In the March 24, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complains about investing time in employment tests before the employer invests time in an interview.


I applied for a Senior Director position with a large healthcare software company. I was “selected” by HR to begin the recruitment process, which starts with “assessment tests” such as aptitude and personality tests. The largely canned e-mail they sent me states that I should block off two hours to complete these examinations, and I was provided with a link and logon information to the assessment website. Mind you, I still have not talked with the hiring manager.

no-to-testsI don’t really have two hours to perform these silly tasks, though the job itself does sound challenging from the description provided. Is there anything I can do to bypass this process, or should I just run and hide from this firm? How can I be sure the third party contracted to perform the assessment isn’t selling or trading my information with other employers without my knowledge? Thanks very much, I am a big fan of your blog.

Nick’s Reply

Glad you enjoy the blog — thanks for your kind words.

My approach to situations like this is not to say no. It’s to set terms you are comfortable with, and then let the employer say yes or no. If your terms are prudent and reasonable, and they say no, then you know something funky is up — and that you’ve really lost nothing in the bargain. You merely avoided wasting your time.

But I don’t think it bodes well when a company wants you to do tricks to get an interview, so you’re justified to be concerned. What I’m about to suggest will likely result in your being rejected from further consideration by this company.

  • I’d tell HR you’d be happy to comply with their request, but your busy schedule precludes you from filling out forms and going through administrative processing (tests) until you and the manager “establish good reasons to pursue the possibility of working together.” In other words…
  • No testing prior to meeting the hiring manager. Why invest your valuable time if they won’t invest theirs?
  • No testing with third-party firms unless they provide in writing (a) a disclosure that defines who will have access to your results, (b) a confidentiality statement (signed by the testing firm and the employer) stating that they will not disclose your results to anyone without your express written permission, (c) credentials of the test administrators and those who will score and interpret the results, and (d) written assurance that they will provide you with results and interpretation of your tests.

The last word about why pre-employment tests should concern you is this article by Dr. Erica Klein: An Insider’s Biggest Beefs With Employment Testing.

Now let’s get down to business. You’re interested in the job you read about, so pursue it on your own terms.

I’d contact the office of the person you’d be reporting to if hired. (See Should I accept HR’s rejection letter? for some tips.) I’d politely explain that you’re glad the company wants to interview you, and that you’d be happy to come in to meet and talk. If you mutually decide to continue discussions about a job, you’d be happy to take tests and suffer through the HR gauntlet.

How to Say It
“I get a lot of requests to do such tests but I judge how serious an employer is about me as a candidate by whether they will invest the time to meet me first. I always go the extra mile for a company that demonstrates that level of interest. In fact, if you have time to meet, I’ll be glad to prepare a plan for how I’d do the job — and we can discuss it.”

I’m sure you get the idea. The point is to say this to the hiring manager — not to HR. If you need help with that last part, see Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6: The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire, particularly the sections, “How can I demonstrate my value?” and “Are you an A or B candidate?”, pp. 8-11. I think that offering to arrive with a business plan in hand will reveal whether the manager is on the ball. How could any good manager not be intrigued?

As you’ve already surmised, the odds are extremely high that the HR department really doesn’t know whether you are a viable candidate. They’d rather spend money on tests to filter you in or out, than spend the hiring manager’s time to interview you to make a judgment. So, I don’t think you have much to lose. At this juncture, you’re probably not a serious contender. If you were, they’d handle you with kid gloves and they’d be seducing you rather than harassing you.

Of course, the tests might be useful, interesting and valid tools to judge your skills. After you talk with the manager.

Your last concern is valid. Those third-party testing companies invariably own your results. The papers you sign usually give them the right to share your results with anyone they want to, including some other company that obtains your resume — and looks up your test results because it’s already the testing firm’s client. You could get rejected without ever knowing why.

Be careful. Use your judgment. Be polite, be professional, but don’t be a sucker. Expect the kind of professional treatment and consideration that you give others.

Have employment tests taken the place of screening interviews? Is this just another way to save HR time? More important — does this extreme testing practice waste your time or help you get interviews?

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  1. Nick, my favorite line in your post is this one: “At this juncture, you’re probably not a serious contender. If you were, they’d handle you with kid gloves and they’d be seducing you rather than harassing you.”

    Given that a candidate is likely not a “serious candidate,” if the job seems attractive, the candidate should probably go the extra mile to go from the not-so-serious to serious bucket.

    However, taking a faceless and potentially arbitrary third-party personality assessment is not what I would call the extra mile. Instead, I don’t think it’s wrong for the candidate to audition for a role — it should probably be something more meaningful.

    For example, if it’s a senior director of sales role, I’d think it’d be valuable to the hiring manager to get a list of prospects that the company is not targeting, prioritized by importance, with a concrete recommendation on how to approach that prospect.

    That’s probably how I’d go the extra mile to make that killer first impression.

    – Lewis @

  2. It’s disturbing that a Senior level hire would follow such practices. The good news is it should be very easy to ascertain the reporting structure of boss and colleagues. This is one function where LinkedIn excels.

  3. I was recently recruited by a large consulting firm in another city. I had a very useful phone conversation with a senior associate (the hiring manager)and was offered an interview. I accepted their offer and simply asked for a week’s notice in order to take the time off and fly down.

    Rather than do this, they just inundated me with an extraordinarily in depth series of online applications (things that the ATS asked me to block off hours to fill in online forms) and a background check similar to what the State Department and Pentagon would use.

    I told them that I would take care of paperwork once they schedule an in interview date so I can arrange logistics (the hiring manager had offered to fly me down for free and put me up in a hotel).

    They kept on blowing me off (not responding for weeks at a time), and then got back to me, offering me an interview time around 18 hours in advance.

    They responded by asking me to go through a few more HR phone screens (I had already gone through two of these, in addition to speaking with the hiring manager.)

    I politely told them that while I had a great conversation with the hiring manager and was interested in the position, I would still need the week’s notice to head out of town for the in-person interview.

    Thankfully, I never heard from them again.

  4. NB: story edit:

    The additional phone screen offers came AFTER I declined the next day interview.

  5. Thank you for this article! I can’t count the number of personality tests or mathematical tests I have taken recently. This seems to be part of the online gauntlet companies like to make candidates run through.
    In one case I went through all the testing and had a friend working for the company waiting for my resume. I filled out everything first thing in the morning and about mid-day he called me to see why I had not sent in my information. Long story short – an HR staffer in another state thought I was overqualified and kicked out my application before my friend could get to it. I should add that he gets into the office at 6am every day. The modern day screening process is an absolute time succubus for all of those involved.

  6. A large hospital chain in a major midwestern city inflicted on me a two-hour test that included simple calculation exercises on how many pencils needed to be ordered for the supply cabinet!

    It also had a word association test that went like this – I’d rather eat pineapple or go to a parade – pick one.

    in my view the tests were absurd and had nothing to do with my ability to manage large IT hardware projects. I think the tests may have an element of smoking out people who might be a poor cultural fit whatever that means.

    HR did not respond to me efforts to speak with the hiring manager.

    It left a permanent negative impression. I later learned the IT dept has a button down culture which would not have been a good fit for me, but I do wonder what happens to all those pencils?

  7. I recently interviewed for an HR Mgr position with a local distributor in my area, I met with the hiring manager, and met with the EVP, prior to meeting with the EVP, I was notified by the current HR Manager that I would have to complete an “employment questionnaire” that is typically given to prospective managers, and it would be sent to me by a third party consultant. I did not receive the questionnaire prior to meeting the EVP, so I had to complete the ” employment questionnaire ” while I was in the office. It turned out to be a personality & mathemtical assessment test not an ” employment questionnaire” this assessment was 6 parts and it took me 90 minutes to complete. I honestly have to say that I was truly disgusted when I saw that it was an assessment test, and was about to walk out but didn’t because I need a job. After I completed the assessment I met with the CFO who is the hiring manager, and he was unaware that it was a 6 part test, in fact he had never seen the contents of the test or what it entailed, which floored me when I heard him say it to me. Most of the candidates that have taken this assessment have done it from home so had the time to complete it in a comfortable setting. I had to complete it in a conference room, using a wide screen computer screen mounted on the wall. I gave my opinion to the CFO about the assessment, and told him that I did not think it was an appropriates test for that company culture, he said he would be looking into it. I don’t know if that hurt my chances or not but I just had to say it. I’ve been in Human Resources for 15+ years and know what are the types of recruitment tools to use based on the company culture.

