Pre-Employment Testing Strategies: Unlocking the Secrets to Hiring Excellence
What do you do if two candidates seem as qualified for the role as one another? How can you hire en masse quickly and as efficiently as possible? How can you tell if a candidate is suited for the job’s day-to-day tasks? How can you prevent wasting precious time and resources hiring the wrong candidate?
As it turns out, there’s a simple solution to all of the above: pre-employment assessments.
Pre-employment testing has long been a cornerstone of the recruitment process – a non-negotiable checkpoint to see how a candidate is likely to perform in the job itself, highlighting competencies that indicate if it’s worth continuing the hiring process with the candidate from the early stages.
But, a caveat: pre-employment testing is not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor the answer to every recruitment issue. It consists of a combination of skills, cognitive ability, and personality evaluations, which must be implemented correctly into your hiring processes, combining science and art.
To that end, here’s Canditech’s guide to everything you ever needed and wanted to know about pre-employment testing, including how to implement it into your company’s hiring funnel properly.
What is Pre-Employment Testing?
Pre-employment testing is a multifaceted strategy organizations employ during the hiring process to evaluate the suitability of candidates for specific roles thoroughly. These assessments encompass a diverse array of evaluations, including skills assessments, cognitive tests, personality evaluations, and assessments of cultural fit within the company. This comprehensive strategy is integral to the hiring process, serving as a means of identifying potential qualified candidates and as a tool for in-depth candidate evaluation.
As its name suggests, pre-employment testing is the application of assessments and evaluations aimed at screening and pinpointing candidates with the highest potential suitability for a particular role. Employing a diverse array of testing methods, these pre-hiring assessments provide a comprehensive measurement of a candidate’s skills, abilities, knowledge, and personality traits.
The evaluation information from conducting these types of tests goes far and beyond the information available from a resume or in-person interviews. It can provide you with a clearer, more streamlined way to make better-informed hiring decisions, even at a glance.
What are the Benefits of Pre-Employment Testing?
Pre-employment testing has one clear goal: to help you quickly and effortlessly sift through a range of candidates ranked by professional capabilities and potential via insights that can be challenging and time-consuming to gather from a more traditional hiring process. This is because pre-employment testing provides a much more in-depth, multidimensional view of each candidate, streamlining the decision-making process for you and helping the best, most qualified candidates stand out from the pack.
Why Do I Need Pre-Employment Testing?
Navigating the hiring process can be demanding. The most qualified candidates are in high demand and often swiftly secured, making it difficult to strike the right balance between precision and speed, especially through traditional lengthy hiring processes.
This is where pre-employment assessments come in. You must be quick, decisive, and confident in choosing a candidate…before they get hired elsewhere.
Not only can pre-employment testing help you to identify the best candidates, but it can also prevent you from making costly hiring mistakes. It’s well-reported that traditional hiring methods can lead to a high rate of bad hires and churn, but you may be astonished to learn that a recent CareerBuilder survey reported that bad hires cost your organization more than just money; a bad hire is more than an inconvenient misstep: it’s a financial vortex pulling in unexpected recruitment and training costs while draining productivity and morale. Such hires can tarnish customer relations and the company’s reputation, leading to a costly cycle of rehiring and retraining.
It’s a scenario where the hidden expenses far outweigh the obvious, often eclipsing the initial salary offered.
On the other hand, using pre-employment testing methods and strategic tools allows for a sneak peek into a candidate’s suitability for the role early on in the hiring process, avoiding both costly mistakes and time wasting for both sides.
Types of Pre-Hire Assessments
Pre-employment testing comprises a variety of testing types, each one offering a different set of insights into how suitable a candidate might be for certain roles:
- Job-specific tests – Job-specific tests are tailor-made to assess a candidate’s ability to succeed in specific roles, focusing on real-life scenarios. They’re also known as work sample tests and have the highest validity as a predictor of future job success. This could be something as job-specific as a simulation of handling a tricky customer service situation or working out realistic coding issues. These tests go beyond the theoretical, demanding a practical, skill-based response in a real-world context.
- Skill and ability tests – Skill and ability tests are like litmus tests for professional competencies. They’re specifically designed to check how suitable a candidate might be at certain job-specific tasks, for example, when it comes to coding skills or detail-oriented data management.
What can be learned from these tests goes beyond mere data points, as you’d find with traditional hiring methods. Rather, they indicate a candidate’s potential to thrive and bring tangible, job-specific skills. This alone allows you to determine which candidates are truly proficient and able to do the job ‘hitting the ground running’ rather than those who just have limited experience and mere potential (and may require training and development).
