Pre-Employment Testing – Valuable Or Worthless?

At the heart of every business is the human element and resourcing effectively with people is pivotal to success. There is a current drive towards automation to reduce human intervention in business processes, production and in fact, business analysis. While this is the current reality, the need for humans in businesses at any level cannot be overemphasized.

It is a widely accepted fact that an organization is only as good as the crop of talents that drive its operations. This is why the process of recruitment and selection by organisations in resourcing its business with people is very critical.

Over the years, different techniques and strategies have been adopted by organisations in building their unique talent set. The Recruitment function within the Human Resources department is responsible for identifying, attracting, engaging and onboarding talents in an organization.

In identifying talents, Pre-Employment testing has grown in popularity as one of the methods amongst several others in determining a prospective right fit for a role. The Pre-Employment tests assesses competence at different levels, the outcome of which determines suitability or otherwise.

According to The Society for Human Resources, the popularity of pre-hire assessments is growing among companies that want more predictive accuracy in their hiring processes. The best of these tests go beyond screening past experience or education to measuring a candidate’s aptitude, fit or potential in scientifically validated and reliable ways, adding more rigor to the hiring process (SHRM, Talent Acquisition, 2018)

While a lot of organisations have adopted Pre-Employment Testing as a method of identifying the right fit, many believe it is only necessary where previous work experience is not a qualifying requirement i.e. experienced hires do not have to prove their suitability for roles by mere Aptitude Tests as their work history speaks for them.

This begs the questions – are Aptitude Tests a true representation of the skills, intelligence and potentials of a prospective hire? Have organisations lost great talents by screening out ‘would-be’ excellent candidates at the Aptitude Testing stage? Will all viable talents scale through the aptitude test stage?

Various studies have revealed that proper preparation may help candidates scale through Aptitude Tests but the outcomes may in certain instances not necessarily represent their talents and abilities.

There is a vast array of Pre-Employment Tests and the choice of which to adopt in any recruitment process depends on the skills being tested and the decision of the hiring organization. Basically, there are two major categories of Pre-Employment Testing. They are:

  • Psychometric Tests: These comprises of Numeric, Literacy, Abstract and Logical reasoning etc.
  • Personality Tests: These are designed to identify personality types and determine a fit.

Some of the competences amongst others that the Pre-Employment testing determines are:

  1. Mental Capabilities: Psychometric Tests are designed to measure applicants’ mental capabilities, intelligence levels and cognitive abilities in a way as to ascertain their suitability for certain job roles.
  2. Analytical Skills: This reveals the ability of the candidate to analyse complex problems and proffer solutions.
  3. Communication Skills: The Literacy tests reveal the candidate’s written and linguistics skills.
  4. Intelligent Quotient: The Abstract Reasoning tests the ability of candidates to contextualize information and recognize patterns. It takes a level of intelligence to scale through this.
  5. Resilience and Tenacity: Personality Tests are designed to match candidates’ personality type with that which is required to function successfully on the job.

Pre-Employment tests can be great tools of assessment for the recruiter and as with every tool or process, it is not without its pros and cons. Some of these includes:


  1. Objectivity: Regardless of who is involved, Aptitude Tests are a good way to make fair comparisons.
  2. Reduces initial anxiety: Since this is usually not designed to be face to face, it reduces the candidate’s performance anxiety.
  3. Saves Cost: Most Pre-Employment Tests are usually computer based. This reduces the cost associated with onsite test administration.
  4. Time Saving: Since most tests are computer based, it saves time in the grading process and enhances the speed in the shortlisting process.
  5. Scale: This method of assessment affords the recruiter the ability to assess a large pool of candidates at the same time.


  1. Misrepresentation of Performance Potential: Many have learned the art of answering aptitude test questions but may lack the strategic thinking required to succeed on the job. Test performance does not necessarily translate into excellent performance on the job.
  2. Test Anxiety: Many people who have the potential to thrive on the job may not have the nerve to go through aptitude testing as the fear of failure may impact their performance negatively.
  3. It can be generalized: Sometimes, aptitude tests are not developed based on the requirement to succeed on the role. This may impact performance of the applicants to a certain degree and may not be a true test of their abilities.
  4. An abstract from reality: Knowing that the outcome of a test is tied to getting or losing a job opportunity, candidates tend to give responses that are not authentic especially in personality tests. There is however advancement in technology where certain Personality Tests tools can identify candidates who attempt to beat the system through inauthentic responses and it is expected that such candidates would be disqualified.
  5. Uneven Playing Field: Sometimes, there is no fair play when it comes to testing candidates from diverse backgrounds. An example is when a graduate of Sociology writes a Psychometric Test also attempted by an Engineering graduate. The outcome of results will differ by reason of their prior knowledge and training.
  6. Soft Skills are not assessed: Business acumen, attitude, interpersonal relations skill, emotional intelligence are all soft skills that determines success and this cannot be machine tested.

Generally, every organisation has its standard processes for recruitment and selection therefore the decision on what recruitment tool will be deployed is the prerogative of the recruiter and not the applicant. It therefore behoves the job applicant to do well in preparation for this reality in the search for career opportunities.

Regardless of the outcome, the feedback from these tests are important for the candidates as sometimes, it helps to ascertain their fit for a role. Failure in some aptitude tests may be an indication the candidate may struggle with certain requirements for success in some job types (if the test is actually tailored to the expectations for the role they are applying for).

According to Harvard Business Review, when hiring Managers and HR utilize the right methodology to select and retain the right psychometric tests, they can significantly raise the probability of selecting and retaining the right talent too.

Pre-Employment testing largely determines to a great extent applicant’s fitness for some roles but employees’ success many times transcend the test outcomes. Employee performance is mostly driven by knowledge, motivation, interests, growth prospects and an enabling environment to thrive. This then calls for flexibility in combining assessment tools with some degree of judgment in the selection process.

As an entrepreneur, are you looking for the perfect fit for your organization? The search for talents can be daunting especially when you need to focus on other aspects of growing your business. You can outsource this function to the experts.

Kennedia Consulting Limited is an HR Consulting firm offering services in Recruitment Agencies in Lagos, Outsourcing, Training and Development, HR Consulting and Financial Advisory. Our unique Talent Acquisition team deploys proprietary tools, the advantage, expertise and efficiency of our specialization to connect you with the right talent in a timely and cost effective manner.

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