5 Pre-Employment Test Trends You Need to Know About

Illustration by Dreamstime
Illustration by Dreamstime

The year 2014 was a great one for job growth.

December alone added 252,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. American economist Mark Zandi predicts that “At the current pace of job growth, the economy will be back to full employment by early 2016.”

That means that 2015 will be a busy year for hiring managers and HR leaders.

Based on changes to laws, emerging technologies, and an appreciation for data-based hiring decisions, here are some pre-employment assessment trends we expect to see in 2015.

1. Drug screening tests will come down from their high

This year, marijuana will become legal in 20 states. And pre-employment drug testing will become a legal minefield for prospective employers.

Even the Washington, D.C. Council has passed a temporary law that bans employers from drug testing a job candidate before there is a conditional offer of employment.

Safety-sensitive positions will likely continue to conduct periodic testing, and the benefits of pre-employment drug testing remain, but employers in states that have approved medicinal and/or recreational use of marijuana need to check with their local Chamber of Commerce to understand how the law applies to them.

2. We’ll see a logical shift towards cognitive tests

Last year’s Wall Street Journal story on the legal implications of personality testing received substantial circulation. And it shed light on some of the limitations of personality testing: an employee’s personality does not predict whether the person can learn the job tasks quickly or think critically.

With the average length of an employee’s job tenure at three (3) years for employees between the ages of 25-34, it’s increasingly important to identify job applicants who can be effective on the job, quickly.

Hiring managers will turn to objective pre-employment tests that can evaluate whether a candidate can do the job or learn the job quickly, such as Cognitive Tests and Work Sample (Simulation) tests.

Personnel Testing Council presenter Dr. Scott Highhouse reminded a group of practitioners in November that cognitive assessments are even more reliable than structured interviews at predicting employee success. Here are some numbers:tests-correlation-chart

Cognitive Tests, Knowledge Test, and Work Sample, or Simulation, tests were the strongest pre-employment selection decision aids, stronger than personality tests and interviews.

As William Shakespeare once said, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” The wise hiring managers this year will use proven selection instruments to assist with hiring decisions.

3. Testing will be easy

The Private Sector small businesses added 106,000 jobs between November 2014 and December 2014. As they continue to grow, small businesses will want to leverage hiring best practices of larger firms.

However, they have neither the time nor money to invest in the larger pre-employment assessment organizations that require lengthy training and dedicated HR personnel to administer tests. Rather, small and medium-sized businesses will turn to tools that offer accessible off-the-shelf assessments, like HR Avatar (full disclosure: I work for HR Avatar) or Smarterer (recently acquired by Pluralsight), that are designed to begin applicant testing within minutes.

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4. Welcoming mobile testing and with open thumbs

Even though 77 percent of people between the ages of 16 to 34 use mobile devices for their job search, only 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer mobile friendly application processes. And of those 10 percent, even less offer mobile assessments.

Pre-employment test providers are guilty of technology lag. Most assessment platforms are designed to display content in Flash, which does not work on mobile browsers or most tablets.

Additionally, if you felt as though you were constantly updating your Flash plug-in in 2014, you were not hallucinating. There were 15 security updates for Flash in 2014 alone, meaning that there 15 different opportunities for assessments to break depending on the end-user’s configuration.

In addition, 2015 is going to see a shift towards HTML5. Hiring managers and leaders know to ask: “Will this test work on a mobile device?” Because if they don’t, applicants who are using their tablets – and are unable to complete the application because of it — will wonder why the company they are applying to is using antiquated technology.

5. Social Media and candidate screening: It’s complicated

In 2014, two in five employers used social networks to screen candidates. Some 76 percent used Facebook, 53 percent used Twitter, and 48 percent used LinkedIn. Almost half of employers said that they found information online that deterred them from hiring a candidate.

Smart candidates are getting wise to the ways of employers and tailoring their profiles accordingly. While employers cannot legally request access to a user’s social media account, information readily available on the web, for example an open Twitter account, can be used to make hiring decisions.

However, employers should be careful to keep their candidate research legal. Best practice is to incorporate social media research into your hiring process after the job interview. This way, you can avoid discriminating against candidates based on protected characteristics.


Yes, 2015 is going to be a hiring year, and hiring managers are responsible for bringing on employees who will make their team better.

While legal changes around drug laws and online privacy might initially feel like an obstacle, it’s a relatively small one that can be overcome by checking in with your Chamber of Commerce and following hiring best practices.

Assessments to make informed, objective decisions are readily available. And, assessments don’t have to be complicated. Once a manager selects a test that predicts success on the job, they will be one step closer to hiring people who can make their team better.

Shoa Appelman is VP of Client Services and co-founder of HR Avatar Employment Tests. HR Avatar makes it easy to measure an applicant’s cognitive ability, personality, and job knowledge, in one simulation test: simply select the job title and send it to the applicant. Detailed job candidate test reports include a customized interview guide to improve the hiring process. You can reach her at shoa@hravatar.com.


9 Comments on “5 Pre-Employment Test Trends You Need to Know About

  1. I was recently asked to take a DISC test in the interview process, the results were fairly accurate – but the next step was a phone interview with a “DISC specialist”. I felt the interview was sneaky in its intentions and the interviewer was allowed to make far too many false assumptions based on my “high C results” which he repeatedly made comments about. I am now questioning whether I would consider working for a company using this particular testing set up and wondering if any of them are actually worth the time and money spent administering them? I feel they are far too personally invasive.

  2. I’d be curious to know where the stats in your chart came from. I think you may be taking a very narrow view of personality/behavior testing if it is solely related to “Work Ethic”. There’s an interesting article in by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in Forbes on the subject: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomaspremuzic/2014/05/12/seven-common-but-irrational-reasons-for-hating-personality-tests/

    It’s also important to remember that any kind of test should not be looked at in isolation, nor used as the sole reason for making a hiring decision. It is one piece of data and should always viewed through the lens of a consistent recruitment process.

    1. Good points Michael – and you’re right, testing is only one part of the decision. Also thank you for sharing the Forbes article! Agree that measuring only Work Ethic would be a narrow view of personality. I believe the presenter from the conference selected Work Ethic because it demonstrated the highest correlation of the personality factors in the meta-analysis he had completed.

  3. am currently conducting a pre-employment assessment scheduled over 5 weeks…With no more than 10 hours of required “work” per week. The issue is, after completing some case study analysis and a test over specifics of the case studies…I have now been asked to perform what looks like actual work for the company, so they can asses my ability to do the job…It appears they are asking applicants to complete a procurement/supplier analysis project and from this they will select the best candidate based on the performance and results…There is compensation but not at the rate one would expect for this level of involvement and commitment. I am looking for some feed back

  4. Great tips! Very informative!
    I find it’s best to track hiring and recruiting trends when I’m applying for jobs, and to use Jobscan https://goo.gl/2XyEMj to tailor my resume so it’s more likely to get noticed.

  5. If you have been recently let go by a company and think that you have a claim for unfair dismissal there are well-defined steps to take to investigate your eligibility for compensation. Ask one of our lawyers for guidance in this area. You can check our advices on this here!

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