  8. Could not agree with you more. Testing before a meeting or asking for additional personal information on any level is inappropriate. I actually don’t agree with any testing (unless specific to job…writing, developing software, etc) as I don’t see the value. Appropriate interviewing, understanding of accomplishments versus role being filled, along with proper professional testimonials and honest disclosure of areas that one is less enthused/inclined, should be all that is needed.

  9. These tests are nothing more than CYA stuff to reject people. I once interviewed with a company, and I had some great discussions with the people I’d have been working with. I even used Nick’s do-the-job technique to great success. One person interviewing me said, “Man, I wish Steve was in today. This is *exactly* the type of solution we need for this problem. He’d love this.”

    In my final interview with the department head, he opened the conversation with a statement that he had a concern about my test results. Some conclusion said I was not a problem solver or something like that. This was based on a 20 minute online test. I could tell the department head didn’t really care for me, and this gave his the perfect excuse to, IMHO, overrule everyone else.

  10. I agree with the blog post and all of the comments so far.

    On paper, testing could be a good thing. However, it seems like testing has been perverted much like online job boards and applicant tracking systems.

  11. @Lewis: I agree with you on what the extra mile should be, but there’s a bit of salesmanship that goes into getting that manager to see that what the HR department is asking for is just goofy. By offering that “I’ll do HR’s test… if you meet me first,” you’re putting a little bait on the hook.

    @Carl: Your story is a good example of how an employer will badger an applicant, counting on your desperation and compliance. Do you think they’d treat a prospective customer this way? Of course not. You did the right thing, though at the time it can be difficult to walk away from an “opportunity.” This wasn’t an opportunity. It was an over-bearing employer that’s accustomed to acting like a bully.

    @Anna Mouse: No matter how many such stories I read, I’m amazed. Top management has NO idea how many good candidates are casually rejected by HR. Time suck, indeed!

    @Mayor Bongo: HR routinely kills a company’s reputation, and gets paid to do it.

    @Joanne: Thanks for the view from HR. Think about it – the CFO has no idea how applicants are treated by HR. Then the CFO basically ignores the problem where you are concerned. Who cares? There are millions of unemployed applicants waiting to take your place – AND THAT CFO IS WILLING TO REVIEW EVERY SINGLE ONE. Dope.

  12. This reminds me of the good old days when the interviewer would take out a sheet of paper and intone “we ask all candidates the same questions”.

    IMHO it doesn’t matter if it is personality, math, problem solving, technical or a Rorschach test: If you ask everyone the same questions, you are largely going to get the same answers. If it is so unimportant that it can be fobbed off to a 3rd party (who will own the results), it is justified how?

    You really don’t know what a candidate is capable of until he or she on the job for a while after acclimating, and you can see the results. (Unless it is a vet that has not yet civilianized the resume. In that case, you do have it in black and white.) Same with whether they is a “good fit”. I’m not even sure you can accurately test for “good fit”.

    Regarding resumes, I saw a resume on a license plate bracket today: Alumni University of Mogadishu. You really don’t have to ask about what you are getting there.

  13. To me a good acid test of most of these pre-employment test would be to have ALL of the current employees take the test and see which ones should not have been hired. If the results indicate that some good people (based on recent review results) should never have been hired, the the test is garbage and should not be used. Oh, and ALL of HR (all the way to the top) should be tested. I suspect most of HR would no longer be fans of this waste of time and insult. I don’t believe in silly legislation, but maybe it should be law that a company cannot “discriminate” against potential employees unless it has submitted current employees to the same treatment and evaluated everyone equally.

    By the way, I used to be a Software Development Manager. I took great pride in sifting through stacks of resume’s and interviewing candidates. In the last 10 or so years, I started seeing the trend of lazy managers. They relied on HR or 3rd party recruiters to get them candidates and then complained when they didn’t have good people. I asked them what they thought their job was and usually got the deer-in-the-headlight stare. Totally clueless. HR recruiting/hiring practices are ruining most businesses. I’m now a self-employed freelancer and loving it.

  14. PS – Forgot to say in my last post. Someone from a local employer sent me a test out of the blue and in the email said “thank you for your interest in us.” Of course, I did not apply to this place. I have no interest in their work/positions at this point in my career. Someone did call me to touch base – and they did confirm my suspicions. It was for a simple $13/hr job and they put people through the ringer to get these positions. Of course, I thanked the woman and said I was not interested because it would be like taking a step back, and I already make that salary several times over.

    @Kevin C Smallwood

    “In the last 10 or so years, I started seeing the trend of lazy managers. They relied on HR or 3rd party recruiters to get them candidates and then complained when they didn’t have good people. I asked them what they thought their job was and usually got the deer-in-the-headlight stare.”

    I agree with this 110% I would also say that the assumptions made about people who do not fit into their box is equally as concerning.

  15. It seems to me that the use of a 3rd party to provide information on candidates would trigger the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act which require an employer to first get the candidate’s written permission and notify candidates if an adverse hiring decision is planned based on anything provided by the 3rd party. The notification must also include what the information is and its source as well as provide the candidate reasonable time to dispute any information. If the adverse decision is made final, the candidate must be notified in writing of that fact.

    A number of large employers, Publix and Dollar General to name 2, have recently lost class suits over violations of the FCRA. In October last year Linkedin was sued over allegations that its Reference Search service also violated the FCRA because LI (a 3rd party) was providing information to potential employers without first obtaining the candidates permission.

  16. Don’t mind me, I just forgot to check ‘Notify me of followup comments via e-mail’ box. Nick, for forgetful old farts like me, you should check that by default.

  17. I wonder if these stupid tests are a result of HR wanting to screen candidates while not having a clue about how to evaluate their qualifications. A standardized test makes it seem very scientific while not getting a hiring manager or the peers of the candidate involved. I do software, and there is no test that would be useful in evaluating a candidate. I’ll take graduation from a good university and an in-depth interview going over the work they’ve done.
    Our HR doesn’t even pretend to know what we do, and so are helpful instead of hurtful.

    • Even the “good university” part isn’t of much value to be honest. All I need to know is what kind of experience you have, and for me to talk to your prior bosses to know what type of worker you are. A person can graduate from Harvard and still suck at their job and not be able to get along with people.

  18. I have a suggestion. I have taken a number of aptitude/personality tests; two within the last five years. The results on all tests have pretty much been the same. So, if I am ever asked to take an aptitude/personality test, I can offer the results from one of the two last tests that I took.

    I also want to put in a plug for the last aptitude/personality test I took. The site is: You take the test on your own. The results are tabulated and then a matrix of career options is generated specifically for your aptitudes and personality. It is the best program I have encountered so far.

  19. Despite your advice, my initial reaction would be to refuse any testing unless very limited, hedged with specific consent and well into the interview process. Here is why.

    I had a horrible interview/testing experience which is difficult to forget, with a large healthcare (rehab/LTC care, mainly Medicaid) non-profit in the Bronx some years back. They were seeking to reorganize their marketing department from the top down and I was recommended in through contacts for one of the more senior positions as a marketer with healthcare experience and knowledgeable on older adult/disabled issues plus long-term care.

    After the first interview with the head of HR (!) and the (soon retiring) division head, I was told by him that in the next round, I should block out about four hours, and oh, by the way, I’d be ‘taking some aptitude tests’, the first of which I’d take before the interview. It was a Myers-Briggs, which I had taken before, so no red flags, but I was beginning to wonder what this had to do with the job. I was then told, right before the interview, that I would go through a screening with a psychologist. THAT raised a red flag.

