How To Use Pre Employment Testing

Pre employment testing, when used properly can help companies make better hiring decision. The science of testing ranges from skills testing to aptitude test, personality tests and beyond.

In days gone by, testing was limited to more of a skills qualification type of testing. The simplest example is a typing test. In a job that requires heavy data entry, it is important to know that the candidate meets a minimum threshold so as to be sure that person is productive.

With advances in technology and better data analysis tools, the concept of predictive behavior in a job is advancing in the recruitment market place. Pre employment testing is here to stay and it is getting better all the time.

How to Use Pre-Employment Test Program

Let's for a moment assume you agree that testing candidates could help you make better hires, not just for skills but also about some of the softer skills required in a job.

There are still lots of questions that need to be answered.

  • What tests work in to predict desired qualities for your job?
  • What tests work to predict qualities that would be bad for your job?
  • What is the difference between a test that shows what someone can do vs what someone could do?
  • What are the legal ramifications for testing in your job category?
  • What is your plan for using the tests to improve your hiring?
  • How do you measure results of testing to see how it is impacting your hiring decisions?
  • How do you use your results to improve testing and selection process of making hiring decisions?

The list could go on and on. So let's address a few of these issues at a high level and go over some suggestions to start developing your internal processes for pre employment testing and how to use it in your recruiting process.

Selecting Pre Employment Tests

In order to best select the pre employment testing you will need you first need to perform a job analysis for your position. This should yield, a list of skills and abilities for you to prioritize. Then you can begin the process of selecting skills that will confirm that the candidate has those qualities of capabilities.

In general you are looking for 3 types of information. Testing can help in all of them to one extent or another.

  1. Can Do
  2. Will Do
  3. Has Done

Can Do

The best way to understand "can do" is to think of it as a capability or personality trait. A person who is introverted probably can not do sales. A person who withdraws from conflict probably won't be a good manager. You are looking to affirm qualities of an individual to succeed in a position. In other words, it is well within their skills and personality to do the job.

Will Do

This is a little more difficult to describe but there are capabilities that people have which they may possess but they may not be willing to use them. The person must be willing to do the functions of the job.

For instance in a turn around situation, a person may have exemplary management skills in completing a project and managing budgets etc. They have the right mix of talent and management but they may not be willing to fire someone who needs to be fired not because they are doing a bad job but because they don't have the skills/ability to move the company to the next level.

Additionally, there are people who are hands on managers. Willing to jump in with everyone else and get the job done. There are others who believe that they have done their time in the trenches so to speak and it is beneath them to jump in. They can do the job but they may not be willing to do the job.

Have Done

This is certainly something that is driven by experience. If it is a soft skill that you are looking at, you can often find out if the person has done it by interviewing reference checks.

If it is a hard skill or knowledge based task like software programming you can use a combination of both pre employment testing and reference checks to verify the candidate has done what they say they have done.

Affirmative Testing

There is also another idea that is important for employers to understand when looking at pre employment testing. In many cases you are looking to affirm that a candidate has the skill to do the job.

You also want to look at qualities that would prevent an employee to be successful. Again we can go back to the turn around situation. If someone had a trait where they were reluctant to fire someone who was not doing a bad job but was just no longer a good fit, that person would not be a good manager in a turn around situation where people may need to be fired and replaced to take the company to the next level.

This idea of testing for barriers to success can be used in both hiring situations as well as employee development...but that is a topic for another day.

The important concept is that pre employment testing can be used to affirm an ability but also to identify traits which may prevent a candidate from being successful.

Measurement is Key to Success

The final part of pre employment testing which must be considered is measurement. When you set standards for hiring using testing, you must evaluate those standards based on past hiring.

For example, the 2 of the last 3 sales people we hired scored very high in one area and they were all successful. The third had a good score but was not as high as the other 2. This means you should probably look at raising the threshold for qualified candidates.

Conversely, if you are having a hard time finding enough good candidates that meet your testing threshold, you may want to take a look at relaxing your standards just a bit.

This test and measurement is ultimately the key to hiring and keeping employees for a long time. You will find not only the highest performing employees but also the ones who are positioned for success.

It will take a number of iterations in some cases to get it right but the rewards of lower turn over, better performing employees and a more effective recruitment process are well worth the cost.

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