During my 20+ year career, I’ve worked for companies that were strong advocates of pre-employment testing and some that were strong critics. I’ve taken many tests while trying to get a job and administered many tests while trying to fill a job. In my opinion, pre-employment testing is a valuable part of a hiring strategy that can help to ensure the candidate’s on-the-job success. And successful employees are obviously a key component of company performance.
A pre-employment testing case study
At one of my former employers, we used a marketing intelligence tool to mine data for our clients. Hiring and retaining analysts was a difficult and expensive process. People that we thought would be good analysts based on their resumes and interviews often struggled with the software or burned out on the job content within the first year.
To address this problem, we had current employees take a test on analytical aptitude. In reviewing the results of our strongest and most tenured analysts, we identified specific criteria for future analysts. In recruiting, we used the candidate’s score as an indicator of future performance.
Thankfully, analysts hired from that point forward tended to learn the tool faster and be satisfied with their job content longer. In the case of this employer, better hiring translated directly to revenue because clients valued the expertise as well as the tenure of that expertise.
Notice that I said “an indicator.” The aptitude test itself did not make our hiring decision. It simply gave us a more complete picture of the candidate. The interviews were still the most important part, but testing helped us conduct better interviews. With each new hire we learned a little more about how to leverage the test, how much weight to give a particular score, and so on. It wasn’t perfect – no test is – but our turnover was significantly reduced.
- The people most likely to be successful in retail sales positions have a certain aptitude that can be identified through pre-employment testing. There are many critics here because the sheer volume of people taking the test means that many have failed, but I would take it as a strong hint that retail might not be the best career choice for me. See Test for Dwindling Retail Jobs Spawns a Culture of Cheating.
- Similarly, the people most likely to be successful in executive positions also have a certain aptitude that can be identified through testing. This article from the Harvard Business Review discusses the balance between executive instinct and executive intelligence, and raises the corporate governance issue of tying compensation to performance.
- Yet another measure is not of aptitude or academic intelligence, but of emotional intelligence. Research has shown, for example, that high scores on the ESCI (Emotional and Social Competence Inventory) are much more predictive of success than an IQ test and a well-crafted resume combined. The idea is that it doesn’t matter how smart you are if you lack the social skills to handle adversity, motivate others, etc.