Your hiring team’s guide to pre-employment psychological testing

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Your hiring team’s guide to pre-employment psychological testing

hiring team’s guide to pre-employment psychological testing

Pre-employment psychological testing helps you deal with a number of problems most recruiters face, such as how to assess whether someone is a good cultural fit or evaluate their job-appropriate skills without any unconscious bias.

There are a few different types of pre-employment psychological tests. The main ones are:

  • Cognitive ability tests
  • Personality and culture tests
  • Situational judgment tests

We’ll guide you through the most important aspects of these tests. In this article, you can learn more about:

  1. What pre-employment psychological testing is
  2. What you can learn about candidates with psychological assessments
  3. The types of tests that are available to you
  4. The benefits of pre-employment testing

What is pre-employment psychological testing?

Psychometrics is a scientific discipline that deals with the theory and practice of measurement in the field of psychology. It’s used to construct assessment tools and measurement instruments to connect observations to theoretical attributes. 

Psychometric testing has been used by employers for over 100 years. Nowadays, pre-employment tests developed through psychometrics are used in a broad range of fields, such as psychology, education, psychiatry, recruitment, and many others. Valent Group, a US business consultancy company, estimates that as many as 60% of applicants are asked to complete a personality test during the recruitment process.

Pre-employment psychological tests allow you to identify your candidates’ skills, evaluate their knowledge, and better understand their personality traits, behavior, and motivators. 

They are usually implemented during the preliminary screening stage and are completed online. 

What can you learn about candidates with psychological assessments?

Pre-employment psychological tests are designed by professionals to help you better understand your applicants. Depending on the type of test, you can use them to evaluate: 

  • An applicant’s intelligence, aptitude, and skills (through cognitive ability testing)
  • An applicant’s general behavior, values, personality traits, motivation, and interests (through personality and situational judgment testing)

Psychological testing can be a powerful tool for:

  • Evaluating someone’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Comparing candidates effectively
  • Assessing one’s potential for personality and cultural fit
  • Reducing bias in the workplace and building a strong, diverse team

This makes psychological assessments helpful not only as a preliminary applicant screening tool but also as a method to evaluate a current employee’s job performance and development.

You can also use them to study the weaknesses and strengths of teams or people in leadership roles and build an effective strategy to increase productivity. 

Types of pre-employment psychological tests

Below, you can find information about the different types of pre-employment psychological tests, when to use them, and for what kinds of roles. 

Cognitive ability tests 

You can use Cognitive ability tests to assess candidates’ cognitive and reasoning skills, such as critical reasoning, attention to detail, or numerical reasoning. 

pre-employment psychological tests measuring cognitive ability

1. Critical Thinking test

Any role that requires the use of independent thinking can benefit from a critical thinking assessment, such as analysts, executives, data scientists, managers, and more. This test is particularly useful for the legal, tech, and finance sectors.

With a Critical Thinking test, you can assess candidates’ capacity to make objective decisions based on their ability to analyze data. This type of test usually requires candidates to read short written statements and then make judgments, identify assumptions, and evaluate arguments based on the given information.

2. Problem Solving test

Does the job role you’re hiring for involve dealing with many shifting variables on a tight schedule? If so, the Problem Solving test will prove to be of great help for finding the right candidates. 

Roles like those of an administrative assistant, project manager, planner, logistician, and most positions in sales and management require a high level of problem solving ability. 

The assessment evaluates how one interprets data and uses logic, whether they prioritize and apply an order based on the set of rules they were given, and how well they analyze information to draw conclusions.

3. Verbal Reasoning test

The Verbal Reasoning test is strongly recommended for any role that involves comprehending and interpreting information. It can be used when screening for legal, engineering, consulting, and executive positions, as well as for civil service jobs. 

This test is used to evaluate one’s ability to understand written information, think constructively, and make informed choices. Finding analogies and understanding premises are some of the skills it assesses. 

Taking the verbal reasoning test involves reading short written passages and then answering questions that challenge one’s analytical skills. It may also include questions that analyze spelling and grammar.

4. Numerical Reasoning test

As there is a math skill gap in many industries, the Numerical Reasoning test is crucial for evaluating roles that deal with financials (budgets, forecasts, etc.) or involve creating and interpreting spreadsheets. However, any job in which numerical aptitude is important can benefit from a numerical reasoning assessment. 

This test evaluates one’s ability to deal with numbers quickly and accurately and to interpret them for a wide range of applications. 

Can your applicants comprehend and manage data such as rates, trends, ratios, charts, graphs, fractions, and currency conversions? 

With a Numerical Reasoning test, you can evaluate their skills quickly and without bias.

