Pre-Employment Screenings and Assessments are Ubiquitous but Need Not be Stress-Inducing

by Beverly Harvey

Employers are increasingly using pre-screening and assessment techniques early in the interviewing process, typically after one or more initial phone screenings and before the first face-to-face interview or between the first and second interview. Sometimes they are used only when the field is narrowed down to just a few candidates. Surveys indicate more than 80 percent of Fortune 500s use assessments for executive positions and that small businesses also use them. The use of assessments is growing.

According to those employers who use them, pre-screens and assessments assure the organization of hiring a reliable, qualified manager or executive. Because decision-makers hiring for the C-suite are essentially placing the future of their organizations in candidates’ hands with limited evidence of executives’ ability to perform, testing prospective hires is good business. Assessments can provide information about how well a candidate can handle the position’s required tasks and interact with people within the hiring organization.

Companies that produce pre-hire assessments call the tests accurate predictors of future success or derailment in a new job and work culture.

Experts also point to the objectivity of these methods and the notion that they prevent hiring decision-makers from being influenced by candidate charisma or tendency to say what the employer wants to hear.

Many employers see the use of pre-employment screenings and assessments as the first line of defense against candidates who manipulate their personal information in resumes and other employment communications. Stretching the truth about education and employment on a resume is all too common.

Third-party assessments claim to objectively identify and describe the executive’s job-relevant characteristics, as well as capacity to lead and manage others effectively.

General reasoning or cognitive tests may be used to evaluate how quickly candidates can process new information and evaluate complex scenarios.

A few tips for taking assessments:

  • Candidates should be aware of what they’re getting into before undergoing pre-screens and assessments. Don’t be afraid to request information on the purpose of the assessment, as well as its validity and reliability. Inquire about how your privacy will be safeguarded for retention of the assessment results, along with the test-taking environment.
  • The degree to which you can prepare for pre-screens and assessment varies with the method used. In fact, many assessments are designed so that the user cannot prepare for them. You can, however, ensure that you are well-rested and that you take the assessment in quiet, private surroundings. If the employer requires multiple assessments, avoid assessment burn-out by taking time in between to stretch, get something to drink, and mentally unwind before proceeding to the next assessment.
  • Try to skim the assessment so you have an idea of how much time to devote to each question or section. During the assessment, apply the techniques you normally summon to subdue stress and keep yourself relaxed.
  • In preparation for the questionnaire and essay-style methods, keep a detailed journal of successes and past work accomplishments. Many employers will later check this information with your references.
  • While undergoing the assessment or prescreen, give truthful and detailed responses, rather than trying to “game the test” by making statements you think the employer wants to hear or listing characteristics you wish you had. The employer wants to know how well you will fit in with the organization. You do both yourself and the prospective employer a disservice by presenting yourself inaccurately. You may get hired, but you risk your success and satisfaction by hiding your true self.

Because candidates are matched against benchmarks that demonstrate patterns of successful executives, as well as evaluated for job, team, and culture fit, personality, behavior, values, and attitude, assessments aren’t looking for “right or wrong” answers. This matching process can save both employer and candidate from a bad fit that fails to meet expectations on both sides.

Typically, employers don’t rely on the assessments alone but affirm in interviews whether the candidate might not to be a good fit for the job, team and/or culture. In fact legally, an assessment can’t be the only reason for exclusion; a background check, references, work history, industry fit, communication skills, intelligence, the interview, and chemistry enhance the information gained in the assessment. Some experts have said assessments make up about a third of a hiring decision in organizations that use them.

Among the types of pre-screens and assessments that employers may require are:
Predictive Index, which its Web site describes says “predicts primary personality characteristics and cognitive ability [employers] can predict workplace behaviors and on-the-job performance.”
Kolbe A™ Index, which measures a person’s instinctive method of operation, and identifies the ways he or she will be most productive.
Hogan Development Survey, identifies personality-based performance risks and derailers of interpersonal behavior that affect an individual’s leadership style and actions.
• Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is a well-known personality assessment, the use of which in hiring is controversial at best. The Myers-Briggs Web site notes “there are ethical concerns in using it for hiring purposes.”
Simmons Personal Survey, which measures job-related emotional and behavioral tendencies, such as energy, stress, optimism, self-esteem, commitment to work, attention to detail, desire for change, physical courage, self-direction, assertiveness, tolerance, consideration for others, and sociability.
The Executive Achiever, which looks at intelligence, knowledge of leadership skills, and a variety of leadership personality traits.
PXT Select, which gauges cognitive, behavioral, and connative (occupational interests) attributes.
Caliper Profile, which measures more than 25 personality traits that relate to job performance.
Five-factor personality assessments, a variety of assessments that measure the “Big Five” personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (sometimes known as emotional stability).
DiSC, which profiles four primary behavioral styles (dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness) each with a distinct and predictable pattern of observable behavior.
Key Management Dynamics Assessment from Objective Management Group, designed specifically for the executive team and candidates for executive leadership positions. It measures nine styles and 16 qualities.

If you find that you are getting screened out of the interview process after undergoing pre-screens or assessments, consider coaching with us. 

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1 thought on “Pre-Employment Screenings and Assessments are Ubiquitous but Need Not be Stress-Inducing”

  1. I appreciate that this post mentioned that pre-employment screening services can screen hundreds of job applicants, which makes things easier and faster. Assuming that I own a business and need to hire employees, it makes sense for me to improve efficiency. I will definitely keep this tip in mind for future references.


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