- Personality tests – Provide a more nuanced view of a candidate’s professionalism and personality traits, giving you a clear profile outline that will reveal more about the candidate than with standard interview questions, where it can be challenging to tell if a candidate is being dishonest or exaggerated in their responses.
These pre-hire tests can reveal traits that could influence your candidate’s workplace etiquette, giving a much more layered view of their strengths, work style, and adaptability. This depth of insight helps ensure that the candidate’s personality aligns with your company’s values and culture and that you know exactly what to expect.
- Cognitive tests – Cognitive tests are critical in assessing a candidate’s mental agility when it comes to performing the job at hand, including problem-solving, analytical reasoning, and strategic thinking.
These tests are designed to challenge a candidate and reflect the daily demands of the role, predicting the candidate’s ability to navigate changes and contribute meaningfully to the company if they succeed in getting hired.
What Are the Limitations of Traditional Hiring Methods?
The “traditional” hiring process (synonymous with resumes, cover letters, and interviews, which can go anywhere from boilerplate to irrelevant at their worst) is rife with potential barriers to hiring success, including:
Traditional hiring methods (resumes and interviews) are often unconsciously filled with subjective biases. Impressions formed during interviews are also prone to unconscious bias and heavily influence hiring outcomes. For example, just think about a potential negative first impression a candidate could leave if they’re a nervous interviewee, affecting their ability to represent their job suitability.
But the idea of subjective bias goes way beyond that: subjectivity in the hiring process can (at worst) sideline a whole section of candidates, especially those applying from diverse or unconventional backgrounds, should they happen to fall on a recruiter whose personal opinions don’t match the qualities or values of the candidate.
More so, despite the advancements in artificial intelligence, we’re still not at a point in time where we can fully rely on it: as Amazon discovered in its recruiting process, even AI has been capable of bias.
Pre-employment tests built correctly are almost an antidote to all of the above issues, providing a more objective and holistic evaluation of a candidate’s skills and potential that are completely bias-free. Having a level of objectivity and a “hands-off” way to assess a candidate allows you to use fairer hiring practices, not to mention the ability to consider a richer pool of talent in no additional time.
Resumes and cover letters give you a one-dimensional view of a candidate (at best). At worst, these two hiring documents could outright embellish a candidate’s true achievements, either being edited to fit the job description provided and therefore increasing (or decreasing) the candidate’s chance of being invited to interview! Moreover, resumes are not always accurate, as they’re truly just a candidates’ self-evaluations. In fact, ResumeLab confirmed this in its study, discovering that 93% of candidates lie on their resumes.
Pre-employment tests delve far deeper, going beyond static, flat credentials (as would be listed on a resume) and provide dynamic insights into a candidate’s problem-solving abilities, work style, and communication skills, all of which are important factors both for filling a job role but also being able to work alongside the existing team.
Conventional hiring processes can be time-consuming, not to mention exhausting, with seemingly few gems in an ever-widening pool of mismatched candidates.
Yet, pre-employment assessments streamline this process, providing you with a quick, focused approach. They’re a digital sieve, separating promising candidates and moving them swiftly to the next hiring round while automatically rejecting less promising ones. This allows for much faster, more precise, and more cost-effective hiring processes.
Lack of Standardization
The lack of standardization in hiring processes can be a huge hurdle to overcome, making it more of an art than an exact science. Add to that a lack of objectivity when comparing and contrasting a range of candidates effectively; it can often be difficult to gain clear insights.
Pre-employment testing, conversely, introduces a much more calibrated scale to candidate evaluation, setting a common ground from which you can easily compare and measure candidates objectively. This helps the process become more objective, strategic, and discerning, showcasing a higher quality of candidates with clear, data-backed decisions on who to hire.
When is the best time to use pre-employment tests?
Think of pre-employment tests as your gatekeeper. They can be used at any point throughout the hiring process. Still, for maximum efficiency, it’s recommended to use them near the beginning of the hiring funnel, at a stage that provides the most efficiency for your team and usually occurs before or right after the first HR call. Placing these tests at the correct stage of your hiring funnel (that is, depending on a range of factors, including seniority of the role, location, etc) allows you to automatically weed out any potential candidates who are not the best fit according to the role’s basic requirements and keep only potentially suitable candidates in the pipeline.
