent from work, they provide a valid reason. Honest employees result in more productivity, as well.

4. Personality Trait Tests
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Personality tests, as the name suggests, are used to determine candidates’ typical attitudes, reactions, and behavior towards various situations. They also help in assessing the employees’ thoughts about the kind of people they would like to work with, normal reactions to stressful situations, and how well they can relate with other people. This test is used as part of the pre-employment test since a candidates’ attitude, and personality is also important predictors of success apart from knowledge and experience, which are evaluated by aptitude tests.

The importance of personality tests cannot be ignored. For the last decade or two, there has been a significant change in how businesses operate. Currently, the business culture is shifting towards customer service, and employees have a large responsibility in this than before. This has necessitated organizations to hire employees who are willing to communicate with both customers and colleagues nicely and change their style of working if possible. All this is determined by an individuals’ personality, explaining why personality tests are becoming an essential part of pre-employment tests.

Candidates looking for a sales job or customer service, for instance, are required to have different personality types from those looking to be hired for technical roles or data analysis. Like other pre-employment tests, personality tests are used to identify whether potential candidates’ personality can fit the vacant job position or not. Though perfect in most cases, personality tests may not work in all professions. For instance, they can portray a candidate with normal personality as the best during assessment, eliminating a candidate with an eccentric creative personality with lots of potentials.

5. Skills Assessment Tests

Skill assessment tests make it possible for hiring managers to evaluate the candidate’s skills to find suitable applicants for the vacant position. Using these tests as part of the pre-employment tests enables companies to ensure that the hired candidates have the necessary skills to attend to their designated tasks. For long, the tests have been used to narrow down or filter the list of candidates who avail themselves for interviews.

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Employers can use several methods when assessing candidates’ skills. They include;

  • Resumes
  • Interviews
  • Reference checks
  • Simulation exercises
  • Skills tests

Unlike the other methods outlined above, skills assessment tests are formal, scientific, and standardized. This is because they should produce a standard rating, score, and description. After the tests, hiring managers should be in a position to rank applicants based on their rating, score, description, and matching category. For this reason, skills assessment tests can be used to define, measure, and evaluate job candidates’ skills and abilities during pre-employment assessment.

Skills assessment tests have an additional benefit compared to other types of pre-employment tests. The benefit is that, unlike other pre-employment tests, employers get the opportunity to hear more about the candidate from the candidate and other people. This is possible through skills assessment methods such as interviews, resumes and reference checks.

Tests That Can Best and Worst Predict Job Performance

Hiring managers agree with the fact that hiring predictions are always difficult to score right. With that, the majority of companies and organizations still struggle to make good hires, with 95% agreeing to make bad hires. Even after checking all the pre-employment tests outlined above, there is a need to find one that suits your job and can possibly predict the candidates’ job performance. That said, below are the best and worst job predictors that hiring managers sometimes use.

Worst Job Hiring Predictors

  • School grades

Everybody who goes to college or learning institutions certainly work for their grades, trying to score as much as they can. However, it is unfortunate that school performance is not a good predictor of job success, contrary to what many people believe. To justify this, data collected from 5000 independent studies show that the candidate’s GPA scores had little correlation with job performance. Candidates chosen based on GPA scores increases the chances of making a good hirer by 4% compared to when random hiring is done.

  • First impression

A survey done in 2000 found that 1 in 3 hiring managers made a hiring decision within the first minute after meeting the job candidate. This perfectly describes a first-impression hiring strategy. Well, first impressions are not always right. This is because they are based on surface or superficial qualities such as affability, assertiveness, articulateness and attractiveness. None of these attributes can predict an individuals’ performance, and will likely make the employer ignore several red flags during the interview. Hiring managers using this technique will also likely rate the candidates’ skills, abilities and aptitudes higher.

  • Tricky questions

It often happens that both the hiring personnel and candidate ask tricky questions that make the entire interview very informal and impersonal. Asking tricky questions such as, “what would you do if the world ends today?” or “if you have the opportunity to change one thing in your life, what would it be?” may not help predict the candidates’ job performance. These questions can be funny and engaging but can waste a lot of time.

  • Interviews

Regardless of if they are done online or physically, interviews are not good predictors of job performance. So to say, it is very easy for potential candidates to fake everything during the interview provided it pleases the interviewer. You can as well end up leaving out the best candidates during the interviews due to bad first impressions. That aside, questions asked during the interview may not fully gauge whether a specific job candidate is qualified for the position or not.

Best Hiring Job Predictors

Hiring managers should consider the following job predictors.

  • Job-specific skills

Candidates with job-specific skills are perfect to fit the vacant position. The more skills the candidate has relating to the job position, the higher the chances of performing better if hired.

  • Personality traits

As mentioned before, the personality of individual candidates speaks volumes about the type of employee they will later become. Employees with good personalities make the best team players and will significantly have a positive impact on the growth of the business or company. Candidates with good personalities will likely relate with customers nicely and can help in situations that they can.

  • Past behavior

The past behavior of the candidate is one important indicator and job predictor. It is true that people outgrow their behavior and grow throughout their career, but past behavior can influence even future habits. For example, candidates who claim to be team-oriented may have nothing to prove it while true team players have real-life examples to prove. Experts advise hiring managers to examine candidates’ past behavior and stretch them outside their comfort zones using their previous experiences.

  • Cognitive ability

As discussed above, cognitive ability refers to how the candidate can perform in a wide range of mental activities such as planning, spatial relations, remembering things, using numbers, solving problems, and reading among others. Cognitive ability relates highly for both entry-level and senior-level jobs. Combining cognitive tests with well-structured interviews during pre-employment assessment enables hiring managers to find the best candidate for the position.

Final Thoughts

Evidently, pre-employment tests are of essence for both the employer and employee. Taking your candidates through various suitable job assessment tests is a recipe for getting the best possible employees from all who applied. Similarly, you will avoid making bad hires, which can cost your company.

Hiring employees with good performance have a positive impact on your business or company. Apart from increasing the return on investments, good performing employees have a significant effect on a company’s work ethics. Performing companies such as Apple and Samsung rely on these tests, perhaps explains why they always dominate in their respective markets.

Written by

Brian Duncan W.

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