All you need to know about Pre-Employment Assessments

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“Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. Hiring was – and still is – the most important thing we do.”
– Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce

This sentiment resonates with most employers in today’s time. PwC noted in its 2017 CEO survey report that top executives view the unavailability of talent and skills as a major threat to their businesses.

Recruitment is not only a crucial business decision but also an important investment for organisations. Companies spend a substantial amount of effort and money on hiring. As per SHRM, the average cost-per-hire hovers around $ 4400.

Recruitment is a challenging territory as hundreds of candidates may apply on a job. It is a challenge to predict how well a candidate can perform on the job and fit into the organisation’s culture. 

Hiring managers have turned to pre-hiring assessment tools to resolve this dilemma. These tests can give better insights about a candidate’s personality, behaviour and capabilities and help them in making better hiring decisions.

What is a Pre-Employment assessment?

A pre-employment assessment is any tool or method to evaluate a candidate’s skills and competencies. They also help in predicting a desirable level of job performance. These tests are scientifically validated to rule out any inaccuracies in their administration. They help the hiring managers in screening unqualified candidates from their talent pool.

You can click here to read more about the science behind predicting job performance at recruitment.

These assessments are spread across a wide spectrum of tests. Depending upon the requirements of the job, these tools can evaluate job knowledge, skills, personality, emotional intelligence, integrity and cognitive ability of a candidate. 

Evolution of Pre-employment Assessment Tests

For decades, hiring decisions were made on the basis of how well a candidate presented himself during an interview. This impression, along with the gut feeling of the hiring manager, would decide the fate of the candidate.

However, organisations soon felt the need for a more reliable method for streamlining the recruitment process and eliminating biases. The very first instance of using an assessment tool was when the US government developed a personality test in 1919. It was used to assess if soldiers could withstand the trauma of war during the First World War.

Today, 82 percent of companies use some form of pre-employment assessment test during their hiring process (as per Talent Board’s 2016 Candidate Experience Research report).

Pre-assessment tests have witnessed immense transformation in the last couple of decades. For instance, the earlier tests lacked consistency and standardization. Secondly, they were more concentrated towards evaluating hard skills and lacked in judging soft skills. Pre-employment assessments now extend to predicting a candidate’s responses in critical on-the-job situations. Hiring managers can now evaluate a candidate on key competencies instead of relying on educational qualifications, technical skills and in-person interviews. 

Traditionally, these tests had closed-ended questions that would require the candidate to respond on a scale of ‘Strongly Agree’ to ‘Strongly Disagree’. For instance, “Do you have a vivid imagination”? This seemed to be a pertinent question for a job that demands creativity. A set of similar questions that could predict a candidate’s success in a role were bundled together to form a test.

However, the trend soon shifted to optimized hiring where candidates were required to answer non-obvious questions. For example, “Do you understand why the moon changes its shape”? This question is not directly related to what a candidate will be required to do on the job. However, it can predict if a candidate is curious by nature.

Assessments with Artificial Intelligence – Revolutionizing the way in pre-employment assessments

AI has disrupted the current scenario of pre-employment assessments. Linkedin found Artificial Intelligence” as a top trend that will shape recruitments in future.

In the current business environment, every organisation has a different definition of success. Consequently, success variables are also different. For instance, Xerox found that compassion was a key trait for customer service executives. They customised their pre-assessments tests accordingly to test compassion.

Algorithms and machine-learning are powerful ways to evaluate such complex competencies. AI has enabled more accuracy in predicting whether a candidate is fit for the job. It also helps in removing the human error of judgement while ensuring faster and bias-free hiring decisions. Besides, AI allows the assessments to reach the candidates and enhances their experience. AI-Powered interview chatbots can now reach the candidates through their smartphones. 

AI has paved the way for solving the toughest challenges faced by recruiters.

Types of pre-assessment tests

Pre-assessment tests are spread across a wide spectrum. These tests vary in their complexity depending upon the skill or capability that is to be tested.

Skill Assessment Tests – These tests are useful for evaluating the candidate’s proficiency in a specific skill. For instance, a job may require a good speed of typing or exceptional command over a language. Recruiters can use these tests to predict the on-the-job performance of the candidates. However, some of these skills can be learned with practice over some time. These tests have a limitation in assessing the learning abilities of the candidates.

Job Knowledge Tests – These tests are useful if a job requires a high level of technical expertise in a field. For instance, accounting or a coding job may need a candidate to possess a high level of proficiency in their respective fields. These tests are custom-designed to evaluate the current knowledge of candidates. However, they cannot evaluate how well a candidate can apply their knowledge on the job. Secondly, they cannot measure the learning ability of an individual. 

Integrity Tests – Honesty, dependability and work ethic are desirable traits in candidates. Organisations may want to evaluate candidates on these traits to avoid ‘high-risk’ employees. If designed carefully, these test can also indicate excellence in job performance. The only glitch in using them is that it is easy to give desirable answers and fake the result. Some popular integrity tests are the Reid Report, Stanton Survey and Phase III Profile.

Cognitive Ability Tests – These tests are useful in evaluating a candidate’s thinking abilities. They can be used to assess numerical, verbal and logical reasoning skills. They are good indicators of predicting a candidate’s behaviour in unexpected situations. However, candidates can perform better at these tests with practice.

Personality tests – Certain jobs may require a candidate to exhibit intense levels of a particular trait. For instance, extraversion or openness to a new experience. These tests are useful in predicting the tendency of a candidate to behave desirably. Along with predicting job performance, they also help in determining if a candidate is culturally fit for the organisation. However, candidates may give acceptable answers and misrepresent themselves. Some examples of personality tests are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, HEXACO and DISC. 

Emotional Intelligence Test – This test indicates an individual’s ability to build and maintain relationships. A person scoring high on EI has a deeper understanding of his own as well as others’ emotions. Some well-known EI tests are EQ-i and EQ 360. 

Competency Assessment Test – A competency indicates to the combined knowledge, skills and behaviors required for doing a job efficiently. Competency assessments are specially designed to evaluate behavioral and functional competencies as per the job. Behavioral competencies are the soft skills like leadership skills, stress management and interpersonal skills. Functional competencies refer to the technical expertise required in the job.

What is the best way to use pre-assessment tests?

Pre-assessments can help in sifting incompetent candidates from your hiring funnel. However, they cannot give a clear picture when used alone. The best hiring decisions are made when several aspects of a candidate like his behaviour, skills and knowledge are tested. Thus, a combination of these tests is better in predicting the job performance of a candidate. 

Pre-employment assessment is an effective way to screen qualified candidates. Since these are scientifically validated, these tests work well at predicting on-the-job performance. With AI at play, these tests can be customized to suit an organization’s competency matrix. Furthermore, they can give a positive experience to the candidates and help in reducing the employee turnover.

Click here for a detailed report on effective talent assessments from SHRM.org

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