    I was interviewed in the same conference room as before, and learned that the psychologist was specially flown in from Minneapolis (now this is NYC, not exactly a place where they’re scarce). The room was hot, and I was dressed warmly because it was the middle of winter. I was warm, but didn’t take off my jacket. The psychologist then started off with my family background, my childhood, then segued into my high school ‘challenges’. Then he asked about my dating patterns and relationships. I stopped, and asked him how this was relevant to the position. I was ordered–yes ordered, to answer the question. I kept it short and vague. Then college. Then my first job. By the time we got to ‘modern times’, the minute I started to talk about how my experience would be a fit for the position, he raised his voice and said ‘Tell me the 10,000 foot view’ to which I said,’I’m giving you that’. ‘Well, hurry up’.

    By this time the room was brutally hot, I was damp, there was an odor which emanated from the psychologist, and I was between queasy and furious. I thought about leaving, but I wasn’t working and of course I needed the job. He closed the interview and I mentioned that he didn’t ask me many questions about work. I got silence and a dirty look in return. His next move was to throw some more abstract skill quizzes at me that were timed, grabbing most of them away before I was finished. He then moved me to another office across the hall where I took on a PC the California Personality Inventory, a decriminalized version of the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Multiple, repetitive questions on my honesty (‘It’s OK to steal if everyone else does’), socialization (‘I like parties’) and stuff like ‘I don’t mind being told what to do’ and ‘People expect too much of me’ which are impossible to answer correctly. I finished, wandered out into the hall, I heard another person being grilled behind the closed door of the conference room, no one was around to check on me or escort me out, which was not exactly courteous or great security in a care facility. I took my coat and brief, and left.

    I ran into my contact in the lobby and told her of my experience, but kept it casual. She told me that they were introduced by the HR VP and that they were ‘very good’ for hiring. In fact, she had taken one of the tests herself, though she was onboard well before the testing routine started. She thought it was great. I left quickly, shaking my head.

    Naturally, you get down on yourself and think you did wrong. Fortunately, I had support to tell me otherwise. My brother (a psychiatrist) told me I was in a classic stress interview, complete with hot room–and a friend who interviewed with the FBI and DEA was amazed at the similarity to his interviews. Both wondered–what was the purpose of this for a marketing position? Not exactly high security or patient contact….

    No, I didn’t get the job, not even a rejection note. I learned they paid an executive recruiter to hire a high powered marketer to be the CMO, out of one of the major investment banks (!) She’s still there. I wonder if she had to take all those tests. And I wonder how the HR guy (now an SVP!) could justify flying in a psychologist. The organization had many other issues, including financial, which I learned of only much later.

    Whatever its purpose was, they botched getting a high quality marketer on board who understood their problems, their customer base and was aligned to their mission.

    • If anyone subjects me to a hot room stress interview, I am going to “have a medical situation” induced by the hot room. Torture is not OK for prisoners of war or for interviewees

    • Biggest mistake was not filing a lawsuit -this would have solved your employment problems too.

  20. @L.T.: “If you ask everyone the same questions, you are largely going to get the same answers.”

    You have exposed the fatal flaw in HR’s #1 rule: Be fair. HR argues that by asking everyone the same questions, we make interviews fair and unbiased. Yet the employer wants an unfair advantage and edge over its competition by having unique, exemplary, incredible products and services.

    Unbiased interviewing. The point is to be incredibly biased – toward the unique, exemplary, incredible candidate. Asking the same questions of everyone doesn’t get us there.

    Before anyone pounces, this has nothing to do with bias against the stuff that it’s illegal to be biased about.

    @Kevin C Smallwood: What a great way to open up new positions and to improve a company’s prospects! Use the test to weed out those who don’t pass!

    “To me a good acid test of most of these pre-employment test would be to have ALL of the current employees take the test and see which ones should not have been hired.”

    (I can’t wait for the employer who says this isn’t the point. Hey, if your test is good enough to weed out the poor suckers who interview with you, it should be good enuf for your employees.)

    “I started seeing the trend of lazy managers. They relied on HR or 3rd party recruiters to get them candidates and then complained when they didn’t have good people. I asked them what they thought their job was and usually got the deer-in-the-headlight stare.”


    You made my day, Kevin.

    @Chris Walker: RE setting the default option ON to notify you of new comments via e-mail, I don’t think every visitor to this blog would appreciate that! But thanks for the endorsement!

    @Scott: “I wonder if these stupid tests are a result of HR wanting to screen candidates while not having a clue about how to evaluate their qualifications.”

    Bingo. This is all about CYA for HR. But think about it. How can a personnel jockey screen an engineer who designs circuits for computer chips, or a marketer who develops complex digital campaigns? They can’t. So they load on the “indirect assessment tools” and call it a day. How else could HR filter the millions of applications they solicit blindly on job boards? Meanwhile, hiring managers and applicants all get screwed out of potentially good matches. Engineers refer to this as a false negative signal. But HR doesn’t know that.

  21. @Nick

    Back when my father worked for Harnischfeger Corporation in the 1950’s, it was the Payroll and Benefits Department, not HR. Their job was to (a) make sure that you got the correct amount in your pay envelope on Friday, and (b) your insurance and pension were administrated correctly.

    You know the rest …

  22. @Dee: That is a terrible experience and thank you for that detailed report! The very first piece, where you took the MBTI is informative. Even though you were comfortable with that test, that test is specifically NOT VALID for employee selection. The vendor states this very clearly. So right from the beginning this employer was using terrible testing practices. The MBTI is not useful for predicting successful job performance of job candidates.

    I think this helps illustrate another point I make in my Get the Edge book on employment tests – it is not easy to tell from the look of a test whether it is actually valid for predicting job performance.

    I’m sorry you had that bad experience which obviously went seriously downhill from the MBTI to that awful hot room interrogation.
    Erica Klein PhD

  23. Here’s what happened to me.
    – Successful phone screen with internal recruiter for an IT project management role in an IT managed service and consulting firm. At the time I was an experienced, senior PM.
    – Scheduled for onsite interviews for 4 hours.
    – After meeting with HR recruiter, she walked me down a hall and into a room with a desk and computer.
    – She said you have 30 minutes to complete the test on this computer. No warning, no request; without really coming right out and saying so it was, “before you meet or speak with anyone else, you have to do this.” Felt stunned and totally blindsided but didn’t want to be perceived as uncooperative.
    – Test was simple math, language and other basic skills.
    – I passed (I’m not sure what would have happened if I would have declined OR failed).
    – I went on to interview with 3 members of the management team the same day.
    – 4+ weeks later I was made an offer. Worked there for 4 months and hated every moment.

  24. @ Erica Thanks. MB is used quite a bit in career aptitude testing so of course HR types think it’s useful for job screening!

    Among aviators, there’s a saying that something (anything from a meeting to a marriage to a party)’started at a low level and augered in from there’. While this may not be the most tasteful remark after the disaster of LH/Germanwings 9525, as a description of the whole megillah–it works. With what I found out later, retroactively I dodged a bullet. But it was still a bummer and a cautionary tale.

  25. WOW – Just when I thought HR couldn’t get any more useless/lazier by failing to simply read applications, they’ve added another layer to avoid thinking w/automated psych tests. Once again, they are actively contributing to their own demise as no humans are required.

  26. Does anyone remember the test where one is asked to describe himself/herself by making multiple selections from a long list of adjectives containing many synonyms?

  27. Omar, I took a similar test online back months ago from an employer about describing yourself that I needed to complete after my second face to face interview with not only HR but the hiring manager. I was there onsite for 2 interviews already. He liked me so much he told me to come back the following week and that I would be interviewed by him again as well as their CEO. The next day I received a request to take online tests from him with links to the tests. Once of the tests was about what would I do in a specific situation with 3 answers and I am to chose one. There was over 100 questions! They asked the same questions in a different way and the 3 same answers were listed over and over again to see if you are consistent in your answers. I also took a personality test/culture test. It took over 4 hours to complete online.

    The only reason I took the tests was because I was told the CEO wanted to interview me face to face and that if I wanted to make it to the 3rd round, it was required I complete the tests.

    I had a great interview with the hiring manager and their CEO which took over 6 hours. I was never offered lunch or even a glass of water. I got up and went into their break room and poured myself a glass of water and they asked me why I did that!

