Is There Real Science Behind Pre-Employment Assessments?

Kristen Harcourt Sep 24, 2014 12:38:00 PM


If you’re considering a pre-employment test or employee assessment tool to improve your recruiting and employee retention results, there are six key questions you should be asking yourself and potential vendors.

The first question on that list: “Is the behavioral assessment tool scientifically valid?”

It is often said that recruiting is an art. The act of assessing and measuring candidates, though, is definitely science. When enlisting a behavoiral assessment tool to help you make better hiring decisions, or to aid in coaching and employee development, it’s important to ensure the tool is based on sound science. Otherwise, you may as well pick up a Magic 8 Ball from the toy store and save yourself some money.

The idea of behavioral assessments (also called talent assessments, personality assessments, psychometric testing, pre-employment testing) is grounded in decades of industrial psychology. The science behind these tools has been well established and proven.

How to determine if a tool is scientifically sound

Today, the commonly accepted standard for personality tests of any sort is known as the “Big 5”. A good starting point is to ensure the assessment tool that you’re investigating is based on that scale.

When speaking with vendors, here are some other key questions to pose:

  •          How was the tool developed and by whom?
  •          How was the tool tested to confirm its reliability and validity?
    • Reliability refers to the degree from which test scores are free from measurement errors.
    • Validity refers to how well the measured personality traits correspond to the person’s actual personality

In each case, there are testing models that can be—and should have been—used to confirm this information and a vendor should be able to show you evidence that their tool passes the test.

Ask for a copy of the company’s technical manual, which should outline all of this and more concerning the tool’s validity. It’s a dry read, but even skimming it will give you a sense of how sound a tool you are dealing with.

This is just the first question to ask when considering a behavioral assessment tool. You can read more in our eBook, 6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Talent Assessment Tool.


Choosing a Behavioral Assessment Tool

Topics: Recruitment, Leadership development, Employee retention, Coaching and Development

Kristen Harcourt

Written by Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a highly trusted, creative and collaborative advisor who is passionate about people. She really enjoys helping companies make the right people decisions to achieve long term productivity.