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Pre-Employment Tests, Interview Skills & Hiring

How To Custom-Tailor Pre-Hire Assessments
By Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
Dec 11, 2015, 14:31

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Pre-employment tests can help you hire terrific employees when you use custom-tailored benchmark scores for each job in your organization. 


The best way to customize pre-employment tests is to have your company’s best, “superstar” employees in each job take the tests.  The typical test scores gotten by your best employees in each job should be the benchmark test scores for that job in your organization.  Doing this is called a benchmarking study or concurrent validity study.

Then, when the pre-employment tests are taken by job applicants, you immediately see if the applicant’s scores are the same or different than your company’s benchmark test scores for that job.

For example, let’s say you want to hire great Sales Reps.  First, you test your very best Sales Reps.  Such superstar Sales Reps are both (A) highly productive and (B) low-turnover.  Then, you use your best Sales Reps’ typical scores as benchmarks. 

If an applicant scored the same as your best Sales Reps, then that person is worth spending your time to interview and consider possibly hiring.  However, if an applicant gets test scores different than benchmark scores for your company’s Sales Reps, then you probably want to (a) stop considering that applicant and (b) find a better applicant!


When pre-employment assessment testing, do NOT use two methods to get benchmark scores:
1.  National Norms
2.  Job Description-based or Job Competencies

Some companies are too lazy to make custom-tailored benchmark test scores based on their best, employees in each job.  So, they ignorantly use two methods that are lousy, illogical, and do not give them customized benchmarks. 

First, some companies use national norms.  Those are the test scores of many people with the same job title in many companies across the nation. 

But that is a dumb method you should NOT use.  Why?  Because the employees across the nation included in national norms likely are NOT the same as your company’s best employees! 

For instance, I have many companies in the same industry using my pre-employment tests.  Each company’s employees have similar job titles, e.g., Sales Rep, Driver, Warehouse Worker, Customer Service Rep, and more. 

Although all these companies are in the same industry, the Sales Reps’ benchmark test scores in one company are different than the Sales Reps’ benchmarks in another company.  Similarly, I find statistical differences in the benchmark pre-employment test scores for each job. 

Second, do NOT choose pre-hire assessment test benchmark scores from (a) job descriptions or (b) job competencies lists  Reason = Job descriptions or competencies models often list work qualities that are NOT really qualities possessed by your company’s best employees. 

For example, I often see a job’s description or competency model stating “Creativity” is needed in the job.  But, when we test the best employees in that job, their pre-employment test scores clearly show the best employees do NOT use creativity on-the-job!  The best employees often get test scores that are the opposite of creativity, specifically, (a) low scores on Creativity Motivation and (b) high scores on Rigidly Following Rules, Policies, & Procedures.


Pre-employment tests are your most scientifically-based, objective method to assess job candidates.  When you objectively find custom-tailored benchmark test scores based on your company’s best employees, you increase your odds of determining which applicants have qualities similar to your best employees.  And that is what you want, isn’t it?

Benchmark pre-employment tests by (a) testing your company’s best employees in each job and then (b) using their typical scores as your company’s custom-tailored benchmark scores for each job.

Importantly, do NOT use two methods to choose benchmark scores.  Do NOT select benchmark test scores based on (1) national norms nor (2) job descriptions or lists of job competencies. 

Instead, use benchmark assessment test scores based on how your company’s best employees’ actual test scores. 

Give pre-employment tests to job applicants.  Then, you wisely can consider applicants who get assessment test scores the same or very similar to your organization’s superstar employees. 

Such customized pre-employment tests help you hire superstars, i.e., productive, low turnover employees. 


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