Job Tests: 5 Crucial Steps to Hire the Best Talents 101

by Sarah Reyes

Companies lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually because of bad hires. Although no pre-employment assessment technique is fool-proof, some businesses don’t use objective job tests in their recruitment, selection, and hiring processes. 

For them, it’s enough that a candidate’s CV is impressive, and they pass a series of interviews simply because they “meet” the interviewer and hiring manager’s idea of the “perfect” employee.  

Unfortunately, it usually takes several months before a company finds out they made an erroneous judgment hiring the person. By then, lost productivity, training costs, and other onboarding expenses would have run in the thousands of dollars. Businesses can avoid this costly blunder if they remain objective in recruiting and hiring talents. 

On that note, adhering to the five crucial steps for administering job tests in recruiting, selecting, and hiring the best talents can make a whole world of difference.

An Overview of Job (Pre-employment) Tests

Human resource management experts recognize job tests or pre-employment assessment measures are crucial in selecting and hiring only the best-fitting talent for the job. 

Unfortunately, the Society for Human Resource Management says only 82% of business organizations employ job testing for all candidates, suggesting that 18% of companies hire talents on the spot without undergoing objective screening methodologies. Among businesses with job testing, more than half (54%) focus on job simulations, while 51% emphasize culture fit. 

Pre-employment tests provide companies with standardized measures of candidate attributes, offer insights into a candidate’s suitability for the job and culture fit, and predict work performance. However, these goals are only attainable if recruiters, interviewers, and other HR professionals use job-specific and objective tests and avoid unconscious bias in their hiring decisions.

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5 Crucial Steps to Administering Pre-employment Tests

We cannot help overemphasize the importance of job tests in selecting and hiring the best talents. No employer should wake up wondering if they made an honest mistake hiring someone for a position. 

You don’t want to be among the 18% of organizations that don’t observe purposeful candidate screening. And if you’re clueless as to how to integrate job testing in your recruitment, selection, and hiring activities, these five steps should clarify everything.

Define the job, including competency requirements vis a vis job responsibilities.

Job tests are never generic. Although there are standardized pre-employment measures, none of these are specific to the job position your company requires. Hence, pre-employment screening starts with thoughtful planning, dissecting the job roles and responsibilities to identify measurable attributes you will want from the best candidate.

Your organization’s compendium of job positions with the clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each post is always an excellent place to start. This document is crucial for effective human resource management, including hiring new employees. 

Developing job roles and responsibilities allows you to enumerate the activities someone for the post must perform. HR professionals must specify the tasks, including the competencies required to accomplish them. Detailing the job description makes it easier to identify what job tests are best to assess a candidate’s suitability for the position.

Determine the most appropriate tests for each job.

The next step is to analyze the job description, roles, and responsibilities to determine the most appropriate pre-employment screening tests. For example, a personality test might be excellent for understanding a candidate’s character and behavior but might not be conclusive in measuring their job-specific abilities. Here are some pre-employment tests you might want to consider, depending on the job description.

·        Job Knowledge Tests – These assessment tools measure a candidate’s job-specific expertise. For example, financial management principles are a must for investment advisors, while basic criminal law is necessary for paralegals.

·        Skills Assessment Tests – Some companies use these tests to measure candidates’ hard and soft skills. For example, skills assessment tests can gauge a person’s critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. Typing skills also fall under this category.

·        Cognitive Aptitude Tests – Recruiters use these pre-employment screening tests to assess a candidate’s perceptions, memory, spatial reasoning, logic and critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. 

·        Personality Tests – Many companies are moving away from personality tests that dichotomize behavior and personality. Instead, most organizations now use trait models in assessing candidate personality, allowing them to create a more objective picture of the person.

·        Emotional Intelligence Tests – These assessment tools measure a candidate’s emotional maturity, interpersonal relationship dynamics, self-awareness, and empathy. The modern work environment is highly stressful, requiring emotionally strong individuals in the right positions.

·        Integrity Tests – Some businesses use these tests to screen candidates for dependability, trustworthiness, and honesty. These assessment tools can also reveal personality attributes necessary in certain occupations, such as law enforcement and finance.

Use pre-interview job testing techniques.

Some recruiters think pre-interview job tests are unnecessary. They believe that a candidate’s resume and cover letter are sufficient for HR professionals to decide whether to call the candidate for an interview or push the application into the “rejects” file.

