Pre-Employment Testing: What Job Applicants Should Know About Online Skills Tests

blog post imageAs businesses grow, they look to take on more employees. More and more companies are discovering the cost behind the complex hiring process and are turning to pre-employment tests (online sets of tests that can measure a number of a candidate’s skills) to cut down on hiring costs and reduce employee turnover. Below are some questions first-time users of pre-employment tests may have.

Why do employers use pre-employment tests?

Online employment tests allow employers to gain a more objective view of their candidates. They’ve become a great way to optimize the hiring process for both parties: instead of asking a candidate to come in and interviewing them about their proficiency in Microsoft, the candidate can simply log on, complete a pre-employment test, and share the results with the potential employer. Later, the employer can view all the candidates who have taken the tests, and ask those who have scored the highest to come in and interview. By assessing the candidate’s basic skills beforehand, the employer can use the in-person interview to find out more about the candidate’s personality and determine whether or not they fit well into the company culture.

So, are employers hiring based only on pre-employment test scores?

While pre-employment skill tests are becoming more and more commonplace in the world of recruiting, it’s unlikely they will become the sole factor in a hiring decision. An online test won’t allow an employer to gauge how well the candidate works with current employees, nor does it allow for a full personality assessment. Instead, it allows the employer to filter out candidates that don’t possess the skills necessary for a specific job.

Can’t you cheat your way to a high score?

The possibility of cheating arises every time someone is asked to take an assessment online, as no one is monitoring you while you’re testing. Fortunately, companies are finding more and more ways to combat cheating on online assessments. They do so through a number of methods, such as assigning a time limit to each test so applicants cannot take time to look up answers, writing specific questions that cannot be researched online, or reporting integrity scores, which measure how quickly candidates respond to each question. Employers may also ask potential candidates who score highly to complete a short assessment in person to ensure they have not cheated. In addition, beyond the basic skills tests, it’s almost impossible to look up answers for personality or cognitive tests, as many test questions will not have “right” or “wrong” answers.

What types of questions will the candidate be asked to answer?

The type of assessment an employer will give to a candidate depends on the job the person is applying for. Pre-employment tests can fall into three basic categories:

  • Basic skills tests. These types of tests will measure basic qualifications such as math, verbal, and grammar skills. The difficulty of the tests will vary based on the ranking of the job. Most candidates should expect to take at least one type of basic skills test (those applying for an accounting position, for example, would likely be required to complete a math skills test.)

  • Personality tests. These tests are more complex than the basic skills tests and are usually used to determine if a candidate possesses personality traits in line with the company’s mission and core values. Personality tests can involve a number of multiple choice questions, true/false statements, or agree/disagree statements. Unlike basic skills tests, these tests won’t have a right or wrong answer and are thus harder to interpret. The Myers-Briggs test is one example of a personality test – it uses the candidate’s responses to generate a four letter outcome, with each letter pertaining to a specific trait. Each four letter combination is associated with a number of personality characteristics (you can read sample descriptions of the combinations here.)

  • Cognitive tests. Cognitive tests look to measure a candidate’s reasoning, logic, and problem solving skills. They often go beyond the basic questions you may encounter in skills tests. Some types of cognitive-style test questions include asking test takers to identify patterns in strings of numbers or images, complete an analogy, or pick a word/phrase that does not belong.

A sample of assessment-type questions from each test category can be found here.

By understanding the purpose of pre-employment tests and knowing what to expect when an employer asks you to complete one, you’ll be one step closer to landing that crucial job interview. Have you taken a pre-employment test yet? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

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