Pre-employment Testing and Talent Prediction.


HR professionals share a common challenge:  To hire the absolute best people in the quickest and most cost-effective way possible.

Clearly, that’s easier said than done.

We all understand the end goal of pinpointing top candidates who will perform well and excel on the job. Yet résumés and interviews can only get us so far. While helpful, these tools can be subjective and largely based on the candidate’s own opinion of his or her readiness for the job. A truly effective screening process also includes objective and comprehensive measures to help round out our understanding of each candidate.

And that’s where pre-employment testing comes in.

What are Pre-Employment Tests?

Pre-employment tests provide standardized information that can be used to make hiring decisions. These can include paper-and-pencil tests, online surveys, work samples, simulations, gaming applications, and others. They’re designed to measure, among other things, an applicant’s abilities, attributes, skills, knowledge, and work values in order to predict how well he or she will perform on the job.

And there’s no shortage of options. If you’re new to employment testing, you’ll quickly discover an overwhelming array of vendors offering an overwhelming array of pre-employment tests.

So how do you begin to decide which pre-employment tools are best for your company and your specific hiring needs?

Key Considerations

Before launching your search for the perfect tools, the first step is to clearly define what your company wants to measure and why. Identifying the goals for using pre-employment testing will help narrow the range of possibilities. Common reasons for using pre-employment tests include:

  • Pre-screening large applicant pools
  • Reducing processing time and costs
  • Improving the candidate experience
  • Augmenting traditional résumé and interview information
  • Providing a realistic job preview
  • Quickly identifying qualified candidates
  • Pinpointing performance gaps and training needs
  • Improving workforce productivity and performance
  • Decreasing employee turnover and related costs

Equipped with a clearly defined wish list, there’s still one more step before diving into the search process:  understanding the three essentials of pre-employment testing.

The Three Essentials

1. Validity

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Validity is the most important issue in selecting a test.” Validity simply means how accurate the test is in measuring what it is designed to measure. In employment testing, validity indicates the relationship between pre-employment test results and employees’ job performance. Job relevancy is a key factor. So, if a test is valid, people who score high on the test will be more likely to perform well on the job than those who score low on the test.

Department of Labor – Assessment Principle: “Use only assessment procedures and instruments that have been demonstrated to be valid for the specific purpose for which they are being used.”

2. Reliability

This second essential of pre-employment testing is reliability. This refers to the degree of consistency and dependability of a pre-employment tool. If someone were to retake an employment test, we would expect that he or she would achieve the same or similar score. When tests are reliable, the results maintain consistency across administrations.

Department of Labor – Assessment Principle: “Use only reliable assessment instruments and procedures. In other words, use only assessment tools that provide dependable and consistent information.”

3. Compliance

A series of laws, regulations, and guidelines exists to ensure objectivity, uniformity, and legal defensibility in your hiring process. The EEOC outlines key information about existing regulations and legal considerations that protect applicants from adverse impact due to discriminatory hiring methods. Reputable test developers can help here too by ensuring that tests meet strict legal criteria and are valid and fair measures of performance across applicant groups.

It’s important to adhere to compliance laws, not just for legal protection, but also to provide applicants and employees with the assurance that your organization operates with sound and fair business practices. In addition, if you are actively pursuing diversity goals, pre-employment testing can help facilitate that too.

Department of Labor – Assessment Principle: “Use only assessment instruments that are unbiased and fair to all groups.”


Speed, Cost, and Convenience are important considerations for any employee selection process. But if you don’t start with a solid foundation of Validity, Reliability, and Compliance, your new process will be off to a shaky start.

Get the three essentials of employment testing right, and you’ll be well on your way to hiring the absolute best people quickly, accurately, reliably, fairly, and with a high return on your investment!

Check out the next posts in this three-part series

Part 2 outlines the pros and cons of the most common types of pre-employment tests. Plus, we’ll reveal which tests put your company at the greatest risk for adverse impact.

Part 3 outlines best practices in selecting the right pre-employment test for your company’s needs and provide a checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing!


Maurie Jones is an Industrial/Organizational Psychology consultant from Orlando, Florida. She has spent more than 30 years in the industry designing, developing, and administering employment and promotion tests and systems. Her clients have included Fortune 500 organizations, financial institutions, law enforcement and fire agencies, and many others.



U.S. Department of Labor, Testing and Assessment: An Employer’s Guide to Good Practices

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures