Pre-employment questionnaires: The ultimate guide for recruiters

ultimate guide on pre-employment questionnaires for recruiters

In recent years, companies have started using pre-employment questionnaires in order to vet, analyze, and assess their candidates more accurately. And the benefits are mutual: Pre-employment questionnaires enable companies to get to know candidates better before they hire them, and candidates save time for themselves if they’re not the right match. 

However, there’s more to employment questionnaires than just saving time and resources. This ultimate guide will explore the why, how, and what of pre-employment questionnaires: 

But first, let’s start by defining what a pre-employment questionnaire is.

What is a pre-employment questionnaire?

A pre-employment questionnaire is part of the screening process companies use when hiring in order to filter out unqualified candidates from it and identify promising talent. 

The aim of an employment questionnaire is to figure out which applicants are a good fit for the company before you invite candidates to the interview stage. Companies that don’t use pre-employment questionnaires risk hiring individuals who haven’t been properly vetted. Such businesses will only discover their selected candidates’ true abilities and traits when they’re already hired. 

But pre-employment questionnaires give you the tools to evaluate your candidates in depth and determine which candidates are qualified enough to get invited to an interview. 

An employment questionnaire can give you many insights into your candidates’ skills, from their writing and grammar skills to their technical abilities, and even emotional intelligence. So it’s best to use pre-employment questionnaires to evaluate your candidates as early in the hiring process as possible. 

One of the easiest ways to approach this is to use pre-employment tests. They’re fast, reliable, and bias-free, with the added bonus of providing a good candidate experience. 

It’s totally legal to use pre-employment questionnaires in the US, and that includes every level: local, state, and federal. However, there’s a small caveat here: Pre-employment questionnaires must follow the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) laws. 

This legislation is in place to eliminate discrimination in the workplace and recruitment, focusing on the following protected categories: 

  • race
  • skin color
  • sexual orientation
  • age (ageism)
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • pregnancy
  • religion or political opinion
  • national extraction or social origin

So, although it goes without saying, it’s worth emphasizing that you need to ensure that your employment questionnaires don’t discriminate against candidates. 

What are the benefits of a pre-employment questionnaire?

There are multiple benefits to including an employment questionnaire in your hiring process. We’ve identified four that have proved to be some of the most important:

Benefit 1: Shortlisting candidates

Let’s take a look at the following statistics: 

The data tells us that as soon as you publish a job opening in your company you will receive hundreds of applications. But the problem is that most of those applicants won’t be qualified; candidates who apply for the vacancy will often be using the shotgun approach. 

The shotgun approach is when a candidate decides to apply to as many open positions as possible, hoping that something lands and that they get invited to an interview. On the one hand, companies want to make their application processes simpler for top talent, but that has inadvertently enabled many unqualified job seekers to apply. 

The third point, that employers will only look at candidate CVs for a few seconds, tells us the harsh reality of CV screening. 

Hiring managers know that 70% of applicants will be unqualified, so they’re trying to sift through their CVs as fast as possible to find a couple of gems. But it’s not always the case that the best people for the job know how to present their skills in a resume. 

Hiring managers therefore end up vetting CV writing skills, instead of the skills that the future employee will actually use on the job. 

And when you get the candidate shortlist, you will not know if it genuinely comprises the best candidates or if they were selected due to the hiring manager’s unconscious bias. 

To avoid problems like these, companies are increasingly implementing pre-employment tests as a way to assess and measure candidates’ skills – and avoid CV screening altogether. It’s a vastly more effective and data-driven method. 

Benefit 2: Evaluating candidates in-depth

If the company doesn’t do pre-employment testing, then the testing will take place at… well, work. Organizations used to have this approach, in which an employee would be on probation (trial period) for a month for the company to see if they’re a good match and if they can continue working in the company. 

There are multiple problems with this: 

  • Companies had to decline all other candidates and decide to take one individual on a trial period. If the candidate proved to be the wrong choice, the company had to redo the hiring process all over again, losing money and good talent in the process. 
  • The employees would spend too much time on a single company’s hiring process and probation period, only to realize that they were not a good match. 

To avoid these problems, companies started implementing pre-employment questionnaires. These help you get to know your candidates –their personalities, characters, and skills – before they start working for your company. 

benefits of a pre-employment questionnaire

All assessments and evaluations happen before the successful candidate is chosen, which is beneficial for both applicants and the company: The company doesn’t lose resources while candidates save time if they’re not a good match. 

Benefit 3: Predicting employee behavior 

Before pre-employment questionnaires, a hiring manager would ask behavioral questions to candidates during the interviews, and that would be the only touchpoint with regard to employee behavior. Only later, during actual on-the-job situations, would the employer see how the candidates really behave. 

This was a problem because you couldn’t know how an employee would respond to the specific challenges the role would put in front of them. However, with employment questionnaires, you can assess how an employee behaves in specific and challenging scenarios. 

