Throughout the hiring process, most employers try to get as much information about potential hires as possible through resumes and interviews.
However, resumes can be unreliable, and interviews are often poorly structured and subjective. Well-validated tests are the answer to an organization’s struggles to gain information on candidates that is job-specific.
Such tests give organizations a way to objectively and systematically judge which candidates actually have the ability to perform well on the job.
What is Employment Testing?
It is a series of standardized problems or questions used to assess a person’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and more.
There are a variety of ways that tests can be administered, from paper and pencil to web based, and there are many customization options in terms of content.
They are most often used in hiring, and in assessing employees to determine how well they are performing in their current role.
The Benefits of Employment Testing
Professionally developed and well-validated tests can help predict employee productivity based on how well they predict performance across a wide range of job types.
Employment tests offer many benefits such as
- Increased productivity
- Reduced turnover
- More efficient hiring
- More defensible hiring process
Testing can also reduce turnover by ensuring that employees have the basic skills, behavioral qualities, and more to feel comfortable in their job. Since the hiring process can be time consuming, testing used in pre-employment can save a lot of time when used early on.
By having everyone take these tests, organizations can weed out the least desirable candidates early.
Since employment tests are so objective, they increase an organization’s defensibility during the hiring process, making it easier to ensure that they are equal and non-discriminatory.
Trends in Employment Testing and Assessment
The world of employment testing and assessment has historically been dominated by aptitude, personality, job knowledge and cognitive ability tests.
These tests are designed to assess an individual’s fit within an organization, or to certify that they have the required knowledge and skill to perform effectively in a job. Most frequently delivered through multiple choice questionnaires, these tests have high validity and reliability, and are relatively inexpensive to administer and maintain over time.
Most frequently delivered through multiple choice questionnaires, these tests have high validity and reliability, and are relatively inexpensive to administer and maintain over time. But they don’t always leave test takers with a positive impression of the employer or certifying body.
The single biggest disruptor in the employment testing and assessment industry is of course, technology.
The move to computer-based testing, although not new, is only recently gaining significant traction due to the lower costs of the tools and the increased accessibility to technology of the test takers. And the technology is evolving rapidly.
These new technologies, in combination with increased consumer expectations, in this case – the test-taker, are changing the game and assessment developers are going to need to move fast to keep up.
In the last few years, we have seen gamification being used as part of lower-stakes assessments, and we expect this trend to not just continue but amplify as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible.
Early adopters of gamification have been using this to create engaging, immersive scenarios that provide a much better experience for the test taker.
Our own research, through recent client engagements, shows that the incorporation of gamification in pre-employment testing has significant impact on satisfaction rates of test-takers. Where gamification can have its drawbacks is with higher stakes testing or licensure.
The more innovative you are in terms of types of questions or approaches to testing, the less research evidence there is to support their use. So, for high stakes testing, we recommend sticking with what we know until the science catches up with the technology. But for internal compliance, recruitment or learning and development applications this will continue to be a major disruptor.
The second major trend that we are seeing in the field is that organizations are taking advantage of the exposure that they get through their assessment programs for marketing purposes. Think about it: if you are getting thousands of candidates taking a pre-employment screening assessment, this is a great opportunity to market your organization in a highly targeted way.
This goes far beyond things like incorporating your organization’s logo, colors, look and feel. Test developers are becoming more sophisticated in communicating the employer brand. For example, if you are going to test oral comprehension using an audio or video clip, why not design the clip to reflect important aspects of the business’ vision?
With off-the-shelf employment tests, these audio or video clips would be completely unrelated to the company or job. But with customized testing solutions, you are able to present a consistent image with relevant information, and educate potential consumers about your brand regardless of whether they progress through the assessment process.
As an example of this, a large client of ours from the logistics and packaging industry has been going through a major business transformation in light of significant shifts in their industry, and has been re-branding itself as a new and innovative organization. Over the last 3 years, they have had over 50,000 people go through their pre-screening assessment process.
Not only are they offering this test in an innovative manner – test-takers can take the assessment from their home computers in a controlled manner – but they have incorporated very specific messaging in the videos designed to change how people think about the their organization as an employer.
So now, not only is the organization able to measure the things that need to be measured during the exam like oral comprehension, but 50,000 people have left the exam with a more positive perception of the organization.
Realistic Job Previews
Employment branding and improved assessment technologies are also giving organizations the ability to incorporate realistic job previews into their assessments through elements like videos, audio or interactive questions, and this trend will continue to grow.
Although effective, some of the most popular cognitive ability tests used for pre-employment screening score very low for engagement and satisfaction by test takers. This is because people can’t see the relevance of the test to their job, leading them to question the test’s validity.
Providing test takers with a realistic preview of what the job is going to be like in an engaging and interactive way positively impacts satisfaction rates.
An added benefit to incorporating realistic job previews in assessments is to give job candidates the chance to self-select out of the process because job conditions were not what they expected.
So now, people who would have passed the test and moved on to the next selection stage, or even obtained the job only to leave shortly there-after, can be removed from the process freeing up the time of the hiring managers to focus on the better-fit candidates.
To summarize, technology provides the possibility of more innovative, realistic and engaging tests that promote the company in a positive way and yield quality results.