Pre-Employment Testing: When And How?

As much as the law may differ from one state to another, there are basic rules to consider if you want to use any type of pre-employment assessments to support your selection/hiring process. In this article, we will define when and how it is best to use such tools.

When should you administer tests?

The best time to suggest a candidate to complete a test is after the first interview. Three reasons for this: (1) you have already pre-selected the applicant on observable, objective criteria, so the test results should not entirely challenge your observations; (2) the applicant has been introduced to your company and feels more at ease with your hiring procedure; and (3) every pre-selected applicant will be more willing to go through the testing process if they know they are of potential interest to you.

We strongly recommend that you do NOT use any pre-employment test prior to meeting an applicant for the first interview. Our philosophy is that any assessment should either comfort your first evaluation or challenge some specific attributes which you observed to be lacking or weakly measured during the interview. But no test by itself should ever lead you to make a decision to hire – or not to hire.

Whenever you consider using any pre-employment test, ensure that the test provider can issue evidence of non-adverse impact as well as validity and job-relatedness. Remember that the main cause of complaints to the EEOC stem from invasion of privacy, discrimination against minorities and irrelevance to the job.

Testing job applicants is worth more than the legal risk

Many small businesses tend to shy away from pre-employment testing, under the advice of their attorneys. The main argument is that organizations that have used tests have been sued. But per Ira S. Wolfe, founder ofSuccess Performance Solutions and author of Perfect Labor Storm 2.0, it is also true that more businesses have been sued because they didn’t use testing. Every hiring decision carries a risk. But you need to know the facts:

  • In 2007, the EEOC heard 77,000 discrimination complaints.
  • Of those 77,000, only 304 involved pre-employment assessments.
  • Of those 304 complaints related to assessments, the decisions that ruled in favor of the employee were related to the improper use of the assessment, not to the validity of the assessment itself.

Says Wolfe: “As long as the test is valid, reliable, non-discriminatory AND job-related, the use of pre-employment tests is a best practice that meets EEOC guidelines. If your attorney can’t substantiate why he/she believes pre-employment tests should be avoided with any- thing more than it’s his/her opinion, get a second opinion.”


Our position about pre-employment tests

Used intelligently, good tests can provide valuable information, specifically about issues that were difficult to detect during interviews. We recommend the following dispositions in the use of any test:

  • Make sure that the suggested assessment has been validated by the provider and does not discriminate applicants based on race, gender, ethnicity or other background factor.
  • Verify that the test was developed for job-related-only applications. Avoid tests which investigate private matters and other non-professional issues.
  • Tests are not the “ultimate weapon.” They can potentially increase the quality of hiring, assuming you make testing part of a well-designed and well-managed hiring process.
  • Measure the results. Test the test on your best employees. This will give you a better understanding of how a specific test functions and its limits.
  • In doubt, trust your guts. Always question unexpected test results and take it up with the applicant. Most applicants will have something to say about bad results, which is often the most interesting part of testing.
  • Tests can be faked. Some applicants do not hesitate to find out about specific popular tests and will even train to pass them. The best test is to have someone in your company “test the test.” If it does not pass that test, do not use it.
  • Inform applicants that their test results might be discussed in case they are selected as finalists. Make them feel relaxed about it and always clearly state that a hiring decision is never made based on test results only.

To your success,

Patrick V. Valtin
Best-Selling Author of “No-Fail Hiring 2.0”

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