An Insider's Biggest
With Employment Testing
By Erica Klein, Ph.D.
Tests: Get The Edge, I explain that "The goal of this
guide is to give you an edge on pre-employment tests by arming you
with an insiderís understanding of tests, by reducing your anxiety
and frustration, by minimizing common errors in test taking, and by
increasing your accuracy as a test taker."
though I am what youíd call an insider in the pre-employment
testing business, certain aspects of testing bug me -- and it
might surprise you that my concerns may be similar to your own.
And even though testing is a science, the design of some tests and
the practice of administering tests demand scrutiny. I hope my
perspective on these issues can help you in your job search when
you encounter testing.
#1 complaint about pre-employment testing is the disrespectful
treatment of test takers. This
can start when you are asked to take a test without warning or
explanation. It continues through tests that seem to make no sense
in the context of the job, and it can culminate when employers
provide no feedback to test takers about test results.
have choices about each of these points of disrespect, and some
employers do make respectful choices. For example:
- Job postings can -- and should
-- describe tests that applicants will be required
- When test invitations
are issued, they should provide useful information about the
type of test to be administered and the reason for using the
- Feedback about your
test results should be provided, although sometimes only upon
request. (Sometimes employers shy away from feedback, to avoid
inadvertently "coaching" some applicants over
others, and to avoid awkward conversations.)
should you do if
you encounter disrespectful treatment related to pre-employment
testing? My advice is to continue with the testing process if you
still want the job. After you are through the selection process,
you can let the employer (the hiring manager and HR) know how the
testing process felt disrespectful to you. It is certainly not
your job to bring this to HRís attention, but if you choose to
do so, it might help bring about needed changes.
me step aside for a moment and argue a point that is controversial
in this neighborhood: I firmly believe that most HR employees are
caring people who want to do a good job and want to treat people
as well as possible. The recruiting function, unfortunately, is
also in the business of rejection. HR must eventually reject all
but one applicant for each open position. Many of those rejected
might have been able to perform the job adequately or even well,
but only one person can be selected. Even though delivering
negative feedback is a big part of HRís job, I believe the
majority of HR employees would like to treat you as respectfully
#2 complaint about pre-employment testing is lack of "face
is a subjective judgment the test taker makes about at test, not a
quality of the test. A test is face valid if it appears to
be measuring what it is actually measuring. Since pre-employment
tests are always measuring and predicting attitudes, behaviors and
knowledge related to work, the test is face valid when it
asks questions related to the work.
example, in my opinion, face-valid pre-employment tests should not
be asking about how you act at parties, your personal life,
whether you take the stairs two at a time (Iím serious: this is
a famous, real test question!) or anything that does not appear to
be related to the work.
tests can lack face validity but still be good tests for
predicting job performance. In the scientific underbelly of
testing we can often predict your job behaviors and performance
from weird things ó including how you act at parties, the
criminal behaviors of people you know socially, how energetically
you climb stairs, and what color shoes you wear (Yes, this is
another famous study!) ó but, in my opinion, these types of
questions have no place in pre-employment tests. They are
frustrating and confusing for test takers and result in mistrust
between test takers and employers.
can you do if
you encounter a test that is not face valid? First, momentarily
put aside your distaste (and mine). Remember that, even though a
test is not face valid, it might still be a good test in other
ways. It might be good at predicting your fit with, and likelihood
of success in, the job. In other words, in spite of our belief
that a test is not face valid, it might actually help you win a
job or avoid a job that would not be a good fit for you.
you might be surprised at my advice: Take the test and compete for
the job. Nonetheless, if you encounter test questions that make
you too uncomfortable, then feel free to abandon the test and the
#3 complaint about pre-employment testing is that some employers
use tests that are no better than horoscopes.
Take a look at this article about bad tests by Dr. Wendell
Your Hiring Test A Joke?" Dr. Williams says it very well:
"When something looks good on the surface, but [is]
completely without merit, it is called a joke. You might not have
thought of this before, but many hiring tests fit that bill. Iím
talking about tests that deliver numbers and data that look good
on the surface, but do nothing to predict candidate job
have an obligation to use tests that are good at predicting
success, and you have a right to expect that any test you take
will indicate your chances of doing well at a job. As a job
applicant, you might find it difficult to tell bad tests from good
tests -- especially given that not all good tests will look like
what you think they should (see complaint #2).
is absolutely a right way to develop tests, and there are a lot of
good tests out there. Itís not an easy read, and it was outside
the scope of Employment Tests: Get The Edge, but if you
want to understand what it takes to develop a great test, consult
the American Psychological Associationís "Standards
for Educational and Psychological Testing."
should you do
if you have done your research and are confident that you are
facing a bad test ó a test no better than snake oil, a test
based on junk science? I think you should walk away. Employers who
use bad tests are demonstrating (or tolerating) a general lack of
good judgment and critical thinking. Those might be failings that
reveal employers to be avoided.
bothers and concerns you the most about pre-employment testing?
Dr. Erica Klein on the Ask The Headhunter Blog to discuss your
concerns and experiences with employment testing!
You've just read
an insider's beefs about employment testing -- a companion
Dr. Erica Klein's insider guide to employment testing.
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Erica Klein, author of Employment
Tests: Get The Edge, is a Ph.D. Industrial Psychologist who has worked in the field of strategic, competency-based selection and assessment
since 1998. Her roles have included internal and external consultant and trainer
in industries ranging from public sector to healthcare to professional services. She is a popular conference speaker and author. Her passion is to take the insights that benefit employers and share them in a way that benefits jobseekers
-- a win-win for all parties. Find her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericarklein/. Erica tweets job search tips at
#jobsearch. Dr. Klein can be reached by e-mail at
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