Unfortunately, relying on CVs alone to decide whether a person is a good fit for a job position or not is a recipe for a costly bad hiring blunder. Management experts argue that resumes mean nothing in the real world. A candidate might have an MIT or Harvard degree and pass every achievement test on the planet, but these accomplishments don’t guarantee work fit and productivity. 

Studies show that educational attainment correlates mediocrely with job performance at r=0.10. Work experience doesn’t fare any better, relating with job performance at only 0.18. Although these are not causal relationships, the figures still underscore a CV’s low predictive value relative to job performance.

It’s also worth noting that resume padding is more prevalent than initially presumed. A HireRight survey in 2010 revealed that more than two-thirds (69%) of recruiters and hiring managers caught candidates with exaggerated or false information in their CVs. Who knows, the figure could be higher? It only underscores the unreliability of resumes as a measure of a job candidate’s suitability for the job. 

You can still ask job applicants to submit a cover letter and resume for screening purposes. However, you can make the pre-interview process more comprehensive and objective by adding a few job tests in their submissions.

Video Answers

Reading a CV doesn’t give you a complete idea of the person. Written information is different from something delivered by the same person. For example, an MIT graduate doesn’t give you a clue as to what kind of individual the candidate is, except for the general characteristics of MIT products.

A better solution is to ask job candidates to include a video answer to some questions in their digital applications. You can analyze their answers, communication skills, and confidence as they look into the camera delivering their responses. They can rehearse their answers, but this activity adds a new dimensionality to the usual CV. It should also give you an idea of how well they follow instructions.

Be creative in your questionnaire set. You can include items that require serious answers and questions that bring out the candidate’s lighter side. Some recruiters love throwing the elevator pitch to candidates, anxious to learn how applicants will sell themselves to get the job.

Job-Specific Questionnaires

Resumes aren’t as credible as well-designed job tests. Although a job-specific questionnaire hardly qualifies as an objective measure, it can provide you with a clearer understanding of a candidate’s work-related attributes. 

Review your company’s job description for the specific position and formulate questions related to critical tasks. For example, you can ask an aspiring computer programmer to describe a high-pressure situation in an IT department and how they respond to such events. You can ask candidates what they will do first when developing or creating a new program. Their answers will give you an idea about the candidate’s problem-solving and critical thinking abilities.

Although these job-specific questions can be part of your interview questionnaire, you can still include these as a requirement for their job applications. Candidates can submit their answers in writing or voice or video recording.

 This technique adds a new dimension to the candidate’s CV and other application documents.

Integrate job-related questions during interviews.

Companies cannot afford to interview every single job applicant, considering the average job interview session lasts 45 to 60 minutes. With the average number of applications per job posting at 250, you are looking at 187 to 250 hours’ worth of interviews for a single position. This scenario would require the recruiter to abandon their other work functions for the next 24 business days, at least.

Unsurprisingly, only two to three percent of job applicants will be shortlisted for an interview. Hence, you might have 250 to 300 applicants for any given position, but your vetting process will only net five to nine candidates for interview. Adding to the pressure is the need to achieve a 30 to 50 percent interview success rate. Otherwise, your company’s pre-interview screening process requires a serious revision.

Integrating job tests in interviews can be daunting for newbie recruiters because they are more prone to cognitive biases, clouding their judgment. Confirmation bias, gambler’s fallacy, availability cascade, framing effect, and other unconscious biases can undermine interview success rate. They must be objective and keep their preconceived notions and feelings in check.

Here are two objective techniques recruiters can employ in an interview.

Competency-based Questions

Competencies reflect a person’s knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, abilities, and skills necessary to perform a job responsibly, effectively, safely, and within the boundaries of the profession’s code of conduct. Although not all employment positions require professional competencies, job descriptions can provide clues about the crucial employee attributes to accomplish their tasks per the organization’s standards.

Competency-based questions focus on real-world scenarios, allowing you to assess how a candidate will react to a given work situation. 

For example, one of the core competencies of computer programmers is the ability to utilize learned concepts in solving problems. You could ask candidates to describe an instance when they applied computer programming theories and models in other workplace situations.

You could also ask about conflict management, interpersonal relationships, and decision-making. Although these questions might not qualify as objective job tests for some recruiters, they provide a more or less accurate description of a candidate’s competencies.

