Pre-employment Testing: The Pros and Cons

by Angela Griffiths

About 70% of employers conduct pre employment skills testing. A large number of businesses also include a psychological or personality test in their hiring processes. With these statistics, it is very safe to say that pre-employment testing is a very common practice by both big and small companies.

However, can pre-employment testing really help a business? The best way to answer this question is by looking at its benefits and disadvantages. Luckily, that is exactly what you will get from this article.

What is Pre employment Skills Testing?

Before discussing the pros and cons of pre employment skills testing, it is important that you have a good understanding of its concept. As its name suggests, pre-employment tests are exam(s) given by employers to a potential candidate prior to hiring. These tests give employers a good understanding of whether the candidate is compatible with the job.

There are many different types of pre-employment tests. But, they can be categorized into the following:

Personality Test

Pre employment personality test is one of the most common pre-employment tests that candidates will encounter. The main purpose of this is to assess the traits of a person to determine whether they are a fit for the role and the company.

At the same time, it also takes a closer look at their disposition which can help predict whether a person has the likelihood to engage in a particular action. This type of pre-employment is written in a way that will reveal the truth behind the person. 

Physical Test

Some jobs require candidates to be in a particular fitness level to execute their tasks properly. In these cases, employers often use pre-employment physical tests to determine and confirm their physical abilities.

Drug Test

Another standard pre-employment test is a drug test. Several types of drug tests may be asked from candidates; hair, urine, saliva, and sweat. Regardless of the testing method, what these tests will reveal is whether the candidate partakes in drugs or alcohol within a specific period of time.

Aptitude Test

An aptitude test will offer employers an objective way to gauge the knowledge of the candidate about a particular subject matter. This will eventually help them evaluate whether the candidate has the right knowledge to effectively perform the tasks for the role that they are applying to.

Emotional Intelligence Test

Some jobs are naturally stressful, and in these cases, ensuring that the people you are hiring for these roles have high Emotional Intelligence (EI). Suppose you are not familiar with what this is. In that case, EI refers to a person’s capacity to understand their own emotions and those of other people.

Individuals with high emotional intelligence have a higher ability to work well with co-workers. At the same time, they can also interact better with potential customers and clients. This is why candidates with high EI are often considered to have the edge over others.

What are the Benefits of Pre-employment Tests?

Now that you have a better idea of the nature of a pre-employment test and its different types let’s discuss its list of benefits. They’re as follows:

Higher Productivity

A carefully crafted and well-validated pre employment skills testing can accurately predict a candidate’s productivity in different industries and job positions. In fact, conducting a pre-employment test is one of the surest ways of predicting their performance mainly because it can objectively determine a candidate’s ability, knowledge, and skills.

Increased Defensibility

Another advantage of conducting pre-employment testing is that it helps companies enhance equitability, legal, and objective defensibility in its hiring process. It is vital for companies to use equitable and legal employment selection and promotion processes.

Since pre-employment tests are designed with federal guidelines in mind, it would help companies that the tests are non-discriminatory and equitable. Companies who use testing programs with the existing laws in mind are better prepared if they have to defend these procedures if there are legal challenges that will be launched against them.

Higher Retention Rates

Integrating pre-employment tests can help increase the company’s retention rates by ensuring that new hires have the appropriate aptitude for their roles along with the right personality and temperament to work with the other people in the office. Doing this results in two things; involuntary turnover or voluntary turnover.

Involuntary turnover refers to incidents where employees are fired due to poor performance. Meanwhile, voluntary turnover points to new hires not pushing through their training period because they realize that the job is not for them.

High retention rates have plenty of benefits for the whole company. Its biggest benefit is that it helps boost employee morale. At the same time, it also positively increases the reputation of the company externally, so more talents will be interested in applying for future vacancies.


You might not think that it’s a big deal. Still, high turnover rates are doing significant damage to your company’s expenses. You have to remember that hiring a new employee incurs costs.

It might not be that much, but if the employee you recently hired resigns immediately, you will not be getting any return of investment from what you spent in their hiring processes. But, how exactly does pre employment skills testing reduce costs for the company?

As previously mentioned, one of the biggest benefits of pre-employment testing is a higher retention rate. This means that you can save a lot because you don’t have to spend on job opening ads, spending manpower for training, and other onboarding expenses every time an employee resigns.

More Efficient Hiring Process

One of the biggest obstacles for many hiring processes is how much time it consumes. On average, it would take around 45 days to hire someone for a new position. Meanwhile, jobs advertised online are typically open for more than 90 days.

