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Candidate Testing Can Drive Better Hiring Decisions

Carlos Acosta | 23.03.2021

Converting a long list of candidates and applicants into a viable short list can be tricky. The experienced hiring manager is very much aware that résumés are not always reliable. They are also aware that interviews can be very subjective and especially if conducted by inexperienced managers.

Converting a long list of candidates and applicants into a viable short list can be tricky. The experienced hiring manager is very much aware that résumés are not always reliable. They are also aware that interviews can be very subjective and especially if conducted by inexperienced managers. Enter the value of pre-employment testing and assessment. Properly applied pre-employment testing can be extremely valuable in refining the recruiter’s long list into a short list of candidates that best meet your needs.

The Value of Pre-Employment Testing

Aside from helping you weed out potential sub-par hires from the best, pre-employment tests help you:

  • streamline the recruitment process
  • enhance legal defensibility of your hires
  • improve your hiring quality
  • eliminate hiring bias

The last point is especially important because unconscious biases by recruiters can happen during the hiring processes. Pre-employment testing helps minimize biases by providing you with objective results using tangible candidate assessment tools.

Types of Pre-Employment Tests to Consider

1. Cognitive Ability/Aptitude Tests

Tests that assess the cognitive ability and aptitude of a candidate are among the most useful pre-employment tests, most particularly when recruiting for mid- and higher-level jobs.

Several studies have shown that cognitive tests are far better tools in predicting job success. In fact, according to Criteria Corp., it’s 2x as predictive as job interviews, 3x as experience, and 4x as educational level.

It’s also important to note that IQ and cognitive ability tests are not synonymous. The latter is more catered to the recruitment process, and you can use different vendors or create your own cognitive test so that it’s tailored to the job you’re hiring for. At the very least, this test can cover the following cognitive areas:

  • Logical reasoning
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Spatial ability
  • Reading comprehension
  • Perceptual speed and accuracy

2. Emotional Intelligence Tests

High emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) has been found to be a good indicator of strong management and leadership skills, which is why emotional intelligence (EI) tests are crucial when hiring roles that require a great deal of interpersonal interaction — for example, managerial positions, executive-level positions, human resources, sales, and customer service, to name a few.

For recruiters, you can use psychometric EI tests, such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and Wong’s Emotional Intelligence Scale (WEIS). You can also opt for more specialized EI tests for leadership assessment, such as the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i 2.0), or create your own.

3. Personality Tests

Personality tests are beneficial when hiring any job role, but more so for managerial, leadership, and professional roles—certain personality traits fit certain jobs more than others. Measuring a candidate’s personality, so to speak, can help you predict whether there’s a good match for the position and the company culture.

A few personality tests you can use are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, Strengths Finders, and Dominance Influence Steadiness Conscientiousness (DiSC) Assessment

4. Hard Skills Assessment Tests

This is pretty straightforward: hard skills assessments are any kind of test that will measure a candidate’s aptitude for specific hard skills that are essential for the job. This may range from proficiency in foreign languages, typing speed, writing and grammar, etc.

As was mentioned, this type of test can enhance the legal defensibility of your hires.

5. Leadership Assessment Tests

When employing more senior management roles, there are tests available that are customized specifically to assess leadership competency and can be a good complement for interviews. These can cover a range of areas, such as the following:

  • Management style
  • Communication style
  • Integrity, attitude, and behavior
  • Approaches to delegation and training
  • Interpersonal skills

You may choose to partner with vendors who have readily available leadership assessment tools, or you can have a custom tool developed.

Key Considerations for Pre-Employment Testing

Two main considerations when conducting pre-employment testing are the ethical and legal implications of the tests you’ve chosen.

Laws and regulations are constantly changing so it is important that you research the laws and customs and get legal counsel regarding the legal parameters of pre-employment testing. Some countries and states restrict certain tests. For example, psychological testing such as Integrity and Honesty tests, have extensive restrictions in California and are strictly banned in Massachusets.

Another factor influencing personality testing is individual privacy relative to a person’s right to employment privacy and its evolution from the overall concept of an individual’s right to privacy. Some US states such as California and New Jersey have applied constitutional right to privacy protections for both public and private employees.

Another consideration is the validity of your test data. Does the test instrument measure what it claims to measure? Without validity you simply cannot accurately apply and interpret test results. It is important to note that validity is determined by a body of research that demonstrates the relationship between the test and the behavior it is trying to measure.

In terms of measuring test validity, there are three types you should be aware of.

Content Validity

A pre-employment test has “content validity” when the items on the test represent the entire range of topics the test should address. The individual questions can be drawn from a larger pool covering a broad array of topics. In situations where the test measures a difficult-to-define trait, a subject matter expert can rate the relevance of the items in question. Since the objectivity of each evaluator’s opinion could be put in question, two independent judges or evaluators will then seperately rate the test. When both evaluators rate the topics or questions as strongly relevant, then the questions will be integrated into the final test.

Criterion-Related Validity

Tests are found to possess criterion-related validity when it is found to demonstrate effectiveness in predicting criterion or indicators of a construct such as when an employer hires new employees under normal hiring procedures such as interviews, education and/or experience.

