The Nuts and Bolts of Employment Tests

The use of employment tests has been a topic of debate in the area of human resources for many years. While we aren’t legal experts, we are experts at creating personality and employment tests, so I thought it would be useful to create a brief overview of employment tests.

What is an employment test?

An employment test is a tool, usually in the form of a questionnaire or test, that’s designed to measure some aspect of a person’s knowledge, skill, or suitability for a job or task. Those purposes range from measuring practical intelligence, specific skills or attitudes, to full personality assessment for management or leadership potential.

Why should a company use employment tests?

Employment tests help a company gather job-relevant information about a candidate in order to those who are a good match for the job, and to avoid hiring candidates who, because they are not well-suited for the job, will likely add to turnover costs. In addition, companies use employment tests to avid bias in hiring practices. Because properly validated and used employment tests provide objective information, they give an employer an unbiased way to compare several candidates’ aptitude or suitability.

Employment tests introduce consistency and uniformity to the hiring process because they ask the same questions, in the same order, every time. They save time because they can ask hundreds of questions without taking up an interviewer’s time. Finally, using employment tests demonstrates respect for the candidate. It gives each candidate the opportunity to demonstrate their job-relevant skills or attitudes in a fair, unbiased way.

Make sure the tests you purchase are job relevant and validated.

Employment tests must be job-relevant for the position that you’ll be filling. For example, a test used to assess teller candidates for a bank should measure aptitudes or skills that are identified in the job description as necessary or useful.

In addition, you should be sure that the employment test(s) you choose are validated. Validation is a process that the test developer should follow that measures whether the test actually measures what the developer claims that it measures. One of the ways this is done is by comparing test results with some other measure of the skill or attitude. Other ways include showing that the content of the test relates to the job in question. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has published Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures that describes appropriate validation criteria, and the test developer should be able to provide you with a validation study that describes how the test was validated.

Be sure that you know what the employment test results that you are using mean in terms of the job for which you are considering candidates. Most employment tests come with a manual or a handbook that tells you what the test is designed to measure and how to understand the results. Become familiar with the handbook before you begin using the test.

Administer the same test to every candidate who reaches the same step in the hiring process.

To be fair in the interview and testing process, you should always administer the same tests to each and every candidate who makes it to a pre-determined step in the selection process. Your company can determine what that pre-determined step is, but make sure that once each candidate reaches it, they are administered the tests.

Use all information collected about a candidate to make hiring and promotion decisions.

Always use employment test results in addition to all of the other job-relevant information you have to evaluate candidates for jobs. Test results should be just one factor in the hiring or promotion decision.

Used correctly, employment tests will make it easier for you to evaluate, hire, promote, and train people. Furthermore, using employment tests will allow you to do so more quickly, easily, inexpensively, and ethically. The correct use of employment tests is truly best for you, your company, and the individual being tested.