    I was then called 3 weeks later for yet another face to face interview, this time the hiring manager wanted to meet me after work for drinks. I told him that was inappropriate and that unless he would meet me in his office or we can meet for lunch and was ready to make an offer, then I decline. He laughed over the phone and then said he was kidding! I said why are you kidding? He said he wanted to see what I said to his having drinks after work to get to know me better. I told him I don’t think his wife would like what he told me. I told him I am no longer interested in the job and hung up on him. He later reached out by email asking me to come in for a 4th interview with him. I never answered his email.

  28. @ Donna When you don’t think it can get any worse, there’s another Tale of Candidate Torture! You were absolutely right to do what you did. But I will disagree on some of your takeaway.
    **Four hours of tests–absurd. The repetitive one sounds to me like the CPI.
    **A meeting with only two people shouldn’t take six hours. (Multiple people or a plant tour–yes) That was your second red flag. The CEO of the company shouldn’t have that much time to spend with you, unless you are C-level or going to be a partner! What this sounds like to me is that they were pumping you for information or (drum roll) free work.
    **Not offering you some kind of refreshment during 6 hours of –and in fact, at the start and during the meeting–is an unmistakable red flag. Ole! It’s also one of my favorite clues to how a company treats people. The fact that they questioned why you took a break is indicative in exclamation points, but rather than going to the break room, I would have asked for that water to be brought in. You didn’t mention it, but in six hours you probably also needed to use other facilities. Were you given a break to do so?
    **And the last–this hiring manager was an idiot and inappropriate. His little test proved it. The wife rejoinder…eh, a little personal. Say you’re not available for drinks, but you’d be happy at this stage to discuss an offer over lunch. If he can’t confirm ‘offer’ say thanks, I’ve invested enough time, and if we are not talking offer at this stage, I am moving on.

    You definitely dodged a bullet with this. In your recon of the company, did you turn this up or was this an utter surprise?

  29. @Dee, I was unemployed at the time and only went through their monkey tests so I can use their offer for employment as leverage against another company I was interviewing with. It got out of hand as I was not expecting after 2 face to face interviews I would have to complete tests. They never stated the tests would take 4 hours. What I should have done was to not take the tests. I know that now.

    I realized they never intended to make me an offer or anyone an offer. In fact, they still have not hired anyone in that position which was for a VP of Sales position and this is 4 months later after I interviewed there.

    I was given restroom breaks, actually I had to ask to use the restroom. Yes so many red flags. He showed me photos of his wife and small children when we went into his office for another part of the interview. So when I got the call from him stating he wanted to get to know me personally after work to meet for drinks, my radar went up. I did ask to meet for lunch or during the day and he said no. I then asked him if he would be extending an offer and again he said no. That’s when I told him it was inappropriate and mentioned his wife. He got flirty on the phone so I told him I am not interested in working for him and hung up. He kept sending me emails to meet after that. It was a complete surprise to me as there was nothing in my research of the company that showed red flags about how they hire people.

  30. Donna, thanks for the additional background. Unbelievable today, and for a VP Sales position. You played it as you saw it. It didn’t seem so at the time, but you were lucky this hiring manager was so blatant in coming on to you–imagine if they offered, you negotiated, accepted and then it happened. And if it happened to you, it would happen to other women as well. I hope you got the other offer, and were happy.

    The upset and yes, anger we feel after being harassed, discriminated against or abused remains with us. At best, we stiffen our backbone.

  31. I recently met with the VP Marketing at a large non-profit, for a mid-level marketing position. I had sent a resume and cover to him through a good contact within the organization, who brought me in for a tour and we “dropped in” on the VP while I was there, and the three of us spent over an hour together. I like my chances based on his comments and feedback. He mentioned that his HR people “like to feel involved” in the process, and to let him know immediately when I had made a formal application online so he could them follow up on his end.

    15 minutes after I hit “enter” on the online application, HR calls me for a screening interview, which takes over an hour. This must have gone well, for I next got a link sent to me for a one-way VIDEO INTERVIEW.

    I did some digging and found some info on the company providing the service. Seems the main rationale they use to pitch HR clients is this “saves the cost of flying in candidates. Well, I am in the same city, and am literally 7 minutes away by car from their office…AND I’ve already interviewed with the hiring manager.

    I’ve spent most of the afternoon rigging lights (“to eliminate any harsh shadows and hanging a sheet for a “non-distracting background.” While I don’t have the actual questions in advance, the company does offer a free “practice test” (had to discover this on my own) that includes the standard “tell me about yourself” “what are your strengths, etc.” While those are softball questions, the company, in their advice to HR managers, says to “throw in a tough unexpected question to see how the candidate thinks on his or her feet.” The questions appear on a slide, then there is a 5-second countdown, and the candidate then has 90 seconds to deliver an answer. The entire interview is recorded blind and forwarded on to HR. Since the job requires appearing on camera for PR purposes, I’m taking care to make this come off as best as I can.

    To me this is worse than the personality tests…I haven’t done much of this lately, and it seems like I’m coming off like Ron Burgundy.

    The icing on the cake was that HR sent me the link on the eve of a 3-day holiday and we were heading out of town – at the bottom f the message it said the interview had to be completed within 48 hours. I called to get an extension, but the HR contact had just left for the holiday, and wasn’t due back until the following Wednesday. Really irritated over this!

  32. Eric–sounds like HireVue which Nick wrote up last fall…

    Not only is it sheer screaming stupidity, but also what they do with the recording. Do they destroy it or sell it to others? Where HireVue makes their money is candidate analytics–in other words, by recording it, you just gave them permanent access to not only your recording, but also the kind of candidate you are, which can be sold to other companies. (Read my analysis in comments)

    And the sheer balls of a 48 hour window–stunning!

    Next time, refuse. Tell the hiring manager you’re being put through this. And you’re not doing it. A good indicator of his intestinal fortitude.

  33. I received a call yesterday from a headhunter about a job as stated by the recruiter…”I would be perfect for” and I was curious to know more about the job. He then went on to say I first must perform a 5 question online video interview that I must complete within 48 hours.

    I told him “No I don’t do video interviews.” (I learned my lesson from doing 2 of them in the past) He then went on to tell me it is required and that they do this for all candidates they present. I told him well this candidate won’t be performing a video interview. He told me then you can’t move on to the next phase of being presented to the company. I told him well then I am not interested. I am disappointed to hear that this large well known headhunter has turned to video profiling of candidates.

  34. While everyone must set his or her own boundaries, if you don’t do video interviews you will find yourself excluded from more and more opportunities. This mode is become increasingly popular for screening as well as for testing.
    Best wishes to everyone in jobsearch!
    Erica Klein PhD

  35. @Erica: Are u invested in this technology?

  36. Sorry Erica, here’s where candidates have to take a stand and just say NO.

    If you are in town or a reasonable travel distance, there is NO reason to do a video interview ESPECIALLY with technology like HireVue where you have no confidence it will not live on in some database or live on the internet. You’re going to work for them in person. Get interviewed in person.

    If the company execs are in another country or distant in the US, they can pay to bring you into a professional grade setup and setting. Everyone looks awful on Skype, TeamViewer or Google+, and frankly they don’t need to see my home. They can pay to book a professional meeting room equipped with Vidyo, Cisco or Polycom. When companies do teleconferences, they set up a room as a mini-studio. Else everyone looks bloody awful.

    If they insist on Skype, tell ’em that your avatar will do the interview.

  37. @Marilyn – fair question! I have ZERO financial interest in any testing or interviewing technology. I have a day job as a testing professional and manager in local government, and my Get the Edge book with Nick on employment testing, that’s it.

    @Dee – No apologies needed and no real disagreement. Those are your boundaries and you get to say. My point is simply that making those choices will, 98% of the time, mean you are opting out of the job opportunity.

  38. I would be very interested in stories from anyone who has been successful in converting a video interview invite to an in-person interview invite instead – any success stories of that type?
    Erica Klein PhD

  39. Erica–any time I’ve bent the rule and done the live video interview, it’s been time in my life that I will never get back. If they are local, it’s sheer laziness on HR’s and the HM’s part. What are they going to find out that they would not from a phone conversation? Also it’s an easy way to discriminate on age and appearance. If they are out of town, I’d actually bend a rule and pay for a video conference room myself–but then I’m in an area where they’re easily hired.

    Re HireVue and similar canned systems, are you actually for them?