As mentioned above, screening candidates is an excellent way to screen and identify viable and non-viable candidates to save time and effort, separating those who satisfy the basic job requirements from those who don’t, without needing to call them in for an interview.
Once the candidates who only satisfy the job requirements have been identified, it’s time to start using the data gathered to rank the remaining candidates for the highest job suitability.
Pre-employment tests allow you to skim through the pool of potential candidates swiftly. The strongest candidates will quickly rise to the top, demonstrating a more suited match to the job’s requirements. They, therefore, can be invited to continue the hiring process without wasting time and resources on those who won’t be a good fit.
Validating interview results
Once you’ve gleaned insights from screening and prioritizing candidates according to their demonstrated skills, pre-employment tests can be used to validate these insights through a face-to-face interview.
Using this interview to validate the data gained from the assessments will give you a much more rounded view of a candidate’s potential fit and allow you to tailor your interview to include highly relevant probing questions.
Making a final decision
Ultimately, using pre-employment tests during the selection process is like using a compass: it can’t get you there alone, but it will keep you focused on the most efficient path possible. You’ll be guided in the right direction according to the objective and comparable data you’ve received. In case of a tiebreaker between top candidates, you have a range of data to validate your ultimate decision.
The Benefits of Pre-Employment Testing
In a nutshell, pre-employment testing can streamline the decision-making process, providing an in-depth and accurate overview of a candidate’s skills, abilities, and suitability for the role in question.
Here are some other ways pre-employment testing can improve hiring decisions:
Increased objectivity and accuracy.
These types of assessments increase the precision of the hiring process, ensuring the recruitment process is carried out in a controlled, standardized, and regulated setting that judges all candidates equally.
Having this level of standardization narrows down the potential for subjective, even unconscious, bias and gives a much deeper and more rounded view of a candidate’s actual relevant professional skills.
Reducing hiring costs and hiring mistakes
Because these sorts of assessments highlight the most suitable candidates from the start, they save valuable time and resources that would otherwise be used on potentially unsuitable candidates.
The strategic pre-employment evaluation approach minimizes (if not eliminates) the risk of expensive recruitment errors at all stages, including poor performance, high turnover, and the need for investment in employee training, giving the potential for a much more stable and productive workforce, both from the start and over time.
Better candidate experience and employer branding
With pre-employment testing, candidates are focused on demonstrating job-related skills, allowing them a much more meaningful, engaged experience based on fairness and suitability.
Additionally, having an impartial hiring system also benefits you as a business, promoting it as a fair and equal-opportunities employer who values its candidate pool and workforce.
Unbiased and diverse hiring
Incorporating pre-employment testing levels the playing field, ridding the process of unconscious biases that could potentially impact the hiring process. Homing in on the essential skills needed to “do the job” rather than focusing on “who’s already doing the job” creates a much more inclusive and effective process. Not only that, but this inclusive approach benefits the entire workforce, allowing only the best candidates to thrive, no matter their background or demographic.
Real-world evaluation of specific skills
Unlike the traditional focus on resumes, cover letters, telephone, and in-person interviews, pre-employment tests go straight to the heart of the job-specific skills needed, giving a real-world view of how a candidate will function on the job.
This more focused evaluation makes sure that the hiring process is not only truly aligned with the actual day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the job role itself but also ensures that only the best, most closely matched candidates will succeed in the hiring process based on job-specific attr.
How to Design and Use Pre-Employment Tests in Your Hiring Process
Although it may sound complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Incorporating pre-employment tests into your hiring workflow can be quick, easy, and effortlessly embedded into your existing process.
Here’s a guide to easily integrate pre-employment tests:
1. Clearly define the role and skills.
Start by defining the job role and its desired skill set. A good way to do this is to focus on hard skills (technical knowledge, industry-specific abilities, etc.) and soft skills (leadership, ability to collaborate, etc.) that are crucial for the role.
It’s also a good idea to think about the ideal candidate’s personality and style of working to ensure they’ll mesh with the existing team’s dynamics (for example, you may imagine having a highly sociable team member to work in a client-facing role, while you’d prefer a more introverted candidate as a software developer).
2. Choose a trustworthy pre-employment testing platform.
You should look for a pre-employment testing provider that has a wide range of both validated and reliable test options, has excellent user reviews, and is compatible with your Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Platforms like Canditech excel at this with their professionally crafted assessments that allow organizations of all sizes to make unbiased, quick, and precise hiring choices effortlessly.
3. Choose a pre-employment test template and questions
Pre-employment tests can cover a wide range of formats, and it can be easy to get lost in the possibilities. You must simulate the job role’s environment as closely as possible.
