Get to know the seven types of pre-employment tests and secure your next job

Pre-employment tests or assessments are common in today's recruitment process and crucial to making the right hiring decision. By understanding what a pre-employment test is, the different types of pre-employment tests employers use, and how to prepare for them, you can improve your chances of passing the assessments and landing a job offer. Read on to find out more!

What is pre-employment testing?

Pre-employment testing is a stage in the hiring process. A prospective employer will give a candidate a pre-employment test before hiring, to build a bigger picture of their skills, personality, and behaviour. 

The tests objectively assess different characteristics and skills, which can include technical knowhow, cognitive ability, integrity, personality traits, emotional intelligence, job-specific skills, and physical ability.

Why do employers use pre-employment testing?

There are several reasons why employers use pre-employment testing. The overall goal is to ensure the right hire is made, but there are a few specific considerations too, including:

  • To ensure a candidate possesses the necessary skills and knowledge required for the job

  • To identify a suitable candidate early to streamline the recruitment process and avoid hiring mistakes

  • To assess whether a candidate is a cultural fit

  • To ensure hiring practices comply with legal regulations

  • To objectively benchmark candidates against specific criteria

The most common types of pre-employment tests

In pre-employment testing, there are seven types of standardised tests. Here is an overview of each type of pre-employment test and examples of what they might look like for certain roles and industries.

Skills assessment tests

Skills assessment tests are the most common of all the pre-employment tests. They assess your hard and soft skills in line with the role requirements.

Skills assessment tests tend to occur later in the hiring process after an interview. Typically, hiring managers will be happy with your candidacy but need to check that you aren't all talk and no trousers. In other words, you do actually have the technical knowledge, expertise, and aptitude required for the role.

For example, a skills assessment may test a Developer's proficiency in specific programming languages, like Python, Java, or JavaScript. Alternatively, a Copywriter may be given a copy editing test or a content creation task.

An employer may also evaluate soft skills, particularly if the role is senior or in a distributed or remote team. For example, a candidate may be presented with a hypothetical work-related problem and asked to outline their approach to resolving it.

Personality tests

Personality tests are another common pre-employment test. They aim to reveal whether a candidate is a cultural fit and if their personality can help to drive the organisation's success. 

Employers can choose from different types of personality tests, but they all assess a candidate's traits and characteristics. For example, an employer may use a personality test on Project Manager candidates to see how their personality traits relate to the demands of the role at the organisation.

Common personality tests used in pre-employment testing include:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

  • SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)

  • Saville Assessment Wave Styles Personality Questionnaire (SPQ)

  • 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF)

  • DISC Personality Assessment

  • Thomas International Personal Profile Analysis (PPA)

  • Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI)

  • Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal

Job knowledge tests

Job knowledge tests are similar to skills assessment tests, except they are focused on theoretical or technical proficiency in a specific field. Employers use this type of test when specialist knowledge of an industry is crucial to performing in the role. 

For example, an applicant for a nursing position may be asked questions on medical terminology or drug administration. Alternatively, a Chef may be asked questions on cooking techniques and culinary knowledge. This will prove to the prospective employer whether the candidate knows what the job entails. 

Cognitive ability tests

A cognitive ability test is also known as an aptitude or intelligence test. They are designed to measure a candidate's mental capabilities and capacity for learning and problem-solving. 

There is a range of specific cognitive abilities these tests evaluate, including:

  • Logical reasoning

  • Numerical reasoning

  • Verbal reasoning

  • Abstract reasoning

  • Spatial reasoning

  • Inductive reasoning

  • Deductive reasoning

  • Learning agility

  • Memory recall

  • Speed of processing

  • Critical thinking

  • Attention to detail

  • Problem-solving

Cognitive ability tests are useful when hiring for roles requiring analytical thinking or quickly learning new information. For example, a Financial Analyst needs to interpret complex financial information and make data-driven recommendations, so an employer may assess their cognitive ability with a pre-employment assessment.

Emotional intelligence tests

Emotional intelligence (EI) tests are designed to assess how your emotions impact your thoughts and behaviours and how you manage them in a professional setting. EI tests are often used when a role requires strong interpersonal skills, teamwork skills, and the ability to lead. 

Skills that are often assessed during an EI test include:

For example, a prospective employer may assess a customer service applicant's empathy by asking them about a time they had to deal with an upset customer. Alternatively, a candidate for a Team Leader position may be asked about a time they had to motivate their team to meet a challenging goal.

Integrity tests

Integrity tests are a type of risk test. An integrity test aims to measure how reliable a candidate is. This helps prevent the company from hiring a dishonest or undisciplined applicant.

The test is designed to assess how likely a candidate is to follow the rules and will weed out any counterproductive tendencies, like deception, violation of policies, or absenteeism. 

Integrity tests are typically used for entry-level positions, because entry-level candidates often have limited professional experience or exposure to the working world. This is a potential risk, as they may not have established a track record of ethical behaviour or understand what is required in a professional environment. 

There are two main types of integrity tests. The first is an overt integrity test, which involves directly asking applicants about their attitudes, beliefs, and past behaviours related to integrity and ethical conduct. An example of a question could be, “Have you ever lied to a supervisor or manager about a work-related matter?”

The second type is a covert integrity test. It assesses integrity by presenting scenarios or situations and asking an applicant to respond without explicitly stating that the test is evaluating integrity. An example of a question could be, “Imagine you're aware of a mistake in a report your supervisor is about to present. What actions would you take in this situation?”

Physical ability tests

Physical ability tests are another form of risk mitigation. A physical ability test assesses whether a candidate fulfils the physical requirements for the job. They are most common in roles that involve physical work, like event security personnel, construction workers, and law enforcement. 

Physical ability tests assess functional abilities, including:

  • Strength tests, like lifting and carrying

  • Endurance tests

  • Agility tests

  • Balance and flexibility tests

  • Job-specific tasks

How to prepare for pre-employment testing

Most employers will use at least one pre-employment test as part of a comprehensive recruitment process, so you should expect an assessment regardless of your industry or position. Here are a few ways you can prepare for a pre-employment test:

Find out what test you will receive

Determining the type of test you could receive in advance will help you to prepare for a pre-employment test. For some industries, it might be obvious whether there will be a skills assessment or physical abilities test, but for others, it might not be clear.

If you're not sure what test you will receive, reach out to the hiring manager to ask about the stages in the interview process to identify whether there is an assessment phase. If there is, ask about the test they anticipate using. 

Review practice questions 

You would practise interview questions before your interview, so you should get to know the types of pre-employment tests and practise sample questions, too. If you find any question difficult, spend time perfecting your approach to these, rather than wasting time on questions you find easy, to help increase your confidence on assessment day.

Remember to be honest

Honesty is the best policy with pre-employment tests for two reasons. Firstly, many employers use technology to analyse candidate responses, which helps them identify dishonesty. Lying won't just waste your time. It could also put a black mark against your name for any future job opportunities.

Secondly, providing genuine answers that reflect your true characteristics, values, and experiences will result in a role that's right for you. If you lie, you can't make an informed decision about your suitability for the role and neither can the employer. 

Understanding pre-employment testing is a crucial step in securing your dream job. At TopCV, we understand the significance of presenting your best self. Let us help you shine. Submit your CV for a free review and take a confident step toward a successful career.

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