Legal and Ethical Considerations of Pre-Employment Testing
Pre-employment assessments are legal; however, companies are required to ensure that their testing does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age. In other words, the test must comply with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws. To accomplish this, tests must be properly administered (the same to all candidates), validated (measure what they are designed to measure), and related to the job to which you’re applying.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it unlawful for private employers with 15 or more employees — and local, state, and federal government employers — to discriminate against qualified applicants with disabilities. This means that employers to whom the ADA applies must take care that any pre-employment testing analyzes skills and does not screen out disabled candidates simply because they are disabled.
To best comply with the requirements of ADA, employers should, whenever possible, avoid giving a pre-employment test that may pose problems for persons with impaired sensory, speaking, or manual skills (and certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia), unless it is designed to assess skills required to perform the job.
Under the doctrine of disparate impact, employers also may not use hiring practices that — even though neutral on the surface and applied to all applicants — disproportionately exclude members of a protected category. The first U.S. Supreme Court case addressing the issue involved a company’s high school diploma requirement for screening labor applicants. Although the employer was not acting intentionally, this requirement excluded a substantially higher number of African-American applicants than it did Caucasians.
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) of 1988 prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests — either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. Employers generally may not require or request any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test — or discharge, discipline, or discriminate against an employee or job applicant for refusing to take a test — or for exercising other rights under the Act. There are certain exceptions that apply, such armored car personnel and personnel employed in public safety occupations.
How to Prepare For a Pre-Employment Test
Job knowledge and aptitude tests are nothing to be afraid of. And, approached with the right attitude, an assessment is actually a great opportunity for jobseekers to stand out from the competition. Most personality tests are designed to be used by psychologists. However, there are some tests available which can be interpreted by non-psychologists. Pre-employment personality, integrity, and EQ tests have no “right” answers; applicants are simply evaluated on the answers they give.
The Sparks Group, a temporary staffing and full-time recruiting services provider, offers this advice:
- When contacted about an interview, ask the potential employer if you will be expected to complete an assessment. If the answer is “yes,” ask what type of assessment test and approximately how long the test will take. This will give you a rough idea of what to expect.
- Inquire as to how the results of your test will be factored into the hiring decision. Without giving the impression that you lack competency in an area, ask how well you must perform on the assessment test to be considered for the position.
- If you’re being tested on a specific hard skill/occupational area, be sure to review the basic concepts and seek out practice quizzes online. Many practice quizzes are readily available in math, grammar, spelling, and literacy.
- If you’ll be completing a soft skills assessment test, try taking a few practice personality assessment quizzes online (such as the Myers-Briggs personality test). By learning a bit more about your personal and professional behavioral traits, you’ll go into the assessment confident and knowledgeable about your abilities.
- On a soft skills assessment test, try to answer all questions as honestly and consistently as possible. These tests often ask similar questions several times to measure whether you’re being sincere. Consider the organization as you respond — and, when possible — try to align your answers with the company’s corporate style.
- Read all questions carefully. The most common mistake people make on any type of test is misreading questions or failing to properly follow instructions. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Take your time and ensure that you fully comprehend what’s being asked.
- After you’ve completed the assessment(s), make a few notes for yourself. This will allow you to speak knowledgably about the assessment process during the interview. Demonstrating that you took the test seriously will show the potential employer your commitment to the position. Don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager how you did. Even if you receive criticism or negative feedback, knowing how you might improve in the future is invaluable information.
CEB Global has many practice tests available on its website, separated into categories such as verbal or numerical reasoning, personality, reading comprehension, mathematical calculations, and IT knowledge tests. Although they do not attempt to provide you with an exact like-for-like experience of the assessments you may be asked to complete, they do provide a similar testing experience, in terms of question types and formats.
Learn more here: