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Dear Workforce How Do We Avoid Subjectivity in Pre-Employment Tests

November 5, 2004
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Dear Getting a Grip:

You are wise to think carefully about the pre-employment tests you use. There’s a risk, if they are badly designed, of discriminating--or being perceived as discriminating--against a culture or gender. There’s an equally great risk of wasting valuable time and resources if the test does not help predict who would be able to perform the job.

All too often, tests are used because "we’ve always done that," or because a hiring manager took an assessment at a workshop and now wants to know the same information about everyone in the department. While assessments can be useful for understanding others’ style, hiring in the style of such a nosy manager may not be the best choice, and could in fact lead to biased decisions.

To avoid running into problems with your pre-hire testing process, do the following:

  • Be sure you know what you are testing and that it is relevant to the job requirements. Do a job analysis to be clear about the job demands that will be highlighted.

  • Use testing early in the process, so if the individual’s scores raise questions, you have a method of following up on those questions.

  • Work with a reputable test publisher to select a test that is best suited to your purposes, and use the test in accordance with professional guidelines. If you’re unsure what those guidelines are, ask.

  • Use other selection methods in addition to testing to get a well-rounded view of the candidate. Don’t put all your selection eggs in the testing basket. In general, pre-employment testing should be no more than one-third of your selection process.

  • Follow up on your testing process to ensure that the test actually predicts high-performers, and that it is not creating adverse impact.

Pre-employment testing has grown in popularity recently, and the science of testing has come a long way. Online testing standardizes the tests and the testing conditions, computerized scoring is fast and enables the easy creation of statistically derived hiring benchmarks, and push-button reporting provides interviewers with follow-up questions to ask when test results don’t match exactly with the desired profile. Carefully choosing your pre-hire selection tools should help you narrow the gap between a poor hiring choice and a well-qualified candidate.

SOURCE: Patsy Svare, managing director, The Chatfield Group, Glenview, Illinois, December 1, 2003.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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