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The 3 Types of Pre-Employment Tests — And Which Is Best for You

The market is flooded with pre-employment tests — and these hiring assessments vary widely in scope, relevance, and competence. Not surprisingly, businesses often find it tough to determine which types of pre-employment testing to use. Generally speaking, analyzing the position helps pinpoint the ideal assessment.

Consider high-flow positions, for instance. They’re the ones that generally attract thousands of résumés. In those cases, testing for basic or intermediate qualifications and skill sets can rapidly reduce the selections to a more manageable number.

High-stakes openings don’t necessarily generate tons of applications, but they require people who possess crucial and specific knowledge and abilities. A pre-employment test for these potential recruits will no doubt be comprehensive, evaluating candidates on various levels.

Finally, we come to positions that have a base rate. “Base rate” is a testing term that means a predictable percentage of people will already possess baseline core competencies. Someone of this caliber should meet or exceed the base expectations, which can be determined through pre-employment tests.

Which of the Different Types of Pre-Employment Tests Is Best?

After labeling each position, employers can then determine which types of pre-employment testing will be most apt to produce reliable, pertinent feedback for analysis. The three most widely used types of pre-employment screenings tend to fall into the categories of work simulations, cognitive tests, and personality assessments.

1. Work skills simulation testing: Typically resistant to court challenges based on the government’s Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, work simulations offer a high perception of fairness because they mimic what actually happens on the job. For example, firefighter applicants may be asked to undergo a series of simulations to show they have the requisite experience and education for the job.

How do you know whether an assessment falls into this category? It will focus on skills used as part of the daily or monthly operations. These skills can be specific (e.g., knowing how to use 90% of a software program) or broad (e.g., being able to perform general math functions). Applicants who pass simulations demonstrate job readiness, which is a strong predictor of long-term success.

2. Aptitude and cognitive testing: Cognitive testing can be notoriously tricky if it exhibits an adverse impact, which is the first element to activate an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case. Adverse impact causes unfair, illegal discrimination or bias against a person from a protected class. A prime example of criteria that may adversely affect some workers is a credit check, which may favor individuals from more affluent circumstances.

Still, you shouldn’t avoid cognitive testing — despite its acknowledged downsides. After all, there are manybenefits of pre-employment cognition testing. Case in point: This type of assessment can gauge an applicant’s problem-solving skills, behavioral leanings, mental processing acumen, and learning potential. And as HireVue discovered through research, 62% of employers use cognitive tests to evaluate a candidate’s abilities.

3. Personality testing: For decades, businesses have built teams based around personality assessments. Personality tests help employers cherry-pick players most likely to fit into the corporate culture or team environment by measuring soft skills such as conscientiousness and sales acuity. The only problem with these kinds of appraisals is that applicants sometimes try to game the system by faking their answers.

As a consequence, recruiters may want to use personality tests as one of the last phases of the hiring process. Let’s say Company XYZ has three strong candidates for one role. XYZ’s leadership may want to ask each to complete a Myers-Briggs evaluation, DiSC assessment, CliftonStrengths assessment, or another pre-employment personality testing vehicle. Even if all the applicants base their answers on what they think XYZ wants to know, the hiring team will get a more thorough indication of the differences between the contenders.

Homegrown or Off-the-Shelf Pre-Employment Skills Testing?

From a big-picture standpoint, organizations and recruiters interested in using pre-employment testing have two choices: They can either buy ones that are commercially available or develop assessments internally. Those that pick the former route should be picky, making sure there’s a strong connection between the jobs they want to fill and what’s actually being tested.

Corporations that develop assessments in-house, rather than purchase off-the-shelf tests, must be careful to reduce bias in the questions. Many homemade tests have ended up in court. No brand wants a legal battle because its recruitment team used a pre-employment test that didn’t meet regulatory expectations.

For this reason, employers should carefully consider how to get what they need by offering a multipronged testing setup that includes a mixture of cognitive, personality, work simulations, and interviews.

Want to learn more about pre-employment testing options for your business? Visit the library of high-quality, high-return skill tests that TestGenius offers.