Pre-hire assessments have been used for decades to give employers extra information when deciding who to hire. The use of such assessments continues to grow.

More and more companies are realizing the value standardized pre-employment tests bring. The most recent Aon (formerly cut-e) Assessment Barometer (2016) showed a continued upward trend in the use of pre-hire tools, with an 18% increase in the two preceding years.

So, what is it that makes HR, recruitment and talent decision-makers turn to pre-employment tools when there is so much pressure on budgets, time and resources? This is a list of ten (well, actually 11) ultimate truths about good pre-hire assessment tests.

What is pre-hire assessment and what does it measure?

Pre-hire assessments are objective, standard, reliable and valid tools capable of differentiating between applicants. They can include e.g numerical or verbal reasoning tests and all sorts of other apitude tests that measure e.g. the ability to concentrate, to multi-task or to handle information. They can also include job simulations like situational judgment tests as well as personality tests that measure characteristics of an individual to create personality profiles.

Truth No. 1

Pre-hire assessments counterbalance human nature.

We all think we're a great judge of character. However, did you know that the likelihood of a hiring manager making a poor decision is 50%? Or that only 14% of unstructured job interviews actually predict top talent? Or that 99% of candidates are hired based on first impressions?



likelihood of hiring managers making a poor decision



of unstructured job interviews predict top talent



of candidates are hired based on first impressions

The trouble is, we're not good judges of character. More than half of marriages end in divorce. That's a costly ratio if we choose our recruits in the same way. However, the good news is that we can compensate for human nature by adding assessment tools into the mix.

Why are we so poor at doing this on our own? The reason is bias. We bring our own biases to the table when making decisions – including hiring decisions.

Some of the classic examples of bias are:

  • Confirmation bias
    We downplay or ignore anything that contradicts our preconceived ideas.
  • Attribution bias
    Certain attributes dictate skills.
  • Affinity bias
    We ascribe positive attributes or infer greater potential to someone because they remind us of ourselves.
  • Anchoring bias
    We give more weight to things than they merit.
  • Halo and horns bias
    We are over-reliant on first impressions.
psychometric tests reduce bias: icon for attribution bias

Tall people make better leaders.

psychomtric tests reduce bias: icon for confirmation bias

Smart people wear glasses.

psychometric tests reduce bias: icon for affinity bias

This candidate is just like me.

Pre-employment tests help reduce bias because, by definition, they are objective. They give your decision-making a solid foundation.

Truth No. 2

Pre-hire tests predict job performance. 

A business impact study will define the very specific mix of characteristics that leads to success in your organization. Once you define these characteristics, it's a short step to pinpointing the assessment mix that will give you that profile picture of each applicant.

Some examples of the results that pre-hire assessments have achieved include:

  • Uplift of 12.5% in sales per hour for new hires after two months at Sunglass Hut.
  • 'High match' employees deliver 36% more revenue and 42% more profit than 'low match' ones at a technology business.
  • 8% uplift in sales commission at

Truth No. 3

Strong talent assessments are legally defensible.

Valid assessment tools are built on a foundation of the science behind behavior and capability measurement. This means each test has a body of evidence behind it - from its reliability and dependability over time, its consistency in how it is scored and its ability to benchmark and compare between people. Take all this together and you have robust evidence to inform decision making.

Reputable test suppliers have research teams staffed by psychologists and statisticians. They not only work to develop and refine new tests, but continually gather and publish data from real-world use of existing tests. It means they investigate, e.g. gender or other group differences in test scores and help clients understand their own data.

Real-life examples:

  • Outcome Health introduced an assessment process in 'safe mode' to review how the tests functioned across different applicant groups. No adverse impact was found.
  • Credit Suisse proved scientifically that the aptitude tests used were gender neutral, fair and objective.

Truth No. 4

Pre-hire assessments are resource savers.

Pre-hire tests save time, energy and heartache. They speed up time-to-hire by helping you focus on the very best, very quickly. And they reduce hiring manager time spent in interviews with poor quality candidates.

There have been some dramatic results reported by organizations:

  • Savings of five hours of recruitment time per hire at Elkjøp.
  • 50% reduction in hiring manager time spent in interviews at Outcome Health.

Truth No. 5

Pre-hire assessments reduce staff turnover and predict tenure.

Getting better-fit employees leads to stronger employee engagement and retention.

Some examples of what this can mean to businesses:

  • Securitas Direct predicted those who would stay beyond the initial four-month time-to-competence period.
  • Jurys Inn determined the behavioral characteristics and values of those likely to stay with the business — and those likely to leave.
  • Transcom found that the top 10% of scorers on personality and cognitive ability assessments are 130% more likely to stay beyond the average tenure.

Truth No. 6

Pre-hire assessments are brand enhancers.

Pre-hiring tests and assessments give you robust information to supplement your decision making. They also say something about your company. Leading edge tests that show the job and your organization in the right light help differentiate you as an employer – just as sleek, integrated processes and feedback do. However, get it wrong and your use of assessment could be a brand detractor! So, choose well and bear in mind:

The content's relevance — Be aware and avoid ability tests using outdated questions, personality questionnaires that don’t ask about work behavior and assessments that bear no resemblance to the job or your company. 

