ITB 2022 Special Reporting
Pros and Cons of Pre-Employment Tests
By Mandy Ferrin
Tuesday, 13th April 2021

Years ago, all it took for a candidate to land a job was a clean resume and a solid interview but those days are long gone and people are getting hired (and fired) based on 'culture fit' alone.

Hiring the wrong person can cost a company THOUSANDS. It should come as no surprise that hiring managers have turned to behavioral/cognitive assessments to aid in the selection process. Executives have come to realize that personality will impact a candidate’s aptitude for the role.

Around 80% of Fortune 500 companies use pre-employment tests. A 2017 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that nearly one-third (32%) of respondents use personality, behavioral and cognitive assessments during their hiring process.

So the question is, are they actually working? Or are hiring managers weeding out amazing candidates?

Here are some of the most popular pre-employment tests and how effective they are:

Personality Tests

Personality and career aptitude tests measure a candidate’s behavior. It is crucial to know and understand every employee’s work style when screening them for a position. After all, their characteristics relate directly to retention and overall success on the job. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • The Enneagram
  • The Caliper Profile
  • The Four Quadrant (4-Q) test
  • The SHL Occupational Personality Questionaire
  • The Hogan Personality Inventory
  • The DiSC Behavioral Inventory

Unlike other pre-employment assessments, candidates can’t give right or wrong answers on these tests. The results are focused on their engagement level for the role and whether or not they’d be a good fit. These quizzes can help confirm any inklings hiring managers had during the interview, or shine a light on pre-judgements. The best part of personality tests is that it gives hiring managers an idea of how the candidate would adapt to the culture and what it takes to keep them motivated.

The shoe doesn’t always fit. Hiring managers that pick and choose from a handful of personality types can miss out on a well-rounded team. Even if they provide behavioral insight, personality tests aren’t always the best indicators of how successful an individual will be. This is particularly true with certain tests like Myers-Briggs, where the quiz isn’t focused on actual work ethic. Are these tests validated as strong measures of job performance? Not really. It’s best not to put too much weight on the results. It can be helpful once the candidate is hired, but it shouldn’t dictate your decision.

Cognitive Tests

Cognitive tests assess cognitive skills like logical, verbal, and numerical reasoning. Cognitive function is similar to taking an IQ test to measure intelligence, although actual intelligence is more nuanced than quiz results.

These tests aren’t focused on technical knowledge, but rather on problem solving abilities and deductive reasoning. Everyone wants a new-hire that is capable of learning things on the fly. These tests can help hiring managers and recruiters figure out who has the mental aptitude for the job. The answers can also give a clearer picture on their future job performance.

The skills tested aren’t always relevent to the position. Nobody wants to apply to a low-paying food service job and take a 50-minute quiz filled with long division.

Also note that if you’re assigning a cognitive test before the candidate has spoken to an actual human being, you’re doing a disservice to your recuitment efforts since good candidates will often move on. This can end up being costly, since these tests can range anywhere from $100 – $5,000.

Talent Assessment Tests

Talent assessments are different from cognitive and personality tests in that they’re personalized by the job. These tests help predict a new hire’s job performance, retainability, and the accuracy of the skills put on their resume. For example, if a candidate claims in their cover letter that they’re an Excel wizard, you may want to put it to the test by giving them an Excel assessment. Sites like LinkedIn and Indeed offer comprehensive assessment libraries for companies to tack on to their application process.

Well-designed tests actually improve legal defensibility for organizations since it provides a fair method of candidate comparison. It also reduces the chances of candidate lying on their resume by putting their competencies to the test.

Unfortunately, depending on the skillset you’re testing, there is a limit on the type of tests available. Since talent assessments are specific to the role they’re applying to, it can be difficult to find ones that measure the exact compentencies you’re looking for. Even worse, if it’s not a well-designed, it may not accurately assess the candidate’s true skillset.

JDI understands that there is a science to executing a research and recruitment strategy and an art to attracting and delivering top-level performers to our client companies. If you would like to learn more about our executive search practice, click here.

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