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Finding the right candidate for a job can be a daunting task, and traditional hiring methods are often unreliable. Pre-employment testing assessments offer a solution by providing objective data to help identify the best candidates for a given role. With so many options available it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we'll explore the top five pre-employment testing assessments available today.

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What are pre-employment tests?

Pre-employment tests are standardised assessments designed to measure specific skills, traits, abilities, and characteristics which are important in the workplace. The results of these assessments are used to inform employee selection decisions, helping to improve the quality of hire and / or reduce the administrative burden placed on HR teams.

For example, an employing organisation could incorporate a numerical reasoning test as part of their selection process, ensuring that all successful applicants have the requisite level of numerical aptitude. Alternatively, an organisation could utilise a personality questionnaire, allowing them to select candidates based on their behavioural profile. In both cases, pre-employment testing allows employers to screen their candidates before hire, increasing the probability of selecting high-potential employees.

To summarise the research findings in this area, here are the five best pre-employment testing assessments available on the market today:

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Verbal Reasoning Tests

Verbal reasoning tests are designed to measure a person’s ability to work with qualitative information i.e. written and spoken information. Verbal reasoning is a facet of general cognitive ability, which is itself the strongest predictor of workplace performance. However, general cognitive ability cannot be directly measured, and instead must be measured indirectly using a range of specific aptitudes, such as verbal reasoning. Of cognitive ability’s sub-facets, verbal reasoning is perhaps the most important in the workplace, as written / spoken information accounts for the vast majority of information presented to employees on a daily basis. As a pre-employment assessment, verbal reasoning tests rank among the most powerful predictors of performance, especially when combined with other aptitude tests.

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Numerical Reasoning Tests

Numerical reasoning tests are designed to measure a person’s ability to work with quantitative information, i.e. numbers and mathematical operators. Numerical reasoning is a major facet of general cognitive ability, and when combined with other aptitude tests, provides an indirect measure of overall cognitive ability. Numerical reasoning is especially important in roles which require staff to make major decisions using data or analytics, particularly in complex technical, professional, and managerial roles. As a pre-employment assessment, numerical reasoning is closely aligned to task performance (rather than contextual performance), and is one of the strongest predictors of task performance known.

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Inductive Reasoning Tests

Inductive reasoning tests are designed to measure a person’s ability to think logically and solve abstract problems. In cognitive ability test batteries, inductive reasoning is also known as non-verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, diagrammatic reasoning, or logical reasoning. Inductive reasoning is particularly important in roles requiring complex problem solving, creativity, innovation, or systems thinking, such as highly technical roles. They also have the benefit of being especially language free, making them extremely fair selection tools when testing candidates across different languages. As a pre-employment test, inductive reasoning tests are commonly used to assess engineers, tech workers, or with white-collar workers more generally when combined with other aptitude tests.

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Personality Questionnaires

Personality questionnaires are widely used in the workplace as a tool for HR professionals to gain insights into the characteristics and behavioural traits of potential and existing employees. These assessments are often employed during the recruitment process to help identify candidates whose personality traits align with the company's values and the demands of the role. Additionally, they are utilised for team-building exercises, leadership development, and career progression planning. By understanding an individual's personality profile, organisations can make more informed decisions about how to effectively manage and motivate their workforce, fostering a more harmonious and productive work environment.

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Situational Judgement Tests

Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) are behavioural assessments which measure a candidate’s propensity to make decisions and form reasonable judgements. They present candidates with hypothetical workplace relevant scenarios, and range of possible actions to remedy the situation. Candidates then must rank or rate the effectiveness of each course of action, and in doing so, express their ability to make effective decisions. This means they rank among the most workplace relevant assessments on the market, being designed to predict performance in very specific roles. Research also shows SJTs to predict performance over and above ability tests and personality questionnaires, meaning they can be combined with these assessments to maximise practical utility.

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Although a wide range of pre-employment assessment tools are available on the market, the most effective ones fall under one of two categories:

  • Cognitive assessments, which are designed to measure specific aspects of a person’s general cognitive ability.
  • Behavioural assessments, which are designed to measure a range of behavioural traits which underpin their character, temperament, and eventual behaviour.

By utilising pre-employment assessment tools which address both cognition and behaviour, you are likely to maximise the efficacy of your assessment processes, allowing you to create quality short-lists of candidates who are worth interviewing. As a result, employers shouldn’t frame this issue as a debate between “Pre-employment tests vs Interviews”, as both modalities can be utilised within a highly effective assessment process, with each contributing towards identifying quality candidates for hire.

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What to expect from using these tests for recruitment

When using pre-employment tests as an employer, you can expect to see both an improvement in the quality of hire and a reduction in the administrative effort required to recruit. For example, aptitude tests are likely to improve the quality of hire by identifying candidates who show higher levels of cognitive ability. Commensurately, the addition of aptitude tests allows employing organisations to interview a far smaller applicant pool, as the aptitude tests can be relied upon to create more concise shortlists, saving the organisation significant time and resource. Over time, organisations can therefore expect to see a gradual improvement in the quality of the workforce overall, with new employees showing higher levels of the traits and abilities measured using the organisation’s pre-employment tests.

What is the most common pre-employment test?

The most common pre-employment tests are cognitive ability tests, also known as aptitude tests. These assessments measure specific cognitive abilities, such as verbal, numerical, or logical reasoning, and together will collectively measure a person’s general cognitive ability. These assessments are the most common form of pre-employment test, as they are typically implemented in high-volume recruitment, such as graduate and apprentice schemes. Moreover, they are usually implemented at the early stages of the recruitment process, meaning a very large proportion of applicants can be expected to complete them, making them especially commonly used assessments.

How are pre-employment tests used by employers?

Pre-employment tests are most commonly used as early-stage screening tools, helping them to create high-quality short-lists. This is especially true in high-volume recruitment, such as graduate schemes, whereby candidates are given pre-employment tests immediately following application. The results of these assessments are then used to reduce the size of the applicant pool, with only successful candidates advanced to the next stage of the recruitment process. This also reduces the number of candidates that need to be interviewed, saving everyone both time and effort.

What to expect from a pre-employment test

Candidates completing a pre-employment test can expect a few common themes. Firstly, pre-employment tests are almost always completed online, and usually with considerable flexibility. For example, candidates can usually choose when to start their assessments, and can participate from any location with a stable internet connection. During the assessment, they will need to follow online instructions which guide them through the process. Upon completion of the assessment, the employer will be automatically notified of the result, and the candidates need only wait for feedback from the employer directly.

Why do employers use pre-employment tests?

Employers use pre-employment tests in order to improve the quality of hire and / or reduce the administrative burden associated with recruitment. For example, an organisation may introduce a verbal reasoning assessment into their recruitment process, ensuring that all successful applicants have the requisite communication and writing skills required for the role. Additionally, pre-employment tests also allow organisations to interview fewer candidates, as they can rely on these assessments to create quality short-lists, reducing reliance on interviews.

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