Pre-employment Tests Vs Credit Checks: Which Methods Helps You Hire Responsible Employees?

by Michael Mercer, Ph.D.

Pre-employment tests do better at predicting irresponsible behavior than credit checks. It is important to take pre-employment test scores into account when you want to evaluate if a job applicant potentially could be a responsible person for your organization. This article explains what you should know.

Pre-employment tests should do better at predicting irresponsible behavior than credit checks. So, take pre-employment test scores into account when you want to evaluate if a job applicant potentially could be a responsible person for your organization.


Credit checks in employment applications are under a lot of scrutiny. The argument for doing credit checks is if an applicant has a lousy credit history, that applicant may (a) steal from their employer to ‘raise funds’ or (b) be an irresponsible employee. In fact, some localities require credit checks of applicants for jobs requiring ‘public trust,’ e.g., healthcare professionals, day care workers, teachers, sports coaches, police officers, and firefighters.

However, many factors resulting in credit problems may not correlate with the person acting irresponsibly on-the-job, if hired. Also, not all credit problems are created equal. For instance, a person who has credit problems due to a major illness may be different than a person with credit problems due to gambling.

At a recent Washington, D.C. hearing about credit checks, Michael Aamodt of DCI Consulting Group, Inc., commented, “This lack of research [on credit checks] is especially important to note, because there have only been five studies that investigated actual credit history, rather than self-reported levels of financial stress . . . When these studies are combined using meta-analysis . . . financial problems seem to be correlated most highly with absenteeism, and least highly with performance ratings.”


Pre-employment personality tests zoom in on the underlying issue. Specifically, the desire to use credit checks is fueled by employers wanting to hire responsible employees who will (A) do a good job and (B) not steal.

Fortunately, pre-employment personality tests get at this ‘responsibility’ concern a number of ways.

First, pre-employment tests for “white-collar” and skilled jobs should forecast how much the applicant follows rules, policies, and procedures. That assesses key concerns companies hope credit checks address. The issue is whether an applicant will follow rules, such as handling duties and company property in a responsible way.

Since pre-employment personality tests that are properly created require years of research, the personality test give an employer reliable and valid forecasts of each applicant’s rule-following or rule-breaking. So, the company would not need to hope a credit check would uncover such problems. Instead, the company could feel confident the personality test found out what the applicant really would be like on-the-job.

Second, pre-employment personality tests for “blue-collar” or lower-level jobs also should include forecasts of whether a job applicant might be a troublemaker. For instance, one dependability pre-employment test evaluates applicants for honesty on the test, work ethic, impulsiveness, stealing, and substance abuse.

That pre-employment test of key personality traits quickly and easily directly tells employers more about crucial work behaviors better than an indirect evaluation by a credit check. For instance, let’s say stealing by employees is a problem a company wants to eliminate. To do this, the company could get credit checks, but then must make the ‘leap of faith’ that a good credit rating means an applicant would not steal and a bad credit rating means the person might steal. That is a lot of conjecturing with little or no research to back it up.

Instead, a pre-employment personality test is designed and researched to assess such risky, irresponsible behavior.


So, it appears credit checks of job applicants rely on wishful thinking: Maybe-possibly-perhaps a good or bad credit rating predicts a job applicant will do good or bad actions on-the-job.

But, wouldn’t you and your company be better off using scientific, research-based prediction methods, rather than wishful thinking?

Pre-employment personality tests offer you a research-based tool to forecast how responsible or irresponsible a job applicant might be. Use

* behavior tests for “white-collar” or professional jobs

* dependability tests for “blue-collar” or lower-level jobs

Pre-employment tests help you directly predict important job-related factors. In contrast, credit checks do not have research to help you make good hiring decisions.

As such, you may want to quit using questionable credit checks.

Instead, use pre-employment personality tests to help you hire good, productive, responsible employees – the type of employees who help you grow your business.

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Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is an expert onpre-employment tests and how to hire good, productive, responsible employees. Many companies use 3 pre-employment tests Dr. Mercer created – the 3 “Forecaster™ Tests” – to help them hire good, productive employees. Dr. Mercer wrote 5 books, including “Hire the Best – & Avoid the Rest(tm).” You can get (a) no-cost subscription to his Management Newsletter at or (b) talk with Dr. Mercer at 847-382-0690.  © Copyright 2010 Mercer SystemsFeature Articles, Inc.

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