Are Pre-Employment Assessments Right for My Organization?

Choosing the most qualified candidate for an executive role is one of the most important decisions employers make. Both roles and candidates are multifaceted, which adds to the complexity of the process. Pre-employment assessment can be an effective way to gain clarity on candidates’ fit with a role and organization. Because pre-employment assessment and testing instruments have become relatively easy to access, use and interpret, they have gained popularity in the human resources world. Grant Cooper: A Diversified Search Company Managing Director Ed Stout, MBA, offers practical advice to employers who are considering whether to use such a test. “There is a right way to use pre-employment testing, and it can be a valuable tool in certain situations,” Stout acknowledged. It would be a mistake, he stressed, to use a screening or test as the determining factor in making a hiring decision. “Like any standardized test, a candidate could be having a bad day, which can impact results,” Stout said. “If this type of testing is used, it should be one of many factors in making a decision.”

Before determining if an assessment is right for an organization, employers should have a fact-based perspective on what their desired output looks like and why. Different tests yield different results, which can be helpful if employers are seeking a certain value. However, it is important that hiring managers understand why they are looking for certain characteristics, such as factual institutional data that indicates a higher probability of success for candidates with certain characteristics. “Internal data needs to be in place and executives should be able to point to analysis that backs their rationale,” Stout remarked, adding that slightly less than half of Grant Cooper clients use pre-employment testing as a part of their hiring process.

Understanding Assessment Tests

Assessment tests typically measure the following: ability, aptitude, and personality:

  • Ability or Skills Test: This portion of a screening test may cover tasks outlined in a posted job description. This section can determine a candidate’s proficiency level in a variety of job-related skills.
  • Aptitude Assessment: Aptitude tests measure a candidate’s cognitive skills, including analysis, problem-solving, and ability to learn, digest and apply new information.
  • Personality Evaluation: Personality tests are useful to determine whether a candidate has the traits needed to fit in the company culture. Most often, a five-factor model framework is used, which determines Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Openness (to Experience), and Stress Tolerance. There are no right or wrong answers in this type of evaluation.

Utilizing Assessment Testing Comes with Pros and Cons

Pre-employment testing can be a valuable source of information, but there also is a risk that hiring institutions place too much emphasis on the results. “These tests have become more sophisticated and productized than ever, which is why it is important to remember that no test is going to replace human interaction when it comes to understanding the nuances of candidates and matching them with roles in which they will be successful,” Stout cautioned. “Tests can provide incremental value in the hiring and recruiting process, but if the tool is misused it can lead to negative outcomes.”


Offers Objective Insights

A reliable test offers objective insights. Unlike data collected from a candidate’s resume, cover letter, email correspondence, social media posts, and telephone interviews, a well-designed assessment test can provide different measurable data. In a situation where candidates are otherwise similarly qualified and equally compelling, a test may help differentiate between an employer’s top choices. “Assessments can provide one of many useful data points in rounding out the full picture of a candidate,” Stout shared.

Helps Develop Coaching/Onboarding Plan for New Hire

Because a pre-employment assessment outlines a candidate’s traits, abilities and preferred learning style, it can provide input into developing an onboarding, coaching or mentoring plan for the selected candidate. “Everyone has development needs. These tests can be a helpful way to identify what those needs might be and in pairing an employee with someone in the organization who might be able to address those needs early on,” Stout remarked.

Uncovers Talking Points Prior to Hiring Decision

A screening may help uncover topics that should be explored in a live conversation. A pre-employment assessment should never be used in place of other hiring methodologies. These tests also can help guide reference check conversations prior to extending an offer to the top candidate. “We recommend that if a client is going to use this type of testing that they do it only on finalist candidates, both to manage costs and to manage the amount of information they have to absorb,” Stout said.


Only Provides a Limited Set of Dataassessment data

While the objective data gathered from any assessment test is focused, it only gives a limited view of a candidate based on set criteria. It is not intended to serve as a full overview of a hiring prospect. “Jobs are not that simple, and people are not that simple,” Stout commented. “A hiring manager should not rely solely on an assessment of this nature to give them a yes or no answer in the recruitment process.”

Not All Tests Are Valid

It is important to research assessments selected to ensure they are well-endorsed and reputable. It is crucial that organizational leaders can demonstrate that the results of the evaluation accurately relate to the job and the individual’s performance before using the results in the decision-making process. Inappropriate testing could result in practices that are not legally compliant. Tests must be equitable and measure job-related traits.

The Tests May Be Discriminatory

The use of pre-employment testing can violate federal anti-discrimination laws if an employer intentionally uses them to discriminate based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age (40 or older). They can also violate federal anti-discrimination laws if they disproportionately exclude people in a particular group by race, sex, or another covered basis, unless the employer can justify the test or procedure under the law. Employers should avoid any test that yields a result of “hire” or “do not hire.” Tests should simply offer insights into a person’s work style, communication preferences or personality. Follow guidelines of the EEOC and, if an organization chooses to use an assessment, hiring managers should ensure that the selected test is used consistently and follows best practices to avoid legal repercussions.

Do You Need Help Finding the Right Candidate for an Executive Role?

Organizations interested in streamlining their hiring process can rely on the recruiting team at Grant Cooper. We look forward to hearing from you, so we can discuss your unique recruitment needs and how our team can help.

About Ed Stout

Ed Stout, MBA, Managing Director: Ed Stout’s healthcare client service spans more than a decade. As a consultant at McKinsey & Company, Ed led teams that served nationally recognized integrated delivery systems as well as large for-profit and not-for-profit providers. In 2008, Ed co-founded the McKinsey Hospital Institute (now Objective Health), a technology-enabled consulting solution for hospitals within McKinsey. Ed grew the team to nearly 40 employees and led all product development and client service.

About Diversified Search

In July 2019, Grant Cooper was acquired by Diversified Search, one of the top 10 and the fastest growing executive search firm in the United States. Founded by Judith M. von Seldeneck in 1974, Diversified Search is today the largest woman-founded executive search firm in the world. In addition to its 16 U.S. offices, the firm also has representation in 54 offices in 34 countries worldwide through its partnership with AltoPartners, the international alliance of independent executive search firms that spans across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.