Protected: Hiring Truths: Pre-Employment Testing

Protected: Hiring Truths: Pre-Employment Testing

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the unemployment rate skyrocketing, with a chance that it could continue to climb. This has left many Americans jobless and on the hunt for their next opportunity. 

With resumes and applications flooding in, hiring departments and managers have likely been active if they have positions to fill. So how are hiring managers changing their strategy to find the right fit for their job openings in this employment environment?

Many are turning to what’s known as “pre-employment testing” to identify differences among applicants in a cognitive, numbers-based way. In fact, 89 of the Fortune 100 companies use testing in either the hiring process or in the workplace. Through tests that cover everything from personality to hard and soft skills, hiring managers are able to gather some preliminary data on applicants before making a hiring decision. 


But applicants have a few things to say about this increasingly common part of the hiring procedure, too. We surveyed pools from both sides of the process – 514 hiring managers and 513 recent applicants – to find out how pre-employment testing really works (or doesn’t work) today. Continue reading to see what we found. 

What to Expect When You’re Applying


Pre-employment testing was fairly common, according to job applicants. More than 77% said they were screened with some type of pre-employment test while applying for a job within the last year. Most said they were told about the testing in advance (over 70%), and the median time applicants took to complete testing was 30 minutes. That said, many applicants felt compelled to stand out on the application, and 27.5% reported typically spending an hour or more working on it.

Testing content most often involved some type of job-related knowledge (44.2%). Unlike cognitive ability tests (which 30.8% of applicants were tested on), job knowledge tests don’t usually assess learning potential or how well an applicant can pick up new skills. Instead, they seem to tell the company what an applicant already knows. 

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Soft skills were more important for applicants than hard skills, or at least hiring managers test for them more often. Personality tests (think Myers-Briggs or the DISC assessment) were actually more likely to be administered than cognitive tests. These tests don’t involve right or wrong answers; they give a general idea of how a person interacts with the world (or the office) around them. A quarter of respondents even came across an integrity test when looking for a job. Even without the hard skills needed for a specific job, a fitting personality and a proven sense of integrity might just do the trick. 


The Hiring Managers’ Perspective

The numbers on the other side of the hiring process matched up: Again, roughly three-quarters of hiring managers said they used pre-employment testing to help screen new hires. Managers and employees also agreed on the average length of the tests, saying they needed about 30 minutes to complete the assessment. 

Hiring managers largely stood by their decision to use pre-employment testing. Nearly 61% said they think testing accurately portrays potential employees, while 58.8% said test performance was a good indicator of job performance. About the same amount said testing was necessary to hire someone. 


Recruiters also trusted that employees would take the test honestly – 9 in 10 hiring managers we surveyed thought applicants were telling the truth on tests. Perhaps personality- and character-type testing are easier places to be honest than somewhere like a resume, where high numbers of applicants often report lying. 

From an Applicant’s Perspective

Employee screening is often seen as reliable for its ability to be more numerical and possibly more objective. That said, recent research shows that it’s often inaccurate or unreliable – a sentiment echoed by many applicants. Some experts explain that these tests can “discourage an employee from trying to improve and grow, and send a message that their ‘ability’ to do something is static.” Nearly a third of applicants (32.2 %) had a problem with testing, and 16.4% said they had declined to take pre-employment testing before. 


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More than half of applicants also argued that their pre-employment tests were not an accurate portrayal of their abilities. It’s possible that hiring managers can make assumptions based on test results that may not be true for the applicant being considered. 

Results of Recruitment Methods

For those prone to pre-test anxiety or who are not great test-takers, there’s hope. In comparison with the interview, pre-employment screening was given much less credence in the hiring process. Less than 7% of hiring managers said pre-employment testing was the most important aspect of an applicant’s hiring process. 

While more hiring managers said test results were more impactful than an applicant’s initial application, they overwhelmingly identified the interview as the part of the hiring process carrying the most weight

To Test or Not to Test

It should also be noted that 22.4% of hiring managers who decided not to use pre-employment testing were more frequently dissatisfied with their hires than were the ones who made use of these tests. So, while testing may not be the final word on an applicant, it can offer valuable insights when used well. 

The hiring (and applying) process can be difficult, and as the data ultimately shows, it is always evolving. It’s important to maintain a modern approach in finding the best fit for your career or your company, which is where SimplyHired can help. Each applicant’s skill set, location, and experience is considered for each job match. Head to SimplyHired today to get the best out of the recruitment process.


In two separate surveys, we surveyed 514 hiring managers and 513 people who had applied to at least one job in the last 12 months about their experiences with and opinions on pre-employment testing. 

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Respondents in the hiring managers’ survey were 56.7% men and 43.3% women. The average age of respondents was 37.9 with a standard deviation of 11.2.

Respondents in the job applicants’ survey were 50.7% men and 49.2% women. The average age of respondents was 35.7 with a standard deviation of 11.1.

Job applicants were asked to identify which types of pre-employment testing they had completed before, if any. They were asked this as a check-all-that-apply question. Therefore, the percentages will not add to 100. 

Job applicants were also asked how pre-employment testing impacts their likelihood of applying for jobs. They were asked about their likelihood on the following scale:

  • Much less likely
  • Less likely
  • Somewhat less likely
  • Neither less nor more likely
  • Somewhat more likely
  • More likely
  • Much more likely

In our final visualization of the data, we combined these answer options into three broad groups: less likely, neither less nor more likely, and more likely. 

Hiring managers were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with a group of statements. They were given the following scale of options:

  • Strongly disagree
  • Disagree
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Neither disagree nor agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree

In our final visualization of the data, we combined these into three groups: disagree, neither disagree nor agree, and agree.


The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

A lot of time and resources go into hiring staff. It can be a daunting and difficult process to weed through a giant stack of resumes. If someone you know could benefit from the information in this project, you are free to share it for noncommercial reuse. We only ask that you link back here so the project can be viewed in its entirety. This also gives credit to our hardworking contributors for their efforts.


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