  40. @Dee, I don’t like a lot about systems like HireVue. I do want to be clear here that they are increasingly popular and likely to be a fact in your job search.

    Employers should be aware of and attentive to applicant reactions to selection processes. Applicants who feel they were treated with respect and were part of a fair and relevant process are less likely to pursue litigation against an employer and are more likely to accept offered jobs and become engaged and productive employees. They are even more likely to be satisfied customers of the employer.

    Job seekers can choose to not participate but increasingly that means there is a smaller subset of job opportunities available to you.

  41. The first testing inflicted on me was in 1995, for a software development position, by a small company in Seattle, before any interview. It was a personality and basic arithmetic/language skills test. For a job that normally requires a computer science degree? It was all perfectly ridiculous, and just as awful as prior comments indicate. At least the company freely offered to shared the results, which I never followed up on since I didn’t care. I never considered asking about the confidentiality of the results, naively assuming that was a given (oops!).

    Reminds me of the dreadful drug testing bandwagon that started about the same time, which is now so standard that they can’t be avoided. Very scary to think this could happen with these godawful tests. Yet despite drug testing being totally ludicrous and useless, hasn’t stopped its near universal adoption. Looks like it may take legislation to curb these practices, similar to what has been done by some states to prevent things like credit scores from being used by employers.

    As for a health outfit administering a stress interview, that is a real head scratcher. But I’ve heard in Europe that graphoanalysis is still used for pre-employment screening! And I remember some applications for US companies in the 1980’s had a box for a handwriting sample, which always puzzled me until I learned what it was actually for! So silly verification practices have always been around, but they are becoming far more intrusive and annoying.

  42. Hello everyone, awesome post! And here we go again – I have an interview today with the two hiring managers and afterwards a basic math (lol) and personality test. I’m going to see how the initial interview goes and then make a decision about the testing.

    The purpose behind personality tests is not to see who you are personality-wise, but to determine consistency. In a hundred question test there are only twenty actual questions, asked a dozen different ways. The tests look for consistency – nothing more. However, (and that’s a BIG Honkin’ However) the tests are USED by managers etc for more than their original purpose. That’s the sticky wicket.

    I mentioned during the interview invitation call that I’ve taken every known test in existence and might I save them time and effort by bringing their brand of test with me? The manager laughed and sheepishly said I would still need to do. At least she has a sense of humor. The thing that cracks me up is that my tests show little difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’ behavior. I’m WYSIWYG!!! But you can’t explain that to hiring managers. So I’ll share – like a kid in the sandbox – that i play well with others, am a “conducting-persuader-ENTJ…” blah blah blah and know that, whatever the results, there is a one in five chance I’ll get the job. Very sad. so sad…

  43. Thanks for this post, Nick, it’s really helpful. Glad I read it, as my suspicions were raised recently. I had applied for a senior level project management position at a bank back in the summer. After about two months, I received an email where they said no thanks (worded with the usual wording). Two months later, I received an email from their HR saying they have other openings, my skills and background are impressive etc. and HR would like to talk to me. During the phone conversation, they said I need to complete online assessments which will be used as a decision point before moving further into the process and interviews. I haven’t even spoken with the hiring manager yet. Don’t know what positions they are thinking about, and strangely they already brought up salary. I took a look at the tests, simple numeric and verbal reasoning as well as work style assessments, and decided I’m not investing my time at this stage in these exercises.

  44. @Satu, if you choose not to take the assessments then you are likely removing yourself from further consideration for the job. Of course, your choice. What is your concern about the assessments, they seem reasonable on the face from the basic description you provided.
    Erica Klein, PhD
    Author of Employment Tests: Get the Edge

    • The concern is, just like Nick stated up above in the opening statement, that I am required to invest my time and effort up-front before even talking to a hiring manager–even before any kind of a consideration for an interview. Not sure what was not clear about that. On top of that, the concern is submitting these pre-interview tests through some 3rd party company who does who knows what with the data. Huge red flags.

  45. The concerning aspects to video taped interviews is many and smacks of pre screening discriminatory practices.

  46. Thank goodness people are speaking more about this new type of screening process. While it is dubbed as being an interview, it is not. It is cold, impersonal, lacks transparency and accountability on the company side. Furthermore, the nature of having a third party provide this service brings up serious considerations. For example, who owns the copyright? Who owns the rights to access? Who stores the video and for how long? I was invited to interview in this manner via #hirevue for three different significant companies: #iorahealth, #pfizer, #unitedhealthcare. Not one of these companies HR contacts that supplied me the information to take the video interview ever replied to my e-mails asking to forgo the method in favor of a phone or in person exchange. I repeatedly e-mailed HR as well as HIREVUE in all cases. I even called HR in one company and no one would speak to me nor ever returned my call.

    Additionally, the prompt to interview permitted me 48 hours from receipt of the invitation to record is all that was allotted. I was not asked tin advance if this was acceptable. One of these “opportunities” was given on a Thursday evening prior to a huge holiday in which I was on a trip with numerous family members.

    What about the fact this is NOT an interview because that requires two people in a mutual exchange? The verbiage surrounding interview skirts the fact that this method is akin to sending out a resume with a photo. Racial, gender, age related bias come to mind. There is NO denial of this potential!!!!!

    To further irritate the issue, these interviews were behavioral interviews which essentially disrespect the candidate through a series of insulting questions. “Why do you want to work here”, “Sell me this pen”….”Why would you be a good fit for this company?”etc. If my resume sparked an interest, why insult my intelligence with such impersonal, degrading questions?

    I copied the agreement I would have to permit in order to take this recorded “interview”. I declined due to the intense terminology and laws under which HIREVUE is protected – yet nothing to protect me as the subject. Why is nobody concerned this recording could enter public domain?

    Here is a huge red flag:

    “HireVue is not an information technology security service provider. While we do employ certain limited physical, managerial, and technical safeguards designed to help improve the integrity and security of our systems and the data stored on our systems, no physical or technical system, process, transmission, or storage mechanism is completely secure or immune from outages, losses, attacks, circumvention, design or implementation flaws, and human error. Therefore, we cannot and do not ensure or warrant that information you transmit to HireVue will not be lost or compromised, either during or after transmission.”

    Here is the full terms and conditions from HV’s webage


  47. By simply making an outright refusal to participate in such pre-employment testing: aren’t we all essentially sabotaging any possible chance; slim though it may be at actually being offered a position?

    For nearly every job for which I have recently applied and interviewed such testing seems to have become S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure) from my own perspective it is very difficult not to acquiesce to such a request; particularly when one is “on the outside looking in” as related to being employed. If a job offer were in the offing, I’d jump through a dozen hoops, including a “ring of fire.”

    Encouraging prospective employees not to acquiesce or submit to such testing; from my personal experience only serves to have their candidacies for such positions terminated prior to them even being fully considered.

    If it meant a reasonable job offer at this point in my life I would walk barefoot over smoldering hot coals, if that was the request made to secure such an offer. Sadly, I think that your contention that prospective applicants refuse to participate in such during the hiring process only ensures, assures, even likely guarantees that they will not even be given realistic consideration for such. Such a refusal at this point in the hiring process is tantamount to insubordination and a defiance of authority and institutional norms: that ensures and assures that one adhering to such will not be selected to fill an opening irrespective of their other stellar qualifications.

    Your explicit proposition that prospective employees refuse such during the hiring process; ultimately will only succeed in guaranteeing that they are not selected to fill such an opening.

    While I agree with your premise that such testing is fraught with opportunity for abuse; and that the validity of such is nearly entirely subjective, and questionable; at best: if it is the price of admission to a reasonable job offer being proffered then I would suggest that any applicant simply “suck it up” and do “what needs doing.”

    As someone whom has been searching for that elusive job offer for far too long: loosing hope on a daily basis of one ever being made, I would say that irrespective of their analytical or diagnostic value if it were requested of me to complete one as a condition of being hired and thereafter employed; I would do so instantly. It is difficult enough to move beyond the preliminaries of the hiring process without sabotaging one’s entire efforts by a refusal to accommodate those holding that “Yes or No” authority and power over one’s employment. Not acquiescing to such requests; sound though such advice may actually be: I think that such advice in the context of the current given employment landscape is very ill-advised.