Hypothetical Scenarios

Competency-based questions focus on real work situations, highlighting the candidate’s knowledge, attitude, behavior, skills, and abilities relative to job roles and responsibilities. However, there are instances when asking these questions is enough to make an intelligent hiring decision. Sometimes, giving ultra-tough hypothetical questions will help reveal a candidate’s ability to function in high-pressure work environments.

Interviewers for marketing and sales positions love challenging candidates to deliver a one-minute sales pitch. This tactic allows HR professionals to gauge critical thinking, persuasiveness, logical thinking, and communication skills. It also shows the candidate’s ability to respond to pressure.

Unfortunately, this technique might backfire. Not all interviewees do well in a highly-charged interview session. Some might stammer, be lost for words, or simply offer odd responses. Although it will give you enough reasons to tick the right boxes, the best talent might slip through your fingers because of the overbearing interview. 

It would be best to use this tactic only after analyzing other pre-employment test results, ensuring the candidate can handle extreme pressure.

Perform job testing before making a hiring decision.

Many companies believe that the interview is the last step before managers decide whether to hire a candidate or not. Recruiters must realize that employer-candidate dialogues are not as reliable as objective job tests, especially if you failed to check unconscious bias during the interview and forgot to focus on competency-based questions. 

Competency-based and hypothetical questions might give you valid answers but don’t show other worker attributes. After all, thinking about the responses varies from actually implementing the solutions. For example, a candidate can elucidate the actions they will take in a given situation. Unfortunately, how will they factor in other parameters, such as other team members and work environment nuances?

The only way to gauge a candidate’s work readiness and job suitability is to put them in your organization on a trial run. We have two techniques you can execute to accomplish this.

Real-world Test

Companies can look to the academe for inspiration when asking successful job interviewees to undergo one final evaluation before getting the hiring thumbs up. Almost all applicants for a teaching position need to perform a teaching demo, allowing hiring managers to evaluate the candidate’s competence in teaching methodologies, classroom management, communication skills, time management, instructional delivery, and other crucial metrics.

Of course, companies cannot require job candidates to perform teaching demos. However, you can identify a crucial work activity and ask candidates to execute them. For example, you can ask successful interviewees to prepare and conduct a presentation, draft an article, create a simple program using a company-mandated code, or deliver a sales, marketing, or business plan.

These job tests might be unconventional, but they give you a better understanding of the candidate’s job fit and work suitability.

Trial Day

Real-world tests are effective in evaluating a candidate’s job readiness. However, these measures only focus on a single work aspect. A better solution will be to ask successful interviewees to work for your organization for about a day or two. It’s like an apprenticeship program, except the reward is the chance to get the job.

Candidates who make it this far will work with your team, engage others in the organization, and perform a day or two’s worth of work responsibilities. This tactic lets you evaluate the candidate’s performance, interpersonal skills, stress management abilities, and other soft skills ordinary job tests cannot measure.

You can talk with your team after the one- or two-day work trial and exchange notes about the candidate. After all, this future employee will be working with your team. Their feedback should give you an idea of whether the candidate is a perfect fit for the team or not.

Get the Best Talent on Board

The last step we outlined above should help you decide whether a candidate is right for your organization or not. Recruitment experts recommend analyzing and evaluating all pre-employment test measures and deliberate one final time before deciding. 

A good practice is to have a candidate evaluation meeting with concerned departments. For example, if you’re hiring a computer programmer, asking the IT department head to join you in the deliberations is a sound idea. After all, this candidate will report to the unit head and contribute to that department’s targets.

Be exhaustive in your analysis and evaluation, observing objectivity every time. If you think cognitive bias affects your decision, having a three-member panel should help balance things out. Everyone must agree to hire a candidate, with each panel member providing a reason for the candidate’s acceptance.

You’re now ready to break the good news to the lucky candidate.

Final Thoughts

Employers, recruiters, and hiring managers should not only use job tests in their pre-employment screening activities. Carefully framed and devised, these assessment techniques can also be exceptional tools during interviews and post-interviews. Doing so allows organizations to make the right hiring decisions, ensuring they get the best talent for any position. 

If you’re having issues integrating job testing activities in your recruitment and hiring processes, you can always reach out to professional recruitment organizations. They’ll have the work cut out for you, requiring you only to make the final say in hiring the best person for the job.

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