Pre-employment questionnaires are therefore imperative if you want to predict future behavior and see if your candidates can respond to challenges in a suitable way. 

Today’s pre-employment tests give candidates the chance to show their skills and behavior by confronting them with challenges and problems. When hiring a JavaScript developer, for example, you can give them a pre-employment test that assesses their JavaScript skills in real time. 

Benefit 4: Provides great user experience

Pre-employment questionnaires provide a great candidate experience. Before employment questionnaires, candidates didn’t know how their CVs were perceived, why they were invited to an interview, or why they were rejected. 

It may be that the hiring manager simply glanced through your CV and nothing caught their eye. 

But with employment questionnaires, a hiring manager will send tests to all the candidates who applied for the job and let their skills speak for themselves. Applicants will complete the test and be evaluated automatically. Then, both the hiring manager and the candidate can see the test score, so they both know what they need to do afterward. 

The candidate will know that, if they get a good score on the test, there’s a big chance they will be invited to the next stage of the recruitment process. The hiring process is transparent and objective, so skilled candidates will get ahead no matter their background.

If they lack skills, they will receive feedback and know where they need to improve in order to succeed in the future. 

Why should you use Pre-employment questionnaires?

There are three main benefits of using pre-employment questionnaires:

Reason #1 – Faster hiring process

A pre-employment questionnaire will assess a large talent pool quickly. The old way of doing things involved a hiring manager reviewing the CVs of every single candidate, and deciding on that basis which applicants are good enough to be invited to an interview. 

There were so many problems with this method, from the risks of unconscious bias creeping into hiring decisions to the time required to sift through so many CVs (which was both long and, at the same time, not long enough).

However, when you use employment questionnaires, your hiring manager simply distributes the tests to all your applicants and waits for the results. 

With TestGorilla, you receive the test results back automatically and in numerical form. So your hiring manager can easily compare your candidates and determine which should be invited to an interview.  

Reason #2 – Skills testing

The second reason why you should use pre-employment questionnaires in your hiring process is to evaluate your candidates’ skills effectively. CV screening focuses less on skills needed in the workplace and more on candidates’ experience. Most of the time, the only skill you can really evaluate is their CV writing skills! 

However, with employment questionnaires, you can evaluate the skills your future employees will use on a daily basis. 

reasons to use pre-employment questionnaires

If you’re hiring a software developer to work in Python, you can give them a pre-employment test that assesses their Python skills. This helps you verify that your candidate has the necessary skills for the job. 

Reason #3 – Increase the quality of interviews

The third reason to use pre-employment questionnaires in your hiring is to increase the quality of your interviews. 

If your company doesn’t use employment questionnaires, the only information you can know about candidates is what’s written in their CVs. Over 75% of job candidates bend the truth in their CVs, so reading one is unlikely to give you a good sense of the candidate’s skills. 

But when you have pre-employment questionnaires in place, you receive useful data about your candidates that will help you prepare properly for the interviews. You can see how well they perform in specific areas and use particular skills, so you can tailor your questions according to their answers, challenges, or weaknesses. 

Pre-employment questionnaires enable you to better prepare for the interview stage of the recruitment process, which means that you increase the chances of hiring the best candidate from your talent pool. 

When to use pre-employment screening tests

Pre-employment questionnaires can be used at any point before you hire the candidate. However, the best practice is to use them as soon as possible in the recruitment process. 

One option is to include answering your pre-employment questionnaires as a prerequisite for applying for an open role in your company. This helps to prevent candidates from using “the shotgun approach.”

Pre-employment questionnaires discourage unqualified candidates from applying, helping you avoid receiving 250 applications per open role. 

This means that you can focus more on those higher-quality candidates who applied because they thought they might be a good match. 

What should you include in the pre-employment questionnaire?

There are five elements that you should have in your pre-employment questionnaires to evaluate your candidates properly:

Personality assessment

Your employment questionnaires should include tests that evaluate your candidates’ personalities. The Big 5, DISC, or 16-type personality tests are just some that you could give to your candidates. 

You should also assess your candidates’ culture add to the company. You want a candidate to contribute positively to your company’s culture and ensure that their personal values complement the organizational values. 

Skills assessment

As well as personality and culture, you will need to include questionnaires that assess your candidates’ skills. You’re looking for individuals with the necessary technical and hard skills for the open role. 

what to include in pre-employment questionnaire

For instance, someone applying for the role of software developer must be evaluated on their skills in particular programming languages or their abilities with specific platforms. 

Emotional intelligence/soft skills/aptitude assessment

Hard skills are crucial, but you should also never forget to consider your candidates’ soft skills. Technical skills aren’t everything in the workplace; the candidate will have to work with others in your organization. To do so, they need emotional intelligence, a collaborative mentality, and good communication. 

So when giving your candidates pre-employment questionnaires, make sure you assess their soft skills by including tests that evaluate their emotional intelligence. 

Ethics and integrity assessment

Your pre-employment questionnaires should include questionnaires that assess the candidate’s ethics and integrity. These are essential for an organization since you need your employees to respect the code of conduct and complete their work ethically and lawfully. 

With that in mind, make sure to assess your candidates’ ethics and integrity. 

Language skills assessment

The final element is evaluating your candidates’ language skills. This is especially when hiring candidates to work with people in different languages and new markets. 

A sales representative opening a new market will need to know at least some of the local language of that market, while a customer support representative needs to be fluent in the language of the customers calling the center. 

All of this can be evaluated easily with pre-employment tests. 

Best practices when implementing pre-employment questionnaires

TestGorilla has helped more than 5,000 companies implement pre-employment assessments in their hiring processes. Here are the four best practices for creating the most successful recruitment process: 

#1 Choose the right test(s)

When you create a job opening, you should already have a list of skills required for your future employee. Use that list when choosing the pre-employment tests and match every skill that you need for the job with a pre-employment test. 

For example, if you’re hiring a software developer to work with Python, then give them a Python test. But also give them corresponding personality, emotional intelligence, and ethics tests to ensure that you get the best individual for your organization. 

#2 Communicate the process with the candidates

Although pre-employment tests are an excellent tool to use in your hiring process, they’re not a silver bullet that will solve all of your recruitment problems. Your hiring manager will have to communicate each step of the process to your candidates so that they know what to expect. 

Setting the right expectations early on will ensure that they always know where they are in the process and what else is waiting for them. So don’t forget to communicate fully with your candidates and provide a good experience.

#3 Use them as an elimination tool

The best use of pre-employment questionnaires is as an elimination tool early on in the hiring process. If a candidate performs poorly in a pre-employment test, they probably don’t have the necessary skills to fill the open role in your organization. 

When providing feedback to your candidates, make sure to encourage them to re-apply again once they’ve improved their skills. 

But if a candidate passes a test, even with flying colors, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re the right match for your company; it just means that they have the necessary skills to do the job. There are other factors that come into play when making a hiring decision, such as culture add or values match. 

#4 Track completion rates and send reminders

You will likely have candidates who aren’t used to dealing with pre-employment tests, and that’s okay. That just means you will need to guide them through the process. 

Your hiring manager can’t just send the pre-employment tests to candidates and consider the job done. They also need to track the completion rates of your tests and send reminders to candidates who haven’t done them yet. 

They may also need to remind candidates that they’re open to any questions regarding the hiring process and pre-employment questionnaires. This will help improve the completion rates of the pre-employment assessments, leaving you one step closer to finding, choosing, and making an offer to the right candidate for your organization. 

Here’s why you should use TestGorilla’s pre-employment assessments

There are many reasons why you should choose TestGorilla’s pre-employment assessments for your hiring process, and here are the six main ones: 

  • Reason #1 – Made by subject matter experts. All of our pre-employment tests are made by subject-matter experts. These tests are then peer-reviewed by another subject-matter expert to see if they can be improved. After that, the tests go through a beta-testing phase, in which they’re completed by hundreds of people with relevant experience who give feedback so it’s iterated in the best possible form. Only once the test is suitably refined and perfected is it added to our Test Library
  • Reason #2 – Creates a bias-free hiring process. Our pre-employment tests ensure your hiring process is free from bias. Whenever you receive a shortlist of candidates from your hiring manager, you can never know if the shortlist is genuinely made up of the best candidates or if it’s a product of the hiring manager’s unconscious bias. With the pre-employment tests, you don’t have that fear, because you can create a shortlist out of the applicants who perform the best.
  • Reason #3 – Removes reliance on CVs. You no longer have to rely on CV screening. Pre-employment tests will ensure that you evaluate the relevant skills your future employees will use on a daily basis in their jobs. 
  • Reason #4 – Scalable solution. When you use pre-employment tests, it makes no difference if you receive 20 or 250 applications for a job vacancy. You simply distribute the test to all your applicants with a single click and wait for the results. The amount of time spent on sending out and assessing the tests is negligible when compared to outdated methods such as CV screening. 
  • Reason #5 – Combine multiple pre-employment tests. You can combine multiple pre-employment tests into a single assessment for candidates to complete. That way, you ensure you evaluate candidates across multiple criteria. 
  • Reason #6 – Choose from 7 test types and over 200 pre-employment tests. With TestGorilla’s pre-employment test library, you can choose between seven different test types and over 200 different pre-employment tests. The seven test types fall under the following categories: cognitive ability, language, personality & culture, programming skills, role-specific skills, situational judgment, and software skills. 


Pre-employment questionnaires are excellent tools for improving your hiring process. Your hiring manager will get to know applicants better, and you’ll be more prepared to evaluate candidates during the interviews. 
So don’t leave your hiring process to chance. Sign up to TestGorilla for free today to start using pre-employment tests from our Test Library – and hire the best.

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