    And while, I agree wholly with your premises and points regarding the fairness, value; and, efficacy; of such pre-employment testing: due to the anomalies. Pragmatism dictates that one is better served by simply acquiescing and adhering to the norms and mores of those holding and yielding that power to say” Yay or Nay to one’s prospective employment. Being overly apprehensive that simply refusing to comply and accept such pre-employment testing only assures that one will remain on the unemployment line; makes me extraordinarily reticent to believe that such advice is not going to significantly adversely affect one’s chances for gaining that ever elusive job offer.

    Respectfully, I submit that if such testing is what it takes to advance one’s employment then just complete that damn test and get back to work. The world already is an unfair biased place; why add an additional roadblock, barrier and obstruction that truly is unnecessary

    • TL:DR

      I submit that if such testing is what it takes to advance one’s employment then just complete that damn test and get back to work.

    • No, we are not. There are good companies out there, find them. The way a company hires says a lot about them. I am against any kind of a pre-interview testing. Just say NO to pre-interview testing.

  48. For me, video recording sessions are a cold way to introduce yourself to a potential employer. First impressions are not well-suited to one sided conversations. I would gladly participate in any hiring tests until the point where recorded video sessions are requested. Depending on the job being interviewed for, I think this is a terrible way to make any sort of impression or create a leadership persona in a new organization.

  49. I recently had a phone interview for a position I was interested in. The recruiter informed me that I would be interviewing with the hiring manager during that phone interview. However, that’s not what happened. I was actually interviewed by the company’s third party HR rep. He turned his report of my phone interview in to the hiring manager, who wanted to move forward in the process by having me take a personality assessment.

    Not gonna happen.

    At this point I haven’t had a single encounter with anyone from the actual company! I’m not desperate for a job so I have the pleasure to pick, choose and refuse. Well im definitely refusing on a company that hasn’t taken the time to even speak to me.

  50. Is HR is getting too big these days that it is not doing companies any favours? I just got off the phone with an HR person of a corporate training firm. We were about to schedule an appointment, and she told me that there would be a test an hour long. Here I was thinking: it would take me over an hour to get there, then I will write a test for another hour before I will get interviewed? Is this necessary? Why can’t we just get to the interview first an if there is a match, we will write the test? I asked her what the test is about and what will it reflect that my resume doesn’t, and she jumped right to how she can’t disclose what it is. I asked if that will be a history test, math test, or writing test, and she said that it would be a little of everything. Combined with how the first person answered my call, the gaudy hold music, and the Hong Kong feel overall – for lack of a better word, I was about to decline when the phone connection got bad, and I could only hear her and not the other way around. I am not going to call them back. Thank you for confirming my instinct, guys!

  51. Honestly, I work in tech sales and if a company hiring manager hAs the time to watch a bunch of self recorded candidate videos than that manager has too much time on their hands and i dont want to work for them. Seriously!

    I understand tests that are relevant but I have had a few pretty ridiculous IQ and math tests for a software sales position.
    They just seemed completely irrelevant as a sales person and thus, a waste of time. If anything, these type of hiring practices are a red flag for me. I dont want to work for a VP of Sales who wastes peoples time with such things.

    • @Mary: Amen to that! I hope some managers are reading this!

  52. From a recent PI invitation for a coordinator position for a wellness company:

    PI discloses personal information as follows:

    To the customer and its employees who administer or order PI assessments or other products and services;
    To employees of PI, our distributors, and their employees and subcontractors for the purposes of database management, administration, customer support, and assistance in interpreting assessment results;
    To subcontractors of PI who develop and manage our hardware, software and communications infrastructure; and
    To third party software systems used by the customer including but not limited to Applicant Tracking Systems and other Human Resources Information Systems.

  53. If you find the job opportunity challenging and interesting enough for you to want to pursue it, yet you do not have 2 hours to spare for an opportunity like this, you likely have missed out on many great opportunities throughout your career as well. Personally I do not think it’s unreasonable for good companies to require an online skill assessment before meeting/speaking with a candidate. A good company with attractive opportunities would have many, many candidates applying for them. I’ve interviewed senior software engineers/architects who look good on paper but told me he has not heard of this question before when asked how to find the smallest number in an array (Computer Science 101). Good companies do not have time to invest in candidates who only look good on paper, and the only way to find out is screen out candidates using an online assessment. Not willing to take an online assessment just shows the hiring manager that you’re fear of not passing it and getting screened out at the very first stage. If a company has time to talk to every single person who applies before any screening procedure takes place, the opportunity is probably not very attractive and so few people would apply that the company is able to waste time like this.

    • J, I know your post is from April of this year and you may not see this. I do not think people are opposed to taking assessment tests to test their ACTUAL skills to do the job. For example, as an administrative assistant, I can understand the company wanting to test my typing speed, grammar, punctuation, and software skills. I’d gladly take those types of tests. But, today, I had to take an assessment through Caliper that had extremely difficult math problems. I am not talking about simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication. It was ridiculous.

      I had to complete it today because the HR Recruiter said the hiring manager wants to review it before my interview tomorrow. I asked if I could get a copy of the report and she said, “I’m sorry, we do not share that with candidates.”

      Is this a great paying job? Yes. Do I need a job? Yes. But, I will tell you that if I had a low paying $10/hour job right now that was full-time, I’d tell this company to shove it.

      Not every single company makes you go through these assessment tests. If they do want to test, they should have you do tests that pertain to the job.

  54. In Game Design, even though I have been at a Senior or Lead level for a few years, I still regularly receive tests before I can even speak to the Hiring Manager.
    These tests usually take from 8 hours to an entire week to do, with no guarantee of getting an interview, or any feedback.
    I just received such a test for a company I applied for. The irony is that I already worked for that company as an external designer, designed hundreds of levels for their games, and they still want me to do an 8 hours test before speaking to me.
    I think I will immediately terminate this application. This company was not one of my main picks, I am still working full time as a lead, and I have 2 other companies who are actually interested in talking to me.

    • @Game: This might be a terrible over-generalization, but is it possible these game-design people have no other means to assess a candidate? That might tell you a lot. It depends on what kind of people you want to work with.

      • Yes, Game Designers are essential, but it is more of a mindset and problem solving skills than something quantifiable through a test. Some companies understand that and completely skip the test in favor of meeting the candidate directly. In other cases, you get very long tests with little purpose.
        Although, the latest test I received, which led me to find and comment on this article actually asked to analyze the company’s flagship game, and provide improvements. They wanted videos, presentations and everything.
        This might not have been their intention, but it does feel like they are crowdsourcing their design with free candidates.
        Of course, this is not the case for everyone. Some companies will be very strict on the maximum amount of work, and request an analysis of a concurrent game. Not one of their own.

  55. The vast majority of these tests are invalid and don’t actually measure anything other than the ability to take the test. May of them are not even written carefully and to get them right you have to assume certain things that should have been stated as “given” in the problem, but were not.

  56. I’m looking at tests for my small office to use for Word/Excel/PowerPoint software competence evaluation. (At least they will do just 40 minutes as part of the interview, not pre-screening with multiple tests.) I agree that most are worthless [I call them trivia contests for obscure commands and features – what I look for are problem solving type tests that I can customize for relevant topics].

    The HR testing to CYA and automate the process is not new. My mother used to tell of similar experiences a long time ago. Over 50 years ago she was put through many hours of testing, psychological interview, and an IQ test to be a secretary.

    The best part of her stories was for one company that was worse than most – she decided she wouldn’t work there – the last straw was when she sat down for the IQ test with a rude proctor. It was a type of test that she used to play with as a child and later help score for my Grandmother (a teacher). She was very familiar with the test and the scoring algorithm, so she set out to maximize her score – the test giver glared at her after calculating the score….. her estimate was that it was over 250!

  57. I know this is an old post, but I was reminded recently about my experience back in 2017 when I was asked to take the Predictive Index test prior to being interviewed. I had a brief discussion with the HR person and then was told that I would get an email with a link and login info to take this test. I wasn’t happy but I complied. However, the first question I was asked was my age. I was 57 then, but I’m a very young and vibrant 57, most people think I’m in my early 40s, and they would be able to judge my abilities if I had the chance to actually meet the hiring manager. This doesn’t seem legal.

