How to evaluate screening procedures and pre-employment tests Featured

11:04pm EDT September 2, 2013
John Allen, president and COO, G&A Partners, John Allen, president and COO, G&A Partners,

With the economy returning, hiring is playing catch-up to meet increased business demands. As companies search for new talent, the ever-present challenge is identifying the right candidate.

A variety of pre-employment tests and screening procedures exist to help weed out unworthy applicants and identify potential stars. 

Select the proper tools to assess

Some include cognitive tests, medical examinations, skill assessments, credit reviews, criminal background checks and drug tests:

■  Cognitive tests assess reasoning, memory and skills in arithmetic and reading comprehension, as well as knowledge of a particular function or job.

■  Physical tests measure an applicant’s ability to perform a particular task as well as strength and stamina in general.

■  Sample job tasks, such as performance tests, realistic job simulations and work samples, assess performance and aptitude on particular duties. A data processing applicant may have to demonstrate basic keyboarding skills while a copywriter may have to provide a portfolio of past projects.

■  Medical inquiries and physical examinations, including psychological tests, assess physical or mental health. These are often conducted for high level or high stress jobs.

■  Personality tests and integrity tests assess an applicant’s character traits and disposition. They can measure to what degree a job candidate is creative, reliable, cooperative and/or risk adverse. As a result, they can help determine an applicant’s fit for the job and the company’s culture.

■  Criminal background checks provide information on arrest and conviction history. These provide some level of comfort that employers are protecting the security of their business and the safety of their employees.

■  Credit checks provide information on credit and financial history, while drug tests verify that an applicant has no illegal drugs in their system. From the results, employers extrapolate a person’s financial stability or tendency toward drug use. 

Use care when testing

These evaluations can be a very effective means of determining which applicants are most qualified for a particular job. Applicant testing can be controversial, however, if the methods are perceived to be overly invasive or potentially discriminatory. In fact, improper use of assessment tools can violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

Several years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published a fact sheet outlining some best practices for administering applicant testing and other job selection procedures, which still hold true for employers. Here is a brief overview:

■  Employers should administer tests without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability or age (40 or older).

■  Employers need to ensure that employment tests and other selection procedures are valid for the positions and purposes for which they are used. It is important to note that employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their testing procedures are in fact valid, even if they engage outside vendors to administer their tests.

■  If a selection procedure seems to screen out a protected group, employers should look for an equally effective alternative selection procedure that has less adverse impact, unless the employer can legally justify the rationale for the test.

■  Employers should stay abreast of changes in job requirements and update testing procedures accordingly to ensure that they continue to accurately predict job success.

■  Employers should not casually adopt tests and selection procedures with no consideration or regard for its effectiveness, limitations or appropriateness. 

As managers and employers, we all look for effective tools to assist in accurately assessing the skills and qualifications of a potential employee. When administered properly, applicant testing can provide an unbiased assessment of an applicant’s aptitude and character, and that objective data can be invaluable when faced with a tough hiring decision. 

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.