Pre-Employment & Employee Testing


During my early twenties, I walked out on several interviews because of extensive and ultimately pointless employee testing. For example, I was once asked to take a vocabulary test for an entry-level accounting position, but was not asked to take a math test. The entire thing seemed ridiculous to me, and I didn’t want to waste my time.

Unfortunately, many employers narcissistically administer hours of employee testing simply to make candidates jump through hoops. If you are not using testing to choose the right candidate – using skills that he or she will use during employment – then you are wasting everyone’s time.

If, however, you want to screen candidates for skills needed to perform the job effectively, then they can be an invaluable tool.

1. Wait until after the initial interview. As an employer, you should realize that the job hunt is fierce for most people, and that they don’t have a lot of time to waste. That said, it is ridiculous to screen every applicant with a test only to find out that their qualifications aren’t extensive enough or that it isn’t a good personality fit. Narrow down your list of qualified candidates with an initial one-on-one interview, and then invite the select group back to take the employee test.

2. Make it short and sweet. I don’t feel that personality or intelligence tests should be cornerstones in the hiring of employees. Some people are simply not good at taking tests, and others cannot be gauged by these subjective tests. If, for example, you are testing for an accounting position, center the test around mathematical formulas needed routinely in the job description.

3. Consider the professional level of the position. Once, I interviewed for an entry-level management position, and I was given a test full of questions about effective management skills. I was able to answer the questions correctly because many were common sense-related, but understand that with an entry-level position, you cannot expect the applicants to know the answers. They will discover the answers through training and experience.

4. The Grading Process. Before administering any tests, you will have to determine a grading scale. Does a score of 79% or below excuse the candidate from employment? Does a score of 90% or above make them a top candidate? Have an idea in mind, but don’t set it in stone. It is a mistake to not consider a qualified candidate who missed the cut by two points on a test.


Some employers use bi-annual tests to determine whether or not their staff is up-to-par on productivity. These tests might include product knowledge, skills testing, customer service skills and intra-office relations. Whatever the reason, these tests can give an employer mixed results.

First of all, is there a reason you are giving the tests? Perhaps your sales are plummeting, or you have noticed dissention within the ranks. Giving employee tests might help you determine individual problems in your employees, or it might just answer questions you’ve already figured out.

Next, what will the tests determine? Are they a tool for choosing which employees should be placed on probation, or are you just searching for a way to motivate your employees? Firing a staff member based on a test is a risky procedure; you might be looking at a law suit on the back end.

Remember that an employee test should be a paid procedure and that you should explain to staff why it is being administered. If employees have questions, be available to answer them, and keep an open mind about the results. Letting go good employees based on the results of a test is a terrible business decision, and it could cloud your mind from seeing the big picture.

All in all, I don’t see much value in employee or pre-employment testing, but in some cases, they can be beneficial. Simply evaluate your reasons for administering the tests, and make sure that you review the results as objectively as possible.

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