Utilizing Canditech’s diverse question types (ranging from text-based to practical tasks like coding, spreadsheet manipulation, and more) to create your own highly customized pre-employment assessment based on job-specific skills, cognitive ability, and personality trait assessments.
4. Continuously evaluate and improve pre-employment tests.
It’s essential to continuously review and refine your pre-employment testing to keep them relevant and accurate. This could mean that you revise them to align with the changing job role or to reflect the current industry standards better. Some ways to do this include:
- Collect feedback from candidates and recruiters using the tests to understand what can be improved and what’s working well. This keeps all stakeholders engaged, not to mention maximizes the potential benefits of the testing.
- Analyze the impact. Regularly analyzing the assessment’s impact on hiring efficiency, inclusivity, and candidate selection can provide a wealth of data. This data gathered can help to optimize your assessments further, making them even more effective in your hiring processes.
By following the above steps, you can easily and effectively embed pre-employment testing into your existing hiring process, benefiting from an even more precise and predictive way to select only the best candidates for your business.
Even more importantly – you can make pre-employment testing much more personal. For example, use a video introduction from the recruiting manager, talent acquisition manager, team leader, or CEO, and engage more directly and personally with the candidate.
4 Tips for Creating Successful Pre-Employment Tests
Here are four effective tips to ensure that your pre-employment tests make your hiring processes more efficient and identify the best candidates for your roles:
1. Create realistic and engaging pre-employment assessments
Develop pre-employment assessments that mirror the tasks a candidate will work on in their day-to-day job role. Make sure that these tests are not only relevant but also engaging, providing clear guidance as well as an opportunity for candidates to provide feedback ( providing you with even more insights as to the candidate’s work style and perceptiveness!). This attention to detail lets you easily gather a quick overview of the candidate’s capabilities while providing them with a positive hiring experience.
2. Use different question types to test different types of knowledge.
Utilize various question types to target different types of knowledge and skills. For example, you could use multiple-choice questions to assess any job-relevant knowledge or ask situational questions with a long-form text response for explanation to give you more of an idea of a candidate’s critical thinking, writing style, and problem-solving abilities.
Assigning a range of question types allows you to have a much more rounded view of a candidate, including where they excel (and where they don’t) and their overall fit for the job role. After all, research shows that candidates with higher cognitive ability learn faster. Pre-employment testing allows you to determine which candidates have higher cognitive ability and other role-critical attributes.
3. End with video questions.
If you use video questions in a pre-employment test (and we always recommend doing so where possible!), the best place to put them is at the end. This is because they demand a higher level of concentration and are more engaging than other traditional styles of questioning. This, in turn, prompts the candidate to remain more engaged throughout the test and encourages them to provide more thoughtful responses, as well as ends the test itself on a high note.
Following these four tips will not only help you craft pe-employment assignments that are methodical but also enjoyable for candidates to complete but will also provide you with the best responses and a fair and efficient way of selecting the best potential candidates.
The Future of Pre-Employment Testing in the Hiring Process – Increased Use of AI
The future of pre-employment testing will naturally develop as technology in the workplace evolves. Thanks to the surge of ChatGPT and similar tools, there will be greater awareness and use of tools to root out candidates using external help for their written tests. According to Canditech research, 64% of candidates already use ChatGPT to formulate answers in written tests, with that number only looking to rise as the tools become more sophisticated.
However: research by Canditech discovered that companies who are implementing their ChatGPT detection feature saw less than 2% of candidates using ChatGPT in their pre-employment assessment responses. It’s important to note here that using ChatGPT in assessments isn’t necessarily deemed as cheating in pre-employment testing; rather, it’s up to the employer to decide on which questions are acceptable for potential ChatGPT usage and which aren’t, depending on what the tests are seeking to evaluate.
Moreover, companies can use AI technology to automate aspects of the recruiting process; for example, Canditech already offers automatic scoring, auto-actions, smart predictors, and more. You can expect to see a surge in AI-driven testing tools. As pre-employment testing is designed to streamline the candidate evaluation process and enhance hiring precision, it only stands to reason that AI will help to influence candidate ranking and grading further and simplify hiring decisions by providing even more tailored data-centric insights.
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As the landscape of pre-employment testing continues to evolve, the core objective remains clear: delivering precise, unbiased, and well-informed hiring decisions every time.
With platforms like Canditech, you can expect a streamlined, more analytical, and more engaging candidate hiring process.
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