Assessments in Hiring: To Use or Not to Use?

Using Hiring Assessments in Your Company

According to the Aberdeen Group, 57 percent of companies use pre-hire assessments. And chances are that not all these companies are handling the procedure correctly. Assessments in hiring can be a great asset during the recruiting process, but you really need to be strategic and smart about it.

Beware the science of questions

Have you ever tried to write a really good question to judge how much someone knows? It’s hard. There is a reason it takes hundreds of people to make standardized tests like the SAT, all of whom usually have training in an advanced field known as psychometrics. So when using assessments that measure skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, or personality traits as selection methods, beware of writing your own questions. It is better to use a professionally developed assessment that is validated and reliable.

Mind the law

Even when well-intentioned, pre-hiring assessments pose a critical legal consideration for employers.  Assessments in hiring are permitted, as long as they are not designed, intended, or used to discriminate. Therefore, the key is making sure that the tests are applied equally to all candidates, that you are screening for job-related elements, and that the process is “consistent with business necessity.” Here is a factsheet from the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) about Employment Tests and Selection Processes.

Test for aptitude, not knowledge

Rather than testing whether someone knows how to write in a specific style, test their ability to learn new styles. Most jobs today require continuous learning, and it’s a much better investment to have someone willing and able to change and adapt. This is especially true when it comes to technology and software: it might pay off in the short-term to hire someone who knows your version of something, but when you switch to a different system next year, you want that employee to have good adaptability skills as well.

Good assessments do not need to end at hiring

The hiring process sets expectations for onboarding and for the larger employee experience. If you decide to adopt assessments into hiring, recognize that this data-driven approach to evaluating people can carry over into onboarding and professional development. There are many benefits to doing this: it creates a consistent experience for the employee, it balances more empirical evaluation with subjective evaluation, and it gives the company helpful data on its people and hiring profiles.


In sum, don’t jump into pre-hire assessments blindly and be sure that those involved in hiring are well-educated in all of these considerations. When used carefully, assessments can be a powerful tool for smart hiring, balancing out potential weaknesses in the interview process, and supporting long-term company goals. Best of all, it can offer useful insights into the hiring process that allow HR and managers to refine their employee profiles and create optimal matches for everyone involved.

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