The Problem with Pre-Employment Testing

Posted on September 28, 2012.

More and more job applicants are being asked to take personality tests. I’d like to believe it’s one small arrow in a quiver of screening methods, but it’s likely to be the one the company weighs the most.  A recent WSJ article discusses some of the inherent biases in this kind of testing but what else is wrong with pre-hire testing?

Having been through almost every HR “hiring idea of the day”, including panel interviews (horrible), situational interview questions (not bad), IQ tests (really?), I will tell you that besides the potential bias the article describes, there are two major components missing in many of these methods.

1.     They’re not validated.  When was that the last time you tracked the performance of a new hire against the pre-employment tests or other new method you used? My guess is rarely or never.  Unless and until companies and managers start validating the tests, situation interviews, panel interviews, etc. you can never really gauge their effectiveness.

2.    They don’t measure likability and fit.  In my experience, the most successful hires are the ones that just “fit”. They fit well with the team, they’re a good cultural fit and they’re well liked.  Not sure how you can really assess that even in a personality test.  I know a lot of really smart people who did poorly on standardized tests in schools.  Isn’t it possible that really creepy, unlikable people could score well on a personality test if they know how it scores?

One on one interviews are not the best method for pre-hiring either.  You should use it as one of several tools that may include asking the applicant to complete a sample of what they will be asked to do on the job.  But one on one interviews will tell you one thing nothing else will- if you actually like the person.