No, the problem is no because job positions lack applicants. On the contrary, there’s a large volume of applicants, so it makes it difficult for recruiters to comb through the application in just a short period of time. Conducting pre-employment testing can significantly streamline the process, reducing the span of time needed to find the most suitable person for the position.

When companies integrate pre employment skills testing from the beginning, they can easily weed out applicants who are referred to as “resume spammers.” These are candidates who send their application to any job posting that they want, regardless of whether they are suitable for the position or not.

Moreover, the fact that a particular candidate is willing to take time from their busy day to complete a pre-employment test is a testament to their commitment and interest. This will make it a lot easier for recruiters to make a shortlist of candidates who will proceed to the phone or in-person interviews.

The Disadvantage of Pre-employment Test

Sure, pre-employment tests have attractive benefits. But, it also has some downsides, which include the following:

Potential Federal and State Law Violation

There have been several issues around pre employment skills testing because they potentially are against federal and state laws. This is why the pre-employment test that you would be integrating into your hiring process must be in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedure (UGESP) and the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).

Moreover, you must not use a pre-employment test that can be interpreted as a test of mental health since it is against the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

Consistency Issues

Another possible issue that you might encounter with pre employment skills testing is that it might not always be a consistent and reliable measure of a particular skill. But, what exactly makes a test reliable?

A sign that a pre-employment test has high reliability is when a candidate who took the test today can still achieve the same grade when they take the test again a week after. This is why each pre-employment test must be proven to be reliable before it is disseminated.


It is true that assessments are reputable and highly recommended. However, some tests might not be accurate indicators of the particular traits that they are claiming to measure. This is why it’s important for employers to demonstrate that the results of the tests accurately correspond to the job responsibilities before making them a defining factor in their hiring process.

Best Pre-employment Testing Practices

By now, it’s already established that pre employment skills testing has both pros and cons. Here are some of the best pre-employment testing practices that you will find helpful:

Carefully Choose Which Test to Use

The first thing that you have to figure out is which test to use. The problem is that there are many types of pre-employment tests, making it challenging to pick the right ones for your needs.

However, the rule of thumb is to choose according to the nature of the job vacancies and the skills and abilities required for the role. So, if you are looking for a customer service representative, giving them an aptitude test is the way to go.

Strategically Plan When to Administer the Test

Should you let candidates take a pre-employment test during the beginning, middle, or last stage of the hiring process? Well, there are several factors that you should consider when answering this question. But, the general recommendation is to test the applicant as early as possible.

You have to remember that the main purpose of these tests is to streamline the process, and there is no better way of doing this than starting from the beginning. Besides, giving the test during the early stages of the hiring process will be more efficient, especially when there’s a large candidate pool.

Decide on How Many Tests Are Necessary

Once you have decided on what test to use and when is the best time to use it, the next thing that you have to figure out is how many tests are necessary. Suppose you want to attract more candidates with the best talents. In that case, you have to carefully make this decision because it will significantly impact how they perceive the company.

So how many tests are necessary? Series of tests upto 40 minutes are considered to be a fair amount of tests which is enough to filter out candidates who are not that serious.

Remember, since most of these tests are accessible through online links, it’s more likely that there will be candidates who will just immediately close the link because they don’t have time or they think that it is too long. This might sound like it’s bad but again, it’s an excellent way of filtering serious candidates from those who aren’t.

Establish a Minimum Cut-off Score

Making your existing employees take the pre-employment test you would administer will allow you to determine a minimum and maximum cut-off score that directly weeds out unqualified candidates.

It is highly recommended to make use of hard cut-off, especially when there’s a large applicant pool. In these cases, recruiters have the liber to be very selective. But, most of the time, testing providers will also provide you with an appropriate cut-off range for various tests.

Final Words

From the employer’s perspective, it is easy to understand why pre employment skills testing is a must. It can help reveal a lot about the candidate’s personality. This way, it will be much easier to determine who is the best fit for the role.

The pre-employment test might sound time-consuming and dreadful for candidates, especially if the company requires you to take several tests during the hiring process. However, instead of looking at it that way, you should look at it as an opportunity to know more about your potential employer. Remember, the hiring process is not only about employers finding the right fit. It is also about you determining whether the company is worth your time and effort.

Indeed, there are a lot of benefits in doing a pre employment skills testing, but just like everything else in the world, it has its fair share of downsides as well. It might work for some companies, while it might not work for others. Hopefully, you will be able to fully assess whether this hiring process strategy is a good fit for your company.

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