||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (March 2011)|
Employment testing is the practice of administering written, oral, or other tests as a means of determining the suitability or desirability of a job applicant. The premise is that if scores on a test correlate with job performance, then it is economically useful for the employer to select employees based on scores from that test.
Legal context (United States)
The United States Supreme Court has decided several cases clarifying the place of employment testing in the context of discrimination law. In particular, these cases have addressed the discriminatory use of tests when promoting employees by requiring tests beyond the education required for the job. A central finding in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. was that the employer must demonstrate (or be prepared to demonstrate) that its selection process is related to the job being filled.
Employers considering the use of employment tests, particularly knowledge and aptitude-based tests, should perform due diligence to assure that questions are reasonably related to the job. This is often accomplished with advice from counsel. For example, applicants for an engineering position may be required to complete a math test, as math is a skill commonly required for engineers. To comply with the decision in Griggs, the employer must assure that the test is a reasonable measure of job performance. Therefore, if the math questions were engineering-related and documents could prove that employees with insufficient knowledge of math would not succeed as engineers, then the examination would meet the Griggs test. Conversely, employers that require a receptionist to take a math test may be considered unreasonable, because math is unrelated to a receptionist's job duties. For all employment tests, common sense and reasonableness must apply.
Test types used
Different types of assessments may be used for employment testing, including personality tests, intelligence tests, work samples, and assessment centers. Some correlate better with job performance than with others; employers often use more than one to maximize predictive power.
Performance Assessment tests
Performance-based assessment testing is a process to find out if applicants can do the job for which they are applying. It is done through tests, which are directly administered and judged by Hiring Managers who will be supervising the potential hire. Performance assessments can be used as a pre-screening tool to test applied knowledge, skills-job match and commitment of the applicant towards the job position.
The tests are peer-to-peer and reflect real business tasks that candidates have to perform, should they be selected for the role. The tests are open ended, time bound, business related questions which applicants need to submit their responses for in order to prove their abilities.
The most important question that performance testing, seeks to answer is: How would you solve this problem?  Web tools like, HireVue, GapJumpers and CodeEval allow candidate responses to be judged directly by Hiring Managers of the respective departments to select the ones most suited for the role, thus making the process efficient for the company.
Personality tests may potentially be useful in personnel selection. Of the well-known Big Five personality traits, only conscientiousness correlates substantially with traditional measures of job performance, and that correlation is strong enough to be predictive. However, other factors of personality can correlate substantially with non-traditional aspects of job performance, such as leadership and effectiveness in a team environment. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is also used.
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a highly validated psychopathology test that is generally used in a clinical psychology setting and may reveal potential mental health disorders. However, this can be considered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as the employer having knowledge of a medical condition prior to an offer of employment. This is an illegal basis for a hiring decision in the United States. Employers considering personality tests should focus on tests designed for job purposes and do not provide any information regarding an applicant's mental health or stability.
Notable situations in which the MMPI may be used are in final selection for police officers, fire fighters, and other security and emergency personnel, especially when the employees are required to carry weapons. An assessment of mental stability and fitness can be reasonably related and necessary in the performance of the job.
Cognitive Ability tests
Tests of cognitive ability can assess general intelligence and correlate very highly with overall job performance. Individuals with higher levels of cognitive ability tend to perform better on their jobs. This is especially true for jobs that are particularly intellectually demanding.
Employers administer job-knowledge tests when applicants must already possess a body of knowledge before being hired. Job-knowledge tests are particularly useful when applicants must have specialized or technical knowledge that can only be acquired through extensive experience or training. Job-knowledge tests are commonly used in fields such as computer programming, law, and financial management.
Licensing exams and certification programs are also types of job-knowledge tests. Passing such exams indicates competence in the exam's subject area. Tests must be representative of the tested field, otherwise litigation can be brought against the test-giver.
Situational judgment tests
Situational judgment tests are commonly used as employee-selection and employee-screening tools and have been developed to predict employment success. These tests present realistic hypothetical scenarios in a multiple-choice format. Applicants are asked to state what they would do in a difficult job-related situation. Responses are scored according to the level of effectiveness, rather than as right or wrong.
Situational judgment tests measure the suitability of job applicants by assessing attributes such as problem solving, service orientation, and striving for achievement. These tests screen for candidates with key attributes and assess their capabilities to perform and respond to job-related situations. Therefore, results from situational judgment tests provide more indicative and job-specific information concerning an applicant's competencies, which may not be initially apparent in their resume or during an interview. Situational judgment tests are becoming increasingly popular for selection for customer-facing positions in fields such as sales, retail and hospitality.
- Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977 (1988)
- Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642, 657 (1989),
- Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Objective test
- Projective test
- Psychological testing
- Situational judgement test
- Griggs v. Duke Power Co. :401 U.S. 424 (1971)
- Imperica. "Into the Gap", March 20, 2012
- New Empire Builders: Discover Startups, Nonprofits, + Companies making the world better. "Bridging the Gap between College and the Real World", July 10, 2012
- Lou Adler. "The Complete 2-Question Interview", The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, ASIN B00B9JZMKE.
- Techcrunch. "Reinvent The Job Interview", August 30, 2012.
- Imperica. "Assessment tool for the social era", March 20, 2012.
- The Next Web. "A unique approach to hiring your next coder", August 20, 2010.
- Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.
- Hogan, R. (2006). Personality and the fate of organizations.
- Official MMPI-2 Description
- Schmidt, F.L., & Hunter, J. (2004). General Mental Ability in the World of Work: Occupational Attainment and Job Performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1), 162–173.
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management "Assessment Decision Guide". Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
- Ployhart, R. E. (2006). Staffing in the 21st century: New challenges and strategic opportunities. Journal of Management, 32, 868-897.
- Lievens, F., Peeters, H., & Schollaert, E. (2008). Situational judgment tests: A review of recent research. Personnel Review, 37, 426-441.
- Whetzel, D. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2009). Situational judgment tests: An overview of current research. Human Resource Management Review, 19, 188-202.