    Despite I was well qualified for the job, I received an email stating that I would not be a good fit. I answered the questions honestly but I know I made sure to emphasize that I work well within a team, which is true, but I’m also very independent and a self starter, also true. I honestly think it was my age that disqualified me, but how do you prove it? The simple fact that they even asked my age should be enough of a red flag. I did contact an employment lawyer just to ask if it was legal to do, but they didn’t respond. Thanks for your article. I would have no problem taking one of these tests maybe after an interview, but I don’t think they should be allowed to ask your age, or any protected classification before or after any interview.

    • It is SO true that ageism is REAL. It doesn’t matter if you can run RINGS around your younger peers. Once they find out how OLD you are you are dismissed. This happened to me. I ceased working for a well known call ctr in our town. My fantastic mgr quit, I got one of their worst ones and even though I was a TOP producer in a team of losers. I was consistently at 95% and the rest of the losers if they bothered to show up at all were consistently at 40%. She didn’t like me, and one day she went to FAR and I had enough. She said you would never quit, I am not a quitter but former mgr told me every time I saw him to GET OUT. I did 3 phone interviews, one with a recruiter that CAME from that environment and ironically had that mgr and she quit because of her. Many DO. She was all excited about getting me in to this other opportunity, I had a solid background in this role. Companies had outsourced and I got cut. Wasn’t my doing, jobs were eliminated in my past. I get to the interview face to face. I am all excited. Recruiter wanted me to befriend her on FB, she wanted to meet me, and to keep her in the loop. I go sit in the interviewing room, several “interviewers” come in, look at me, and then tell me oh wrong room, sorry. I finally get “the” interviewers, though it seemed like I was handed off. I was truly prepared, they took notes, and were genuinely interested in my answers, knowledge of the company, etc. Now here is the deal, everyone that talked to me was under 30, so my kids ages. I don’t look my age, but I am older. Most people on the phone think I am young, in the call ctr many members believed I wasn’t able to know their plight, when I would say I am your peer and in many instances OLDER than them they couldn’t believe it from my voice. My skill set is up to date.They took me around, very younger crowd, but ok, not an issue for me. I was to get the last link to do a drug test and then be hired was what was communicated when leaving, and a start date of two weeks from interview. Neighbors said NO WAY, you won’t get it, they target only younger employees. Recruiter vanished from my email convos, couldn’t get any response, she blocked me on her personal FB account. I waited for the drug test paperwork email it never came, on the day I was to get it via email I got a very generic your qualifications don’t align with the job role from HR general email not even from her. Which was absolute BUNK, or they would have screened me OUT on resume submission, previous phone interviews, etc. What they obviously didn’t like at all I was OLDER than they thought. They continued to post that job and so I made up a name, submitted another resume, made sure it was obvious that I was their peer age. Same recruiter kept calling, emailing, and I refused to respond. It was blatant ageism. I just needed confirmation. After confirming this, I went to those “tell” boards and said do NOT bother applying if not a certain age. Many came back with comments which got deleted pretty fast. They had same experience, but are known as an EOE, won awards but somehow got RID of those employees that aren’t younger. I am in a survival job now, none of the lil millennials can make it to work on time or at all. This is a serious issue in the town I live in. The older workers understand and have a good work ethic, the younger ones are a serious problem here of unreliability and lack of job performance, but many companies that PAY a living wage refuse to hire us. Others I know are facing the same problem of being put out to pasture.

  58. tests are a waste of time, basically asking you to work for free and as a developer i already am in a deficet for time, it is simply disrespectful to require me to test for an interview, if you cant tell by the hundreds of pieces of software i have developed and have put on github as open source then your company is either too stupid to hire me or too disrespectful because my time is not valued and i have value apparently too much for your pea brained managers. its about self respect, and you do no benefit to yourself by bowing down testing for a bunch of discriminatory jerks who really dont know what the job entails, or values your time. Since when is a recruiter for teksystems more valuable than a software developer with 35000 hours in the field.

    • as well as the whole thing about being guilty until proven innocent. modern test companies basically tell the employer that everyone is guilty of being incompetent unless you prove your not, with that logic then im going to say these companies are guilty of slander and they need to prove otherwise, like that will ever happen, hiring is so toxic currently especially with the mellinial generation, its better to just be homeless at least you get respect.

    • I’ve just turned down a IKM test arranged by TEK systems. The TEK systems guy crafted it as though a prospective employer wanted the test. IMO it was *their* screening test. I resented being lied to refused to take a test of from an employer that hadn’t spoken to me or even seen my CV.

      • @Olumide: You hit the nail on the head. When they ask you to take a test before they have invested a minute to talk with you, it’s time to walk away. They’re not recruiting. They’re trolling.

  59. Here’s one thing the “headhunter” (a completely offensive term to most professional corporate recruiters, by the way) misses out on completely – there are MANY types of assessments that one can be asked to do as an applicant.
    * If they are prescreen questions or technical exercises directly related to the job, you do need to complete those. Often these are immense time-savers to get these responses in writing, and also provides a killer benefit in that you are not relying on a recruiter who does not have the technical experience in that role to translate what you’ve said into their notes – they actually get YOUR words from the get-go. Coding challenges for developers are also great (as long as they don’t take more than a couple hours) because they keep the playing field even for all candidates (sadly, too many employers look at code samples from previous jobs as the only example of someone’s skill, rather than having them show their code as it relates to this actual job they’re applying for).
    * If, however, the assessments are personality related? Then yes I absolutely agree that these not only should not be provided at the first step, but not at all. Having managed HR and recruiting for 20 years, these are both useless and have the potential for rampant discrimination in so many ways, particularly since most HR *and* Hiring Managers do not have the qualifications to determine these, nor are these tools legally allowed to be used as the determining factor for hiring decisions.

    It’s also VIP for applicants to know that HR does not OWN the hiring process – the hiring manager does, and HR is often only implementing what the hiring manager tells them to do or the executive team as a whole. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had execs learn about some new assessment and tell me I had to have applicants take them as part of the process…even in manufacturing assembly jobs they were doing personality tests rather than skills tests, oy!

    Giving blanket statement advice without actually differentiating what kinds of tests are out there is just fodder for the constant ignorant dissing that happens on the entire HR profession. Just like every other profession, there are good and bad people, processes, and more.

  60. About a month ago I had a horrific experience with a company. They asked me to write an essay instead of filling out an employment application. They even told me not to bother sending them a resume, since they do not read them anyway. The essay needed to explain why I’m special and should be hired. I spent hours working on the essay. I was proud of the final result and sent it in.

    For two weeks, nothing. Then I get a sheepish response from the company. Turns out, they did not have the manpower to read all the essays people had written and sent in. So they were not going to read any of them. That’s it. No apology, no nothing. Unbelievable!

  61. Someone should test this in court and sue.

    I see the potential for claims of implicit bias and exclusion here.

  62. I just was asked to take one of these tests. So far, I’ve taken about 6 of these and in no way do I see how it can test my expertise in the IT field. Finding the next number in a series has NOTHING to do with troubleshooting why the users in the Chicago office can’t connect to the database in New York. The statement that there is a shortage of IT people is a myth. It’s these tests, the resume bots and the tedious interview process that starts with a phone screen, 1st in person interview, 2nd round of interviews and then third round of interviews and then you don’t even receive an email telling you that you’re no longer under consideration and why. People are fed up with this new and RIDICULOUS process

  63. I just took one of these and based on a test which had nothing to do with my profession, before I had a chance to tell them about my 23 years of IT experience, in which I saved company A $700,000, company B $400,000, and company C $100,000 in 3 projects – and that’s just the tip of the spear – I was told I was no longer being considered.

    And this is after they insisted I work for free and perform these tests for them. I wish I’d read this article first. But you can bet that I will be handling future requests differently.

  64. Great article. Do you have suggestions for persons with disabilities, in my case, vision problems. I am a slow reader so timed tests like the CCAT do not reflect my capabilities. I feel like I am being locked out of well paying jobs through no fault of my own.