5. Following Instructions test

Are you hiring entry- to mid-level workers and wondering if they will get along with the team management? Evaluating a candidate’s ability to process and follow instructions correctly can help you find out. 

The Following Instructions test assesses candidates’ ability to understand and follow visual, written, and verbal instructions in a variety of contexts and in many different forms. It can be useful for many sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, maintenance, and services. 

6. Reading Comprehension test

You should use the Reading Comprehension test to screen candidates for roles that involve processing, evaluating, and recalling written information. 

This test covers a wide variety of sectors and job positions but is especially helpful for screening editors, managers, and analysts. It can also be used for teams that work remotely and mainly communicate through written speech. The test can show you their strengths and weaknesses in communication and help you improve teamwork. 

7. Attention to Detail (Visual) test

Do you need to hire candidates who can easily identify visual cues and deal with visual information thoroughly? These skills are crucial for roles such as:

  • Web designers
  • Infographic designers
  • Marketing designers
  • Interior designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Lab technicians
  • Manufacturing workers

An Attention to Detail (Visual) test will help you identify candidates who pay close attention to visual details and information. It evaluates candidates’ ability to identify patterns, match identical images, distinguish design details, and find visual differences.

8. Attention to Detail (Textual) test

Many positions require well-developed attention to written details. 

Are you hiring customer service representatives? Or office assistants? Maybe an administrator or a bookkeeper? 

You should implement an Attention to Detail (Textual) test to identify the candidates’ abilities to stay focused and match, filter, and analyze written information. This test is also useful for any kind of entry-level position because it allows you to evaluate one’s overall ability to concentrate on a task. 

Personality and culture tests 

You can use personality and culture tests to assess one’s personal characteristics, attitude, and motivation and evaluate whether they make that person a good fit for your company and the role you’re hiring for. 

Are your candidates’ interpersonal skills well developed? What kind of working environment would suit them the most and allow them to perform well? Do they have leadership abilities? Do their values match those of your company or conflict with them? These are all questions that personality tests can help you answer. 

Of course, there are pros and cons to using personality tests for hiring. If you want to make a good hire, you can’t use them to make your final hiring decision. But they are still reliable assessments that allow you to understand your candidates better.

pre-employment psychological tests measuring personality and culture fit

1. Culture Add test

This is a test that can benefit any company, regardless of your industry or the role you’re looking to fill. Developing and maintaining strong company culture is what makes you stand out among your competitors and attract a loyal customer base. This is true regardless of whether your company is a startup or a large enterprise.

Assessing whether a candidate’s values, beliefs, interests, and behaviors are aligned with your company’s is that little something you need to truly differentiate a good hire from a bad one.

The Culture Add test consists of customized questions that are set up to evaluate one’s experiences and personal preferences, how they react in situations that would inevitably arise at the workplace, and their views and opinions on matters that your company is involved with. 

2. 16 Types test

The 16 Types test is based on the theory of personality types created by the well-known psychologist Carl Jung and on the work of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It’s similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. 

You can use this test for any job role. There are no right or wrong answers here, as the test simply provides you a way to get to know candidates better and to gather more specific information that you would like to discuss during the interview.

Around 80% of new hires of Fortune 500 companies have been tested with a similar assessment (the MBTI test) in the past decade. It’s quite popular because it gives you genuine insight into how candidates draw their motivation and energy to work, make decisions, and process information. 

The test commonly consists of short questions regarding one’s personality or common reactions. The results are received in the form of four letters. Interpreting them accurately can help you get a more accurate understanding of each candidate. 

3. Enneagram test

The Enneagram test is based on the research of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. It’s a comprehensive personality system that maps out nine different personality types on a diagram.

This test can help you evaluate someone’s core beliefs, the worldview they operate from, and the social role in which they feel they are able to express themselves most authentically. You can also use it to learn more about the way they form relationships with their coworkers. 

When taking the test, candidates need to assess statements and choose which one is the most accurate for them. Interpreting the results accurately can help you identify the best-suited candidates for the vacancy you’re looking to fill. 

4. Big 5 (OCEAN) test

The Big Five test follows the five-factor model, which was developed in the 60s by Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal and used by the US Air Force for hiring pilots. 

It evaluates five fundamental dimensions of character: openness to experience, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Every trait is measured on a sliding scale, and each person who takes the test is placed somewhere on the continuum of all five scales. 

The Big Five test helps you learn more about the inclinations and behaviors of your candidates, which makes it easier to decide if a particular role is fitting for their qualities. 

5. DISC test

The DISC test is based on the work of William Moulton Marston, the psychologist who created the DISC theory. It centers on four behavior types: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). 

The test consists of short statements, such as “I hesitate to criticize others,” with which the respondent decides whether they agree or not. 