Construct Validity

If a test is able to show an association between test scores and the predictability of a theoretical trait, then the test has construct validity. An example of a test that should have construct validity is intelligence tests since they should be able to accurately measure the construct of intelligence rather than other characteristics such as memory or level of education.

Improve the Quality of Your Hire with the Best Recruiters

Pre-employment testing is but one of the many tools available to help hiring managers make the best decisions during the hiring process. The test alone lacks the recruiter’s observations and intuition as well as those of all stakeholders in the hiring process. A good recruiter will manage the recruitment process to ensure there is a good balance between objective data and their assessment of which candidates should be in your short list.

Pre-employment testing is quite common in most Western countries so it should come as no surprise to most candidates or applicants. More importantly, your candidate-facing recruiter can gain additional insights into the candidate as to their perception of participating in the pre-employment test. Candidates that lack full interest and engagement in the process may be reluctant to invest the time in taking the test.

An additional consideration is of the cultural and linguistic implications that go with pre-employment testing. Is the pre-employment test in the candidate’s native language or a secondary language? If you are recruiting for positions outside of the United States or Canada, do you know if the test has been validated in the language and/or country you will be applying it in? Are there any specific cultural considerations to pre-employment testing that you may need to be aware of in the event that your short list is comprised of diverse ethnicities?

Some of our recruiters share their observations of cultural implications that you may want to be aware of.


Fabiana Zanini (Sao Paulo) explains that while pre-employment testing is very common in Brazil, it is still viewed as being somewhat suspect in terms of providing an accurate assessment of one’s personality and / or capabilities. Fabiana often provides tests and assessments that are customized to the client’s needs and generally sees them as being very effective when used as a tool or component of the hiring process.

Canada and the USA

Both Canadian and US cultures are quite similar in many respects and a common thread to each country is the fact that they are both comprised of very diverse populations. Colin Campbell (Toronto) states that tests are routinely used in Canada. He says that Canadian hiring managers typically see tests as an excellent additional tool in evaluating candidates and that when the situation calls for it, he counsels clients to view tests as an indicator rather than absolute fact and this is especially true when taking cultural nuances into consideration.

Mark Haas (Atlanta) adds that pre-employment testing in the US is particularly routine within the technology sector. Given the abundance of test providers, he encourages the use of well-validated tests in order to add objectivity to your recruiting and hiring process. The US tech sector is well known to be a very diverse population which means it is especially important that tests be free of biases. Mark sees clients using various pre-employment testing as a vehicle for developing greater insights into the candidate’s strengths and abilities. These insights serve to increase the efficiency of the interview process by prompting questions that will develop even deeper insights into the candidate.


Laura Gonzalez (Tijuana / San Diego) emphasizes the importance of properly preparing candidates in Mexico by informing them early in the process that the assessment process will include pre-employment testing. Pre-employment testing is nothing new to candidates given that Mexico’s maquiladora industry is made up almost entirely by multinational organizations and those same organizations routinely use pre-employment testing. However, many will be reluctant to invest time in the process if they have had negative experiences in the past. Laura explains that there are candidates in the market with prior experience participating in such processes and when the process did not go in their favor, they became suspect that it was because of their results in the pre-employment test. Trust is something that is hard to earn in Mexico due to the culture being more geared towards acquiring trust through relationships versus some unfamiliar tasks like pre-employment testing. Laura works closely with her candidates to ensure that she has the rapport needed to gain their trust in the client’s chosen mode of pre-employment testing.

The Netherlands

Our Amsterdam-based colleague Patrick Westerburger says that pre-employment testing by the Dutch are among the highest in Europe. While it is customary for specialist to managerial positions, they are seeing an increase in various pre-employment testing for more senior roles to include C-level. Patrick’s colleague – Cees Hagoort, says “The younger generations within The Netherlands recognize the importance of creating a strong team. They love to be challenged and they are not afraid of pre-employment testing nor do they feel insulted if asked to do it which can be a catalyst for team success.

Cees adds, “The Netherlands have become global leaders within the agricultural and horticultural space as well as with high-tech startups. Over the past decade we have seen a marked increase with our Dutch clients requesting recruitment support in other countries as well as new recruiting assignments from mulitnational companies entering the Dutch market. All of this means we need to be especially attuned to the variations in legal and cultural issues impacting the hiring and assessment process. A properly applied pre-employment testing program can be an asset towards building a successful team in The Netherlands.

In Summary

Improving the quality of your hire is the first step in ensuring the success of your department or organization. Regardless of whether you need an individual contributor with specialized skills or a functional manager of others, The QualiFind Group has the know-how and people resources to ensure you find the hire that is best aligned to the needs of the role and the culture of your organization. The QualiFind Group is experienced at integrating pre-employment testing into recruiting assignments where it is warranted and is proven beneficial.

If you’re in need of finding the right people for your business and desire to work with recruiters that are competent and culturally adaptable, then contact us at https://www.qualifindgroup.com/en/contact/ to get started!