Employment Tests for Startups: The Pros and Cons

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Testing during the hiring process has become a prominent practice, both in and outside of the technology industry. Hiring tests range from evaluating aptitude, personality and character traits to determining strengths, weaknesses and skill sets. Years and years of research, testing and analysis have gone into seasoned evaluations like StrengthsFinder, Myers Briggs and DiSC assessments, giving employers a great set of tools to help in what is the most challenging part of growing a company. With that said, hiring tests do come with faults and limitations. Not all tests are well crafted, and not all situations call for them. We have taken our experience with companies using hiring tests, and whittled it down to the following pros and cons of hiring testing.

The Pros

Many of these tests are actually more valuable once a hire has been made. Some of the more useful ones can give managers and co-workers a better picture of how a new hire works and operates, what motivates them, and where their passions lie. And in this regard, these tests can be extremely valuable. After all, one of the more, if not the most, important criteria for hiring is cultural fit. Information from personality and character testing give managers and employees better information around assimilating new hires into an organization. Aside from this, there is some value that can be gleaned by using these before you make a hire.

When administered and utilized correctly, well crafted testing can also provide useful metrics to help evaluate candidates on various aspects and traits. Using uniform evaluations across your pool of talent potential gives employers a certain level of objectivity, which most interviewers (and recruiters) know can be very difficult to do. Well designed hiring tests are especially good at extracting information about candidates that can be difficult, if not impossible, to gather through interviews, references and resumes.

Using the information from hiring tests allows hiring managers to perform an analysis using defined metrics, rather than using comparisons of one candidate to another or personal opinions alone. This can help hiring managers avoid evaluating future candidates based on an initial or very likeable candidate, which can often allow for personal bias.

Using these evaluations during the hiring process is especially helpful when fielding a large volume of candidates. As long as managers have a clear understanding of the data, what it conveys and what it does not, hiring tests can be another tool in the arsenal to help them sift through a large volume of resume-qualified professionals.

The Cons

In our experience, one of hiring tests’ biggest weaknesses is the way in which employers use them. Hiring is a difficult process that requires a lot of time, money and energy, and the results of making the right or wrong hire can have a dramatic impact on your company. Hiring tests can be a very useful tool for hiring managers, but when relied upon too heavily, great candidates can get passed over and unqualified ones can get too much focus. Undoubtedly, some candidates are not the right person for the job, and tests can reflect that, but too many times great candidates have been passed over simply because of testing results.

Another downside of testing comes from the fact that, like everything else in the hiring process, they are controlled by individuals. A test is only as good as its administrator. Issues like administrator bias, unfollowed procedures, and other mistakes can skew the data, decreasing the reliability of the results and the test itself.

Tests can also create an uneven playing field among candidates. There is a clear disadvantage to candidates who have little or no experience taking these tests, and conversely an advantage to those that do.

The content and the analysis process of an evaluation can present issues. Questions themselves can create issues because of bias, as well as poor question and answer structure. The method of analysis can also be problematic. It comes down to whether or not your company uses an effective test with a valid and reliable track record. Along the same lines, some tests can undervalue certain aspects of candidates that you may find important and valuable, and can even mistakenly rate certain positive traits as negatives. The opposite can be true as well.

Using Evaluations In Your Process

When used properly, hiring tests can be an important step to identifying the right hires for your company. Here are some tips to getting the most out of them:

  • – Use them as another tool in your belt, but not as a gateway into your candidate pool.
  • – Before choosing any assessment to use, do your research. There is a great deal of literature online around the various tests on the market. Forums are another place to find information.
  • – Try searching for cheat sheets and test rubrics online to see what resources are available to candidates for these tests.
  • – If you want to take the research further, try administering your prospective hiring test to a few of your current employees. Get an idea of how the results compare to the reality of the successful hires you have in place.
  • – Once you have chosen the right test, ensure you have set procedures in place when deploying and administering them so as to get accurate data across all of your candidates.
  • – When administering them, make sure that directions are clear, simple and straightforward.
  • – Make sure that you have a clear understanding of what the results mean, as well as how the data is analyzed.
  • – Most important, make sure that you don’t rely too heavily on these tests when making hiring decisions.
  • – If you’re having difficulties incorporating a hiring evaluation into your process, seek the help of other founders, executive recruiting firms and company advisors to guide you.
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