Employment Tests: A High-Level Overview
by Dr. Larry Craft

A quick search of the Internet and you’ll find literally hundreds of questionnaires that repute to measure everything from your dating style to your susceptibility to heart attacks. In addition to quizzes, you’ll find numerous pre-employment questionnaires to choose from. When you are making your decision as to which questionnaire to use, it is important to understand the four major categories of tests and select no more than one test per category. The four categories are:
Aptitude Tests – – These tests measure specific, job-related skills such as sales, typing, or mechanical aptitude. They predict success where job duties are well defined, repetitive and consistent over time.
Reliability/Honesty Tests – – These tests measure your candidates’ impulse control and reliability. They predict inappropriate behavior in non-professional positions. Be sure to check your state employment laws before using these tests.
Intelligence Tests – – These tests usually measure what is referred to as “G” or General Intelligence. They predict success in positions that require complex analytical problem solving, a brief learning curve, or intellectual efficiency.
Personality Tests – – These tests measure the compatibility factors that are associated with the job duties, the culture, or the manager’s Leadership Style. They predict success in positions that require social interaction or drive/motivation.

Two other categories, not typically recommended for hiring are Career Guidance Tests and Mental Health Questionnaires. While Career Guidance Tests provide helpful information, they are typically quite susceptible to “faking” due to the transparency of their items. Mental Health Questionnaires ask intrusive questions that open employers to liability and may even violate American Disabilities Act provisions relating to physical or mental assessments prior to hiring.

Speaking of litigation, you should know that most professionally developed, highly validated employment tests actually protect employers from litigation by providing an objective, non discriminatory, methodology for making hiring decisions. Unlike in the 1970’s when testing was taboo, court decisions now favor testing when it is done in compliance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (Use Internet search engines for detailed information.)

When investigating most tests, they can also be categorized by “Class.” Because Class One tests are not developed or validated for employment purposes, only Class Two and Class Three tests should be used when hiring or promoting employees. Here are some specific guidelines for you to use when selecting personality tests. Most of the information also pertains to the other categories of testing.

Class One personality tests are designed to be used for career guidance, self-insight, and training of existing employees, not employee selection. You can recognize a Class One test by its price tag and format. They typically cost from $5.00 to $15.00 per administration and they require the test-taker to check-off or circle certain adjectives which best describe them.
The reported test results will often use “templates” rather than personalized text. These tests are easy to “fake” and seldom are accurate when used under pre-employment conditions. Class One tests do not typically maintain ongoing research to avoid adverse impact or to prove the test is job related and predictive of success.

Class Two personality tests will quickly provide you with validity and adverse impact data which they update and maintain on a regular basis. They can be used for both training and employee selection and typically cost from $4.00 to $75.00 per administration.
Expect to receive a comprehensive, personalized profile report that provides summary results along with detailed explanations. Class Two test distributors will either have psychologists on staff or they will employ independent consultants to help them with their research to avoid adverse impact and maintain high validity.

Class Three personality tests have sophisticated guides and published research from university professors and psychologists. They include consultations with each test administration. Most Class Three personality tests are listed in the Mental Measurements Yearbook and strictly adhere to the Uniform Guidelines for Testing and Measurement. Expect to pay over $100.00 per administration for this personalized attention and expertise of their full-time staff psychologists.
You can expect the profile reports to be personalized and professionally written, sometimes too much so. You may not be able to understand them unless you are a psychologist. As a result of the Internet availability of so many highly validated, competitively priced tests, Class Three tests may soon become a thing of the past.

Try to customize your battery of tests for each position for which you are hiring. Avoid the temptation to use the same tests for all positions. Remember that some tests may be quite valid for one position and invalid for another position. Your test distributor should be able to assist you in selecting the right test for the right use and provide you with the published information you need to support the test’s relevancy and validity for your specific position.