by Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
What are pre-employment tests? They are tests that organizations give to job applicants to help them hire employees who are productive, dependable, and low-turnover. What does research say a…
What are pre-employment tests?
They are tests that organizations give to job applicants to help them hire employees who are productive, dependable, and low-turnover.
What does research say about pre-employment tests?
Research on pre-employment tests and other prediction methods indicate pre-employment tests are the most method to accurately predict how an applicant may perform on-the-job, if hired.
In contrast, interviews typically are a lousy method to predict an applicant’s job performance.
Also, reference checks, unfortunately, are quite useless, because many companies refuse to reveal negative information about their former employees.
Why are pre-employment tests so accurate at predicting actual job performance?
Pre-employment tests that work well are created after doing In-depth research. The research is done find out which test questions work best in the test, plus make sure the test is both reliable and valid.
What is pre-employment test validity and reliability?
Use pre-employment tests only if they were created using research to establish the test is both (a) valid and (b) reliable.
Validity of a pre-employment test means the test accurately predicts or forecasts exactly what it is meant to predict. For example, if one scale or section of the pre-employment test aims to predict if a job applicant is teamwork-oriented, then that test scale is valid only if accurately measures how much or how little an applicant likes teamwork. Or, if a test scale helps predict Problem-Solving Ability, then that Problem-Solving Ability section must be a valid or accurate measure of Problem-Solving Ability. If a test scale helps predict Theft/Stealing concerns, then it needs to be a valid or accurate prediction of an applicant’s possible Theft/Stealing behavior.
Reliability of pre-employment tests is different than validity. Reliability of a pre-employment test can be established through research in a number of ways. In general, reliability means a test reliably or consistently measures what it is supposed to measure. For instance, if multiple questions predict Teamwork, then those Teamwork questions must overall measure Teamwork and not some other factor. Also, test-retest reliability means that if a job applicant takes the pre-employment test one day and then takes the same test at a later date, e.g., a month later, then the applicant’s scores should be the same in at both times.
In summary, use pre-employment tests only if they were created using research to establish the test is both (a) valid and (b) reliable.
What “Assessments” Are NOT Pre-Employment Tests?
Pre-employment tests are specially researched and created specifically for testing job applicants.
In contrast, some organizations mistakenly use “assessments” meant for training or teambuilding with current employees when they evaluate job applicants. This is wrong to do – for a number of reasons. For instance, such “assessments” are not researched, designed, nor justifiable for pre-employment testing of job applicants. Also, if any question is raised about the use of such “assessments,” the organization certainly may have a very hard time explaining why it used an “assessment” meant for training or teambuilding to evaluate job applicants.
So, only use pre-employment tests that actually are researched and designed to test job applicants. Do not use “assessments” that are not researched, designed, meant for, nor justifiable in your evaluation of job applicants.
What Types of Pre-Employment Tests Might I Use?
Three types of pre-employment tests can help you hire the best.
1. Mental Abilities Tests – help you predict job-related cognitive abilities, such as
a. Problem-Solving Ability
b. Vocabulary Ability
c. Arithmetic Ability
d. Grammar, Spelling & Word Use Ability
e. Ability to Handle Small Details with Speed & Accuracy
2. Behavior Tests – help you predict key interpersonal skills, personality traits, and motivations:
a. Interpersonal Skills
b. Personality Traits
Following Rules & Procedures
Poise Under Pressure
Calm vs. Excitable
Feeling-Focus vs. Fact-Focused
Helping People / Service Motivation
Leaning / Knowledge Motivation
3. Dependability Tests – help you predict key factors, such as,
a. Honesty on test
b. Work Ethic
c. Impulsiveness [may be linked to safety, accidents, & interpersonal conflict]
d. Stealing / Theft concern
e. Substace Abuse concern
Will Pre-Employment Test “Catch” Job Applicant Who Lies on Test?
A correctly designed pre-employment test will detect – or find out – if an applicant lied by giving answers that may make the applicant seem “better or different” than the applicant really is.
In sharp contrast, “assessments” designed for training or teambuilding – and not for pre-employment testing – do not have such a built-in lie detector.
A good pre-employment test can use number of methods to “catch” a job applicant who tries to answer its questions dishonestly. Perhaps the best method involves using a set of truism questions.
You will not “catch” a lying job applicant if you only rely on whether or not the applicant answered different versions of the same question the same. For starters, when test asks different versions of the same question, that is for (a) creating a scale on that topic and also (b) reliability. Here is why that will not catch a lying or dishonest applicant: The liar could consistently answer those questions dishonestly.
Recommendation: Always ask the Business Psychologist who created the pre-employment test how the test will “catch” or detect if an applicant answered questions to “pull the wool over your eyes.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is an industrial psychologist whose expertise is in pre-employment tests and helping companies hire winners. He wrote 5 books including “HIRE THE BEST – & AVOID THE REST™. Dr. Mercer created 3 pre-employment tests to help companies hire outstanding employees. Contact Dr. Mercer via http://www.MercerSystems.com. COPYRIGHT 2010 MICHAEL MERCERFeature Articles, PH.D.