How to assess potential employees using pre-employment tests

Pete Jansons

When staff size is small, each individual makes a huge impact. Anything that helps a leader choose better employees can pay off with greater productivity, increased morale and decreased turnover rates. While no magic formula exists that guarantees which candidates will fit best at your small business, a variety of assessments can assist with hiring decisions.

Some small business owners write off pre-employment tests as too costly or time-consuming, but those thoughts should be weighed against the resources wasted on training the “wrong” person and starting the recruitment process over again. Here are a few types of screenings and techniques to consider when evaluating talent for your small business.

(Before administering any testing related to hiring employees, be sure they are legal and non-discriminatory according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)

Background checks

If you’re not conducting background checks on every new hire, you could be putting your business at risk. More than 1 in 2 small business employers (54 percent) have caught a lie on a candidate’s resume. Background checks can reveal red flags such as a criminal record or misrepresenting educational attainment. Even just knowing background checks will be made promotes applicant honesty.

Some small business employers try to handle checks on their own through do-it-yourself sites, but experts warn that information obtained in this manner is often inaccurate and limited. Turning to a company accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) can be a better, and oftentimes less costly, option. Professionals know the various screens available and can pinpoint which ones will yield information valuable to your particular needs.

Personality tests

About 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or similar personality inventories to build more effective teams. But since web-based psychometric tests are becoming less expensive and more convenient, small businesses increasingly turn to them too. Some, such as the 16pf (16 personality factora), even ask about reactions to certain situations on the job.

Things that small business owners may be interested in finding out from personality tests include:

  • How a candidate’s traits line up with those desirable for the position
  • Strength at interpersonal relationships (a must for a small staff working in tight quarters)
  • Likelihood of leaving for other opportunities
  • What motivates this particular person
  • Abundance or lack of attributes that support the company’s values and mission

 Skills assessments

These “show what you know” tests help limit hiring bias and allow candidates to back up their resume claims. Think about which competencies are most important to the role at hand and look for assessments that measure those abilities. Consider consulting a company that specializes in pre-employment testing. Whether you’re interested in leadership, data entry or customer service, chances are a pre-made assessment exists.

Test drives

Perhaps the ultimate way to judge how a person might perform for your small business is a trial run. This could involve bringing someone on temporarily with the option to hire after a specified time period, or you might treat candidates as consultants and pay them to complete a project on their own. These arrangements allow both sides to judge fit before entering into a permanent arrangement. And while such a setup involves time and money, the investment can be returned many times over by cutting down on turnover and finding someone who will truly benefit your small business.

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