    • @Craig: I’d guess you have a legal matter on your hands. It may be worth consulting with a good labor/employment attorney about how to protect your rights. You may be able to legally decline such tests as discriminatory.

      Then there’s the practical approach. It requires getting in the door via the hiring manager rather than HR. See

      If you do it this way, you can candidly explain to the hiring manager — who has already shown interest in hiring you, long before HR gets a hold of your application — that your vision problem masks your abilities and ask if there’s another way to demonstrate your abilities.

  65. Great article and much needed in today’s aggressive job placement environment. These testing practices have become systemic across all major job sites as they are a value-added tool offered to their clients.

    Some sites have you complete your CV upload/attachment then after it is submitted, tell you the “next step” in the hiring process. During the initial questions you will often find check boxes governing race/sex and handicap status. While these will follow with lengthy boiler-plate about how they do not discriminate, you will then be forced to take the post-application assessment teats BEFORE being forwarded to their client. This act might very well be in itself discriminating as there are some whom such tests are difficult do to a handicap.

    Moreover, these “screener questions” and assessment tests very often have user interface errors such as:

    Do you have experience operating X machine? ( )YES ( )NO
    If you selected Yes please describe in the space below.

    In that example, if you chose NO, the form will not let you continue as it says the explanation field for a YES answer must be filed out. As a UX/UI expert, it is fingernails to the chalkboard to me.

    They have in essence, just screened 90% of their candidate pool and the client may not even know it.

    Besides these glaring errors and poor grammar/spelling, it is clear these per-employment tools are damaging and unnecessary.

    In a related anecdote, a gentleman was disqualified by these tests and forms because he did not have 5+ years experience in X. He noted that not only has X not been around 5 years, but he was one of the initial developers of that software.

  66. Lately, if a potential employer/client asks me to invest any more than an hour of my time on code tests – or multiple interviews with people who don’t have my qualifications – I simply ask where I should send the invoice for my time @ my hourly rate.

    As a good friend of mine once said to a recruiter: “I am a professional software engineer. I write code. I get paid. The end”. It really is that simple.

  67. @Carlo: I’m with you. PAY ME. Lots of others agree with you!

    I really like your friend’s comment to a recruiter. Who needs a resume? Wonder what would happen if you said to a recruiter, “May I see your credentials before we schedule an interview? I need to be sure you are qualified to judge my skills.”

  68. I’m currently employed but looking for something new in writing/editing. A company responded to my application and said they want to move forward with a 2-hr screening process with a live involving a writing and editing test before I can qualify for an interview. On top of this, they asked to me to complete an open-ended questionnaire explaining why I should be hired, what skills I bring to the table, why I want to work there and what my strength and weaknesses are.

    I’m all for taking the tests and completing questionnaires, but all of this before I even start the interview process? I submitted the questionnaire and that took me 45 minutes as is. I also submitted my availability but for after my normal work hours, and now they’re asking me for something earlier. They know I’m currently employed and my time is pretty limited right now, so I’m at a loss.

    Do companies really require this much time before even speaking to a candidate? With 12 yrs’ experience under my belt, and being currently employed, shouldn’t there be specific screening/testing for those who are employed versus unemployed?

  69. Testing is insulting, b/c it insinuates your degree is worthless. “Oh, you have a masters in a STEM field, but take this 30 min assessment to see if you can do math and think critically.” I LITERALLY HAVE A DEGREE THAT SAYS I CAN ALREADY.

    Testing is also insulting, because “personality” tests are just ambibuous things they can use to filter out folks for no reason than “not a good culture fit”. If you’re using tests, then chances are good your hiring process stinks. So, now you have people that are bad at hiring also deciding who will ambiguously be a good culture fit or not via “personality” test? smh

    In applying for jobs, I’ve found tests are given by either low-ball companies trying to find turnips to try to squeeze blood from, or high-ball companies that think testing sets them apart as an extra-special elite company that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s in the hiring process. You want to avoid both of these companies. The low-ball company is looking for slave labor. They want the “$10/hr masters degree” person. The high-ball company is places like Delotte (or places that think they’re similar) and create dog-eat-dog environments that put you against each other in corporate hunger games fashion. Both of these companies are looking to hire Super Jesus to walk on lava from day one, which you won’t be able to do, and thus immediately puts you in a position where they can berate you and justify lowering your title, pay and holding possible termination over your head for your tenure there until you wise up and leave. These companies almost always have high turnover rates and bad reviews on sites like Glassdoor.

    Another issue with testing is whoever designed the test may not even explore the depth of your skills. I do analytics work. I get an occasional “analyst” test that asks me to do critical thinking on charts. My version of critical thinking on charts is to check z-scores, coefficents of variations, etc on numbers to see which things are actually impacting and what not. Their idea is “just eye ball this and make a guess”. THE REASON YOU’RE HIRING AN ANALYST IS BECAUSE THERE’S ALREADY IDIOTS AT YOUR COMPANY EYE-BALLING CRAP. So, shoving the same stupid test at me makes no sense. And, again, I HAVE A MASTERS DEGREE THAT SAYS I’M ALREADY GOOD AT THIS.

    So, it’s time-wasting and insulting.

    What boggles my mind is companies barely spend any time trying to review candidates. They want to hire someone that will be great, and possibly work for them for years to come, but only want to spend the absolute bare minimum amount of time finding these folks. They want to automate much of it, which creates a void where good candiates fall into, and the folks that know how to lie & cheat the system rise to the top.

    So, modern hiring systems FAVOR BAD CANDIDATES! There are always unscrupulous candidates. Those are the ones lying on resumes and cheating on skills tests to get ahead. And, since it’s all automated, they make it thruogh while decent candidates don’t.

    I worked hard on a project portfolio to demonstrate my skills. These are real projects that show “proven ability”. Hardly anyone looks at them. Instead, I end up in an interview after an HR phone screen that took 10 mins, and a hiring manager that just printed off my resume and spent 10 seconds looking at it before meeting me.. and the first words out of their mouth are “sell me on why I should hire you.”

    I’m a tech person, not a sales person.

    But, they want to be “sold” on candidates.

    So, once again, the bullshit artist will get the job. The person that knows how to lie, say what the folks want to hear, etc.

    I’ve asked hiring managers “have you read any of my articles or looked at any of my projects in my portfolio?” I get dumbstruck looks… a) they’re insulted that I would insinuate that they should put in effort to research me (but I’m supposed to spend hours researching their company), b) none of them have ever bothered to read my articles or look at my work.. I’m just supposed to “wow” them in an interview. I’m supposed to sum up a very complicated project I worked on in a one-sentence summary to impress them.

    Bad tests. Bad screenings (stock HR questions have got to go). No one puts in the time to research you. They expect every candidate to “sell themselves”.

    I’ve been unemployed for 2 yrs after years of work experience and graduating with a Masters in STEM, and working on a project portfolio and articles. It’s because I won’t accept $30k jobs, and because the hiring process is also broken.

    But, you’re not allowed to complain about it. Nobody hires a complainer. (Even though my very job is as an analyst that analyzes issues and finds ways to resolve them).

    It’s ludicrous. The expectations are ludicrous.

    Another example is an HR phone screener called me out of the blue. I decided to answer the phone. They asked if they could just quickly interview me there. Ok, sure. I go to my office at home, and ask them to hold on a moment while I shew the cat out of the room. We have a quick 5 min interview. They email day later saying I didn’t get job. I email and ask why. They respond saying it was very unprofessional of me asking them to wait while I shew the cat out of the room. They expected me to just be sitting 24/7 in a pre-quiet environment to answer cold-call interviews all the time.


    It’s just stuff like that…. it’s insane.

    What we’re also seeing are companies increasing the number of interview steps they do, b/c they think “more interviews = better filtering”.

    NO, IT WON’T.

    Edwards Deming wrote at-length about how quality starts to suffer the more quality control folks you stick on an assembly line. The problem is each one thinks the other will catch a defect, so they get lax. Eventually you just have a bunch of lax quality folks with increased defects getting by.


    Each person in the interviews will just assume a bad candidate will get filtered in another interview.

    So, you end up with more bad candidates getting through.



    So, I’m unemployed.