Develop your own pre-hire assessments

One of the things I strongly emphasize when coaching recruiters and hiring managers, is the use of pre-hire testing in the hiring process.

There is often a big difference between what applicants include on their resumes or applications, and what they actually can do, so it’s important to test for skills before making your final selection.

I once needed to hire a secretary. I took an actual letter the general manager had sent out, reworked it to remove all the formatting, included lots of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, and then used the error-filled version as my typing and word processing test. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission it was “a great test” because it was based on the work itself.

You can do the same. Build a basic test, from your work, that will determine if someone has the skills needed to do a particular job. Administer that test to your current employees, and modify it as necessary. Then use it to pre-screen applicants for your job. You’ll find the quality of your applicants, and your hires, will increase, and you’ll have a new-found confidence in your own hiring skills.

Here’s what you need to consider when developing your tests.

1. Make sure you validate the test to be certain it has no adverse impact. This will be the first thing the EEOC will check if you get a discrimination complaint. The only to answer that question is if you have done the research.

2. Use more than one kind of assessment for each test. Testing only for personality traits is better than not testing for traits at all, but the better assessments involve testing for all the traits required in a particular job. Some positions require customer contact, for example, while others do not. Test for all the traits required in your particular job.

3. Be sure you validate your test. Use construct validity, which means the test actually measures what it is intended to measure. This takes very careful research and design.

5. Check for reliability. A good test will reliably predict an applicant’s success in your particular job, and will include a lot of research up front. You’re looking for internal consistency over time. For example, if you’ve ever taken one of the on-line personality tests and found out you were an ABC, and then the next time you took the same test you scored XYZ, then that test lacks reliability. It’s crucial that your test be reliable, or it’s useless.

6. Use the job itself as a benchmark, not the incumbents. Jobs can be standardized; the people cannot. You must benchmark the job or you will never have construct validity and reliability.

In the case of hiring our new secretary, I learned that some of my most impressive candidates on paper made so many formatting or editing errors, or took so long to complete the test, that it was clear their qualifications were not worth the paper on which they were written.

Pre-hire testing and assessment is a complex subject, and I’ve only skimmed the surface. It’s an important part of your screening process for job applicants, but because it is so complex, it requires a lot of research and thought before you begin. Take the time to do your research, get some qualified help, and do it right.

About Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR

Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR, is the author of three non-fiction books, including the Second Edition of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits. She is a retired Human Resources Director with more than 40 years' experience. Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, she is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
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