Evaluating the results of this test helps you understand the respondents better and learn how to work with them and put their talents to use more effectively.

Situational judgment tests 

Situational judgment tests allow you to assess how applicants approach and react to various workplace situations. This can help you figure out if their attitudes are fitting for the role you’re hiring for—for example, whether they have the skills to prioritize tasks effectively or whether they follow instructions well. 

The assessments usually consist of descriptions of work-related situations for which the respondents are asked to pick their preferred course of action. 

Some tests ask you to pick the least or most effective response. Others require you to rate all the responses by effectiveness or pick more than one answer, so it’s important to read the instructions thoroughly. 

Let’s look at some examples.

pre-employment psychological tests measuring situational judgment

1. Negotiation test

If you’re hiring for a role that requires a lot of negotiation with customers, suppliers, business partners, representatives, or any other counterparty, you can greatly benefit from implementing a Negotiation test in the screening process. It will help you hire strong negotiators who know how to protect your business interests and achieve positive results. 

The test allows you to assess the respondent’s ability to take control of a discussion and drive it in the desired direction, as well as their level of influencing skills and emotional intelligence. 

2. Leadership & People Management test

Do you need employees who can influence and guide others successfully? 

These are necessary skills for any leadership role. The Leadership & People Management test will help you hire candidates who can plan and support the development of others, delegate authority efficiently, and build and organize an effective team. It’s useful for managers, team leaders, and any type of leadership role.

3. Business Ethics & Compliance test

This assessment can help you identify candidates with a strong knowledge of business ethics. The Business Ethics & Compliance test is particularly suitable for employees above the mid-managerial level, and it’s highly recommended for directors, officers, managers, and senior management members. 

The test evaluates the respondent’s ability to avoid conflicts of interest, understand and apply policies (including anti-harassment and anti-discriminatory policies), and prevent legal violations. It also assesses their comprehension of how ethical issues impact the reputation of a business or person.

4. Business Judgment test

The Business Judgment test is highly recommended for roles that require a good hunch for value and the ability to make the right decisions in a business context. 

If you’re hiring for positions such as a strategy consultant, analyst, business executive, or private equity associate, this assessment will definitely prove to be beneficial for your company. 

It helps you evaluate the respondent’s skills in developing successful strategies and improving the performance of the sectors of your business that they’re responsible for.

5. Time Management test

Can your employees manage their time well? 

A candidate’s ability to plan, execute, and reflect on a task is critical for maintaining and increasing the productivity of your company. 

The Time Management test presents applicants with hypothetical work-related situations in which they need to plan and prioritize tasks. This assessment is useful for any job position that requires strong time management skills. 

6. Communication test

If you’re hiring for a role that requires teamwork, collaboration, and frequent communication, the Communication test will help you identify the right candidates. Communicating clearly and using professional etiquette effectively is a critical skill for most job positions. 

The assessment tests the respondent’s skills in written and verbal communication, as well as their ability to interpret non-verbal cues and be an active listener. 

What are the benefits of using pre-employment psychological tests?

Pre-employment psychological testing can be a useful tool for any company. 

There is no way to completely avoid the risk of making a bad hire, but through a combination of methods, including cognitive, personality, and situational judgment tests, you can minimize the chance of recruiting someone who isn’t right for your business. 

Some of the major benefits pre-employment psychological testing brings to the recruitment process are:

1. Eliminating bias and helping you hire a diverse workforce.

These tests are professionally designed to assess one’s abilities and natural talents, so the insights they provide add accuracy and objectivity to the results of an interview conducted by people. People are often unaware of their biases, and they can negatively affect the way you build your workforce. 

2. Accurately assessing applicants’ cognitive skills.

Cognitive abilities are essential for all kinds of tasks, from the simplest to the most complex, and most roles require strong cognitive skills. 

3. Optimizing the hiring process.

Pre-employment psychological tests help you manage your time as a recruiter better. Screening resumes and shortlisting candidates based on their CV alone is not only very resource-intensive but also quite inaccurate and can be particularly difficult if you have received a lot of applications. Pre-employment assessments help you filter candidates quickly and efficiently. 

4. Helping you learn more about applicants.

Getting to know more about candidates’ personalities and values can help you evaluate if they would be a good fit for your company. Someone may have the hard skills needed to be an excellent programmer, but if they lack communication and leadership skills, it’s probably a bad idea to hire them as a team manager. Getting to know applicants better can also help you to improve your communication and collaboration with employees you have already hired.

Pre-employment psychological tests help you hire the best candidates 

Pre-employment psychological testing allows you to hire a diverse and efficient workforce with minimal effort and stress. In combination with role-specific skills tests, psychological tests are a great tool for building a data-driven recruitment process and assessing candidates objectively. 

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