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Integrity Tests

How Much Pre Employment Testing is Too Much?

Pre employment testing is much akin to drawing blood for a medical test -- you don't need to exsanguinate a patient in order to check their platelet count, and you don't need to drown an applicant in extensive pre employment tests in order to establish that they're the right applicant for you. Some companies out there are subjecting every applicant to multiple hours of psychometric testing, which is not only expensive for the company, but has been proven to not work all that well. One study looked at the number of actual correlations there were between job testing and subsequent performance, and found that a perfectly valid assessment could be captured in only one to one and a half hours.

Of course, all of that can change fairly dramatically depending on the specific job role and the anticipated number of applications. If you're looking to narrow a field of dozens (or in this economy even hundreds) down to a few that you want to look more deeply at, giving them a quick Big 5 personality test and a brief cognitive test can take about a half hour per candidate and will rapidly tell you which are the ones you might want to test more extensively.

On the other hand, if you're looking at the top 4 or 5 candidates for an executive position, you'll want to have them fill out an in-depth series of assessments before the interview, so you can go with premeditated questions and a clear picture of what else you need to know about this particular applicant.

The basic question, then, is where to draw the line. In order to answer that, it should be pointed out that no amount of psychometric testing is going to suffice unless it's properly paired with a strong behavior based interviewing technique. These tests essentially serve, to return to our medical analogy, as a nurse that comes in and gets your vital statistics and basic information to turn over to the doctor -- or interviewer -- who then makes the final decision.

Understanding that, the line should be drawn at the point of diminishing returns: the point at which each successive test becomes noticeably less useful to the interviewer. Experts seem to generally concur that this happens somewhere between the second and the fifth test depending on the specifics of the job and the pay grade.

Five Successful Employment Tests

Employment tests are essential elements of candidate selection -- without assessing a potential employee's knowledge, skills, interpersonal abilities, and core values, you're essentially gambling blind on which employees will give you a good RoI and which will turn into money sinks and frustration machines. There are five general categories of pre-employment testing: Knowledge tests, Personality tests, Cognitive Ability Tests, Integrity Tests, and Skills Tests.

Knowledge Tests Knowledge testing usually involves questions designed to test for specific pieces of factual knowledge relevant to the job a candidate will be expected to perform. They are generally multiple-choice or simple one-to-five word answer questions -- for example, a knowledge test for a retail manager might ask "In terms of marketing practices, what does the term LBM stand for?"

Personality Tests Generally speaking, personality tests are geared toward measuring three things: the ability to work in a team, the ability to handle stress, and optimism. Almost always, these traits are measured by asking questions, either verbal or essay, about the applicant's past work histories.

Cognitive Ability Tests These tests measure someone's ability to reason, comprehend instructions, learn under stressful conditions, and solve problems. Cognitive ability tests can be widely variable, from SAT-style multiple-choice paperwork to live-action tests in which the testers create a fictitious emergency and observe how the applicant reacts in what he believes to be genuinely stressful circumstances.

Integrity Tests Integrity tests serve to verify that an applicant is honest, dependable, responsible, and socially active. Most often this happens by asking direct, ethics-related questions about events in a person's past, and noting responses that seem to indicate specific antisocial indicators that might disqualify an applicant.

Skills tests Generally, a skills test is different from a knowledge test in that it seeks to establish the presence (or absence) of skills that are generally considered "innate" or "unteachable" -- skills like leadership, observational acuteness, and work ethic. These tests normally ask questions about interests, work experiences, and 'extracurricular activities' to look for signs of these skills.

By combining these five categories of pre-employment testing, employers can get a solid picture of an applicant before they risk any money on them.

Do You Know What You're Looking For At Employee Selection Time?

Employee selection is a critical period in the forward movement of every business. All to often, it seems as though the person you interviewed has nothing whatsoever do to with the person you find yourself working with ninety days later. Your employee told you exactly what you wanted to hear, but today middle management is breathing down your back because

  • He's late every morning, and leaves early every night.
  • He's confrontational with his coworkers.
  • He acts snide and is frequently condescending toward customers.
  • He has a fundamental problem paying proper attention to detail.
  • His performance based outcomes are well below management's standards.

All this after the talent management crew over at HR evaluated him as "a keeper", "a winner", and "a team player who will clearly fit in well with his peers and thrive in the corporate culture." So what happened? Let's look at a few of the more prominent markers that someone who seems to be acing the interview is, in fact, a loser.

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Do his answers indicate that he can empathize -- more than just get along with -- other people?
  • Do they indicate that he is inclined to argue, rather than use diplomacy to solve problems?
  • How did he describe his few most recent supervisors?

Performance Issues

  • How do his answers indicate his core competencies match up with the job requirements?
  • How does his previous few jobs pay compare with market averages? If it's low, why?
  • More than just the HR lady -- what do his past supervisors say about his performance?
  • Were his references asked specifically about his attention to detail and his multitasking ability?

Essentially, your company needs to know, in exquisite detail, exactly what it is looking for in a worker before the hiring process begins. More importantly than that, it needs to have the tools necessary to get below the surface and look at the truth about a potential employee's past, not just what he tells you. Only when you can do that will the endless string of unwanted surprises from solid-seeming candidates finally come to a welcome close.