Does pre-employment testing work?

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.

Pre-Employment TestingTo 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.

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2 thoughts on “Does pre-employment testing work?

  1. Hi Rick,
    Thank you for the review. I worked for only one company that did pre-employment screening and while really fun and interesting. No one seemed to do anything with the information. 🙂
    While this was perhaps an odd case, do you find that testing to screen out is as effective as perhaps testing to learn how to better use existing talent?

    1. Thanks for the comment Stephanie. In my experience, leveraging existing talent is a function of having a good manager, not so much any skills testing.

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