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5 Tips to Conduct Effective Pre-employment Assessment

If you’re reading this, chances are your business is growing, and so is your team. But hiring can be a tricky thing. How do you know if that seemingly great candidate is really the right fit?

Pre-employment assessments are becoming more and more integrated in almost all industries. From developers to secretaries—you can and should test if they will live up to the hype you’ve read on their resume. Especially when you know that 85 percent of individuals lie on a resume.

You’re about to read all about how to make sure your pre-employment assessment is actually a value-adding part of your hiring process, and not just another box to tick for your recruiters and candidates. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Why pre-employment assessments are important

Someone can look great on paper, and even bluff their way through countless interviews but when push comes to shove, they’re just not right for the job.

You might hire someone who is a great Magento developer if you look at their portfolio, but if they turn out to lack soft skills and aren’t great listeners and communicators, and your projects become a source of frustration.

Or someone says they have experience with small business email marketing on their resume. But sending out a weekly newsletter for your dad’s garage isn’t the same as setting up targeted emails, working with funnels and analyzing the results of a campaign.

It’s easy to see how a bad hire can harm a company. The average cost of hiring poorly is as high as 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. Not only will you have wasted time and money on the hiring process, but retention and salaries also cost money.

Add to that that most bad hires will also affect productivity amongst other team members, and the fact that managers also have to spend 17% of their time supervising poorly-performing employees. That comes down to basically a full working day a week.

Once that domino is tipped, you’ll be looking at big delays in projects, and additional costs to find someone new all over again.

But it’s not just important for employers. Possible employees also benefit from it. These kinds of tests give them a clearer view of what the work will entail, and if they are at the right skill level. Such a pre-employment assessment is another way for them to feel if they’re the right fit.

Keeping this in mind will help you craft pre-employment tests that benefit all parties involved, together with the tips we’re about to give you.

Tip 1: Determine what skills you find important for every individual role

A new sales rep obviously needs a different skill set than an HR manager. But there is some overlap, always. For instance, you want all employees to have good communication skills, right?

You can administer several smaller tests, or screen people with tests that mix different types of skills. Here are some of the skills and abilities that are often tested for:

  • Soft skills tests
  • Hard skills tests
  • Role-specific tests
  • Personality tests
  • Culture fit tests
  • Cognitive ability tests
  • Emotional intelligence tests
  • Risk tests

What skills are essential in your company culture? Are they hard to tell from other things such as interviews, and are they important enough to invest in a test?

Then, move on to what’s crucial for the role. Test people’s hard and role-specific skills. This could be anything from a language assessment to a ‘’sell me this pencil’’ type of situation.

Tip 2: Determine what type of questions the test should have

Remember that relevance is key. It’s much more valuable to ask someone about their opinion on the latest SEO trends, than to find out what they would do with one million ping pong balls.

That being said, there are many types of questions and formats your pre-employment assessment can have. You can include a case study, or ask someone to prepare a short presentation. But you can also make a ‘real’ test, with multiple choice questions, or short answers.

Keep in mind that you’ll also have to analyze all these answers. If you’re asking for an essay, be prepared to read them all with the same care and attention.

How long should a pre-employment assessment be?

If you want both enough candidates, and enough data about their skills and abilities, you’re going to have to compromise. Not many people are eager to fill out an hour-long, unpaid test. Of course, you want employees who are so excited about a job that they have the motivation to finish a test but everyone has their limits.

The ideal length also depends on the type of position. Possible future managers and executive-level employees will be willing to spend more time on a test than entry-level employees they also simply don’t have as many skills to test for, usually.

Tip 3: Thoroughly screen vendors for your pre-employment tests

If you enter the world of pre-employment assessments, you literally walk into a world of possibilities. There are countless vendors and platforms out there that promise to help you find the employee of a lifetime, but take a step back to think about what you really need.

Don’t start looking for vendors until you know what kind of tests you want to send to candidates, and which formats. Knowing this beforehand will make sure that you don’t have to adapt and compromise afterward.

Find out if you can customize the tests to make them fit your organization, and check if you can add your own branding. Sure, that’s not necessary, but it’s a very nice touch and shows future employees that you too have attention to detail.

Read reviews and dive into the support functions before you even need it, so you can make sure you’ll have help available if you get stuck.

Last, but definitely not least: learn about pricing. Read the fine print, so you know how many tests you’ll be able to administer in a certain plan. Pre-employment assessments are an investment worth making, yes, but it should fit your budget.

Tip 4: Validate the questions you’re going to ask

If only you could build your own employees, with specific skill sets and years of experience. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. But it’s something managers tend to forget when building a pre-employment test. They ask too much, or dive too deep. That way, they’ll miss out on a lot of valuable information from candidates who drop out.

At the same time, you don’t want it to be too easy. Questions should be relevant and show a certain level of knowledge. So, how do you validate if the questions really measure that?

The easiest way to validate your tests is by giving them to current employees. Your top performers should hit the high score, average employees should do average, and so on.

Also, get feedback from your employees on what questions to ask. Use real-life examples and cases that are relevant to your company specifically, and your pre-employment assessment will surely be a success.

Tip 5: Time your pre-employment assessment wisely

The old-school way of doing things is giving candidates a test at the final stage of the hiring process. While they are more likely to already be super invested and engaged at this point, and will likely answer all 99 of your questions, it might not be the right time to do that.

Look at it this way: you’ve already invested the hours and manpower of conducting interviews at that point. That’s time you’ll never get back, and you might not find out that someone lied about their Python skills until you test them on it.

So, for pre-employment assessments, the rule is: the sooner, the better. Candidates who only want to hit an easy apply button on LinkedIn are most likely not the workers you’re looking for.

Another benefit of holding pre-employment tests at the beginning of the process is that it will help you ask better questions during the interviews that follow, based on the answers a candidate gave. Plus, you’ll start with a more narrowed-down pool, which can speed up the process significantly.

How to prevent cheating in remote pre-employment tests

You might be worried about people not being honest when taking their pre-employment tests. Especially when you hold them at the start of the process, it will most likely be done remotely. How do you check if people aren’t going to look up all the answers on Google or have someone help them?

Be honest about what the rest of the process looks like, and mention that there will be another test later in the stage, in the form of on-site testing. That should scare off some of the cheaters, because they know the truth will come out at some point anyway.

Now, go find that next star employee

With these tips in mind, you’re able to build a pre-employment assessment that will add real value to your hiring process. Transform the way you recruit new talent and watch your team grow, one rock star at a time.

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