Choosing the Right Employee Assessments Have you ever read an HR blog that was pushing for or against one particular employee assessment? We probably all have. HR professionals learn from HR blogs written by HR experts who tend to believe deeply in the value of a particular type of employee assessment (or the damage caused by using a different one). Sifting through these strong opinions can be overwhelming. What you may not realize is that we’re not all aiming for the same thing, so it becomes this vortex of confusing psychometric babble that can be hard to sift through to find the information you really need to know. It’s hard to stay confident in your decisions, too. There is one pivotal move that can help us get out of this vortex: categories. Building categories that simplify the volume of testing options out there will allow you to start navigating the world of evaluation tools in an easy-to-understand and confident way. So to help you break through the confusion and learn something new to make you better at your job, we’ve compiled 8 categories of employee assessments, complete with a brief description and the pros and cons of using them. Read it. Bookmark it. Use it. You’ll find yourself sorting through, weeding out, and making a confident selection in no time! And if you’re itching to learn more about the use of employee assessments to improve your organization, you can subscribe to this blog that is designed precisely for that purpose.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Employee Assessments Test Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Assessments that focus on knowledge, skills, and abilities identify current realities that are based on a candidate’s previous experiences and training. While this type of information can help with the pre-hire sorting of candidates, they are quite limited in meeting most of the post-hire management needs of employees. Below are types of assessments that help with the pre-hire sorting of candidates.  

Interviews

The most commonly used form of pre-hire screening, interviews are often a standardized or structured set of questions asked of each applicant. Typically the questions are centered around a candidate’s interpersonal and teamwork skills, as well as knowledge, skills, and aptitudes (KSAs) or other desired job- compatible qualities. Interviews are most commonly conducted face-to-face or by phone in order to learn more about a candidate, while allowing the candidate to also learn more about the organization; with the idea being that a two-way exchange of communication allows everyone involved to make the best informed decision about specific employment opportunities.

Pros

    • Because interviews are most commonly used, they are routinely expected by most job applicants.
    • Interviews can provide a measure of skills in face-to-face, real- time interaction that is not able to be measured in a survey or test format.
    • They tend to be most valid when measuring specified organizational outcomes IF the time is taken to properly develop and administer the interview.

Cons

    • Improperly developed or administered interviews can be ineffective due to the biases or judgment errors of interviewers.
    • Due to the one-on-one nature, this format is more time consuming than paper or web-based testing, and therefore not scalable for a large number of applicants.
Let’s face it, we all know that interview questions can be answered dishonestly by interviewees hoping to produce favorable decisions rather than honest representations of job compatibility.  

Biographical Data

This type of evaluation is based on the idea that past behavior indicates future behavior. Built around pre-developed questions that are typically seeking factual information about an applicant’s background, personal characteristics, interests, and work experience, these questions may also draw out opinions, beliefs, values, or attitudes due to their wording. Typically it is administered in a web-based, pencil-and-paper, or phone survey format. The goal is to detect counterproductive behaviors that would interfere with job compatibility.

Pros

    • Biodata surveys are easy and cost-effective to administer.
    • They tend to be most valid when measuring organizational outcomes like turnover, performance, and success in training.

Cons

    • Candidates may be able to answer dishonestly in an effort to produce a favorable decision rather than an honest representation of role compatibility.
    • This category of evaluation is based only on past experience, and it does not measure future potential or give assistance in managing and developing employees who are hired.
 

Job Knowledge Tests

When looking to identify candidates who already possess the necessary understanding for the tasks of a specific job, job knowledge tests can be helpful. They are usually multiple choice or essay questions built around particular job-related technical expertise or knowledge. The idea behind this type of job assessment is that the person who has the necessary knowledge will be successful in the role.

Pros

    • These tests tend to be most valid when measuring specific organizational outcomes like job performance.
    • Unlike the Biodata and Interviews, these questions cannot be answered dishonestly–as long as you are able to verify that the potential hire is also the current test-taker.
    • Even if candidates fail to ace the test, their results can still provide useful feedback, to you and to them, regarding the amount of training that is still necessary before they are likely to be successful in the role.

Cons

    • Due to the rapid change of technology and its impact on the way things are done, this type of test may require frequent updating in order to keep it relevant to the real-life role.
    • This type of testing may not prove as useful in jobs where the desired knowledge can be obtained in short, on-the-job training sessions.
 

Physical Ability Tests

The physical ability test is a way to test physical skills that are required in order to perform the job in question–like strength, balance, and speed. Detecting candidates who lack the physical ability required for job success is the goal, because common sense dictates that physical jobs require physical skill or ability.

Pros

    • Physical evaluations tend to be most valid when measuring organizational outcomes for physically demanding jobs.
    • Just like knowledge tests, as long as the identity of the test-taker can be verified, a candidate cannot fake the physical skills being tested.

Cons

    • Because the results of these tests can differ by gender (i.e. in general, men tend to be physically stronger than women), the legality of this test could be challenged by the EEOC. So make sure you do your research before implementing something along these lines in your hiring process.
    • The test can also be problematic to use if it is one that is also used to diagnose health or medical conditions–again, due to EEOC regulations.
    • Since a physical skills test is not a paper or web-based test, it is much more time consuming to administer, and therefore not as scalable for a large number of applicants.
 

Work Samples and Simulations

This method of assessing candidates often combines the job-related knowledge and skills discussed above into scenarios that measure a candidate’s overall competence or ability to perform a specific role. It could also be used to assess more generally useful skills or knowledge–like organizational, interpersonal, or analytical skills. With the idea being that candidates who perform well in standard scenarios are most likely to deliver quality performance and longevity in the actual role, the goal is to detect candidates who already have the necessary knowledge and skill for minimally acceptable performance in a role.

Pros

    • They tend to be most valid when used to indicate organizational outcomes like job performance.
    • Like several of the other categories mentioned, these test questions cannot be answered dishonestly as long as the identity of the test-taker is verified.
    • Observing a candidate as they work through job-related scenarios can provide interviewers with an accurate indication of the level of additional training that will be required for long-term success for the candidate.

Cons

    • Basic scenarios may not indicate how a candidate will perform more complicated versions of the job responsibilities that are likely to be encountered in the actual day-to-day.
    • These tests are based primarily on the past experience and learning of an applicant and do not typically measure their ability to learn new information quickly.
    • Like job knowledge tests, this one is also not as useful in jobs where knowledge can be obtained in short, on-the-job training sessions.
    • This test may also be difficult to keep up-to-date, and expensive or time-consuming to administer.
    • Since it is much more time consuming than paper or web-based testing, problems are likely to arise with scalability for a large number of applicants.
    • If not carefully thought out and standardized, this method can be ineffective due to biases or judgment errors of the test administrators.
 

Cognitive Ability

Intelligence is a key factor in the success of an employee, so it is no surprise that many organizations include an evaluation of candidates’ cognitive abilities through the use of questions or problems that can be tied to the likelihood of job-related success–like logic, reading comprehension, or reasoning ability. Usually in a web-based or pencil-and-paper format, the idea behind the cognitive ability test is that certain jobs–especially the more complex jobs–require a certain level and orientation of intelligence to be successful (i.e. I can demonstrate intelligence with words, but you do not want to see my accounting skills!). The clear goal here is to detect those candidates who lack the cognitive aptitudes that are necessary for job success.

Pros

    • Cognitive tools have been successfully used to highlight indicators regarding organizational outcomes like performance and success in training, especially for more complex job responsibilities.
    • These tests are easy and cost-effective to administer.
    • The test questions cannot be answered dishonestly as long as the identity of the test-taker is verified.

Cons

    • Unfortunately this is another category of testing that could be challenged by the EEOC since the results can differ by gender and race at a significant enough level. Again, be sure to do your research first to make sure your method is compliant and your organization is protected.
 

Integrity Tests

These tests are similar to biodata but not as focused on historical facts of a person’s life. Integrity tests utilize pre-developed questions regarding an applicant’s ethics or conscientiousness–honesty, dependability, trustworthiness, etc. Usually administered in a web-based or pencil-and-paper survey, the goal is to identify applicants who are likely to be reliable and follow the rules.

Pros

    • Due to the survey format, these are easy and cost-effective to administer.
    • Integrity tests have been successful indicators regarding organizational outcomes like inventory theft or damage, difficulties with authority, and regular attendance.

Cons

    • Ironically, questions on integrity can be answered dishonestly to produce a favorable decision rather than an honest representation of a candidate’s character. (How would you answer a question about whether or not you lie when applying for a much needed job?)
    • These types of tests may be offensive to test-takers if the questions seem too personal and not related to the job.
 

Personal Assessments

Employee Assessments: Personal Assessments Assessments that focus on perspectives, motivations, and behaviors explain current realities and identify future possibilities that are based on a candidate’s potential. While this type of information can provide some help with the pre-hire sorting of candidates, they are powerful in meeting many of the post-hire management needs of employees.  

Personality Tests

Many tests fall into this last category–personality. In general, these are web-based or pencil-and-paper survey questions that are designed to measure common personality traits like: extroversion, conscientiousness, resiliency, stress responses, emotional stability, initiative, motivation, etc. The idea behind assessing a candidate’s personality is that people are pre-wired with certain propensities, which predetermine longevity, success, and satisfaction in specific roles. Therefore, they can be used to identify candidates whose personality traits indicate potential success in particular roles within a particular company. But the real value is that the same information that allows you to make a more educated hiring decision can also equip you to make insightful effective management, promotion, and problem-solving decisions over the life of the employee in the company.

Pros

    • These tools have been successfully used to measure many organizational outcomes, but each has its limitations. So be sure you understand the specific philosophies your personality test of choice is built around. (A lot more to come on this topic in future posts!)
    • The survey format makes it easy and cost-effective to administer.
    • A candidate’s results can assist in quality management and promotion decisions in the future.

Cons

    • Personality questions may be offensive to test-takers if they seem too personal and not related to the job.
    • Candidates can answer dishonestly in order to produce a favorable decision rather than an honest representation of themselves.
    • Because personality is in the field of psychology, the use of these tests can be problematic if the test type is also able to be used to diagnose mental disorders, which are protected under EEOC regulations.
  The number of employee assessments in the market today is staggering. It can be an overwhelming area of HR. Knowing that different evaluation methods serve different purposes can help you get traction in choosing the right one at the right time to best accomplish your goal. Which category of tests has been most helpful to you? Do you have any other categories not already on this list? Blog Download CTA 2 (2)