The test-taker experience – Make the assessment look great and work on any device. Work with consultants to design the overall process, where the tests fit in and adds the most value, and where decisions are made. Look at psychometric tests that can be used on a smartphone, tablet and desktop. Think about integration with your ATS to provide a secure, single sign-on experience. Also, make sure you can add your own logo, color palette and customized content. 

Act quickly – Make sure the results you get from your tests mean you can make decisions quickly – whether it’s sifting out those unsuitable for the role or homing in on the best people. Don’t risk your competitor being faster than you.

Engage, engage, engage – How you treat your candidates says a lot about your organization. Psychometric tools give you the information to manage expectations with your applicants and the opportunity to engage with them. 

Make it cool – New developments in talent amean great assessments are now available to be completed on a mobile device, via video or set within your own business using your own real-world scenarios and examples. 

Some real-world examples of what this can look like:

  • Vodafone transformed its attraction and application process to attract younger, digitally savvy applicants by devising a web-based attraction game and an online assessment process.
  • A Multinational Engineering Company began using an online, messaging-format assessment developed for mobile devices. It’s different, innovative, accurate and a great candidate engager.
  • Nationwide uses a paperless assessment center that sets the business apart and is used to spot the highest potential candidates.

Truth No. 7

Pre-hire assessments can showcase a job role.

Realistic job previews and situational judgment tests give you insight into potential candidates – and they’re also great at showing what the job is about. Work with a test developer to create your own tool, using your real-world situations, and see how your applicants react. Make sure it’s able to be delivered on a smartphone. 

Real-life examples:

  • easyJet offers a realistic job preview of its cabin crew role — 'Try before you fly' — to help would-be applicants better understand the job.
  • O2 uses a situational judgment test and in-store technology-based assessment centers to improve the quality of its candidates.
  • Sunglass Hut uses a realistic job preview and situational judgment test to give candidates insight into the store's sales role.
3 examples of realistic job previews: Sunglass Hut, du, flydubai

Truth No. 8

Pre-hire assessments identify the right talent for your business.

As an organization, you have your own specific values, competencies and business strategy. What you’re looking for is likely to be different from what other companies value. Modern psychometric tests let you focus on the specific skills, abilities and characteristics you need. Create your own profile and tailor your assessment to fit your specific needs.

Real-life examples:

  • Top performers deliver 50% more sales revenue than the average salesperson in Elkjøp stores.
  • found that 82% of those likely to be low performers were filtered out of selection process early on.
  • The very specific behavioral and values set for Parks & Resorts' seasonal employees is assessed through a custom-built bespoke situational judgment test and an 'audition' (interview).

Truth No. 9

Pre-hiring tests empower your local decision-makers. 

You may have local business managers reviewing applications, interviewing and making the decisions. However, it’s not the key focus of their job. You want to help them be consistent, be objective and ask the right questions. Pre-hire assessments helps you support them. Standard online assessments take the hassle out of testing and scoring and, if you’ve developed a profile of the characteristics you need, can quickly screen out those not suited for the role. Candidate reports and tailored interview guides make it easy for your local managers to be prepared for the interview and to ask the most relevant questions.

Real-life examples:

  • Ericsson designed a single, easy-to-understand assessment matrix, a single process and single report to support selection and promotion for a range of job roles.
  • Dubai Duty Free reduced the time taken to identify 50 candidates from 8.5 days to 0.5 days thanks to a standard assessment process and specific interview guides.
  • A technology business improved the consistency of its hiring manager interviews by using a company-specific interview guide mapped against the five key behavioral characteristics of commercial success.

Truth No. 10

Pre-hiring assessments have come of age.

Years ago, psychometrics were the domain of theorists in ivory towers, but they have been transformed. Now they’re part of an enhanced user experience through shorter and engaging tests that are highly relevant to the job in question and optimized for smartphone use to appeal to everyone. And the transformation continues! AI is being trained to support scoring, interpretation and decision-making – all legally defensible, when done right.

Truth No. 11

Assessment quality can be spotted (and you can do it!).

10 undisputable truths are simply not enough! The final truth is that the quality of any pre-hire assessment can be measured and evaluated.

Use the list below to check the quality of any pre-hire test or assessment.

9 Questions to Spot High Quality Assessments

Is your test:

  1. Objective in how it is administered, scored and interpreted?

  2. Reliable, accurate and consistent over time – and does it offer dependable results?

  3. Valid? Does it measure what it is designed to measure?

  4. Differentiating? Does a stronger candidate receive a higher test score than a weaker candidate?

  5. Providing value for money? Are the costs relatable to a benefit?

  6. Standardized? Does it offer comparison to normative or benchmark groups?

  7. Useful? Does the psychometric assessment add clear value to the talent process? 

  8. Transparent and fair? Is the test and testing process clear and fair to all and do the candidates get appropriate feedback?

  9. Cheat-resistant? Test-takers must not be able to distort or fake test scores.

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