Why Use Employment Tests


We’ve been in the business of developing, validating, and providing employment tests for over 35 years – and that includes everything from full personality assessment for executive and c-suite level candidates to applicants for entry-level clerical and service sector jobs. This means that we know a lot about all the specifics involved in using employment tests correctly, but it occurred to me that it would be useful to talk about the big picture of why it’s so beneficial to use employment testing as part of the selection or promotion decision-making process.

The First Rule of Using Employment Testing

Employment tests should be used in addition to all other job-relevant information about the candidate that comes from such sources as resumes, background and reference checks, interviews, work samples, and other sources of information about the person’s candidacy.

The Second Rule of Using Employment Testing

Employment tests must be relevant to the job for which they are used. This means that the employment test must measure a skill or attitude that is required or useful for the job. The employment test(s) that are used should contribute information about the candidate’s possession (or not) of the skills and/or attitudes required by the job.

That said, let’s look at each of the three main reasons to use employment tests.

Three Main Reasons to Use Employment Tests

1. To measure specific skills and/or attitudes that otherwise can only be guessed at

Well-designed employment tests measure specific skills and/or attitudes that affect a person’s ability to perform in a job. Employers want this kind of information because it speaks to the candidate’s ability to learn or perform the job.

Let’s look at a few specific examples: A test of keyboarding accuracy and speed might be useful for an employer who was hiring personnel who would be responsible for accurate preparation of documents, emails, or reports. A different example would be a test of a person’s strength and agility for a job that consisted of lifting and bending in a warehouse or fulfillment center. A test of a person’s leadership and communication styles would be used for a position that requires that person to coordinate and direct the activities of others.

The key requirement, in selecting an employment test is that the test should measure a skill or attitude that is related to the job. The most direct evidence of the job-relevance of a required skill or attitude is in the written job description. Make sure, when you select an employment test to use, that it measures a skill or attitude that is described in the written job description.

Does this mean that, if a person doesn’t do well enough on an employment test, you should not hire that person? Not necessarily. In the first place, there may be reasons that the person did not do well that have little to do with his or her qualifications for the job. In addition, his or her other qualifications for the job may outweigh the employment test results. Or you may need to hire someone who is not your first choice because the job must be filled. This brings us to the next reason to use employment tests:

2. To introduce objective measurement in the placement, on-boarding, and training decisions

The most important value employment tests provide is that they help you understand the strengths and challenges that a new employee brings to the job. This information helps you make better placement, on-boarding, and training decisions.

Let’s say a candidate for a supervisory position completes a general work style assessment and does not look like a promising candidate for directing others, but does have personality attributes that suggest that outside sales might be a better fit. You’ve identified a skill or aptitude that is not strong for the position you initially considered, but you’ve found a candidate who can bring strengths to another kind of position.

Employment test results can also identify hidden gaps in a new employee’s knowledge or skills that can be addressed, from the beginning of employment tenure, with specific training.

3. To provide employees with specific suggestions for improving their productivity

Possibly the greatest benefit to using employment tests has to do with the constructive feedback for employees that they can provide. Most people want to know how they did on an employment test, and the best tests include objective feedback for the test-taker that is specific and job-relevant.

The goal of giving a new employee constructive feedback about employment test results is to enlist the person’s participation in overcoming whatever challenges may exist to his or her success on the job, and in using his or her strengths to do so. Employment test results that provide feedback in a usable and constructive form for new employees help the employer and employee get a jump-start on training and development.

To Sum Up…

Employment tests give you objective, job-relevant information about a person’s strengths and challenges. This objective information can be used, in addition to all other job-relevant information about the person, to:

    • Make better hiring and promotion decisions
    • Improve and customize placement and training practices to save both company and employee time
    • Enlist the participation of employees in using their strengths to overcome barriers to their success on the job.