Managers Don’t Trust Pre-Employment Tests: Why?

Would you hire a candidate if he agreed with the following statements during the interview?

  • I am usually satisfied with work that is “good enough.”
  • It is not necessary to do more than enough work to get by.
  • My anger frightens other people.
  • Sometime you have to lie a little to protect yourself.

Would it surprise you to find out that many managers do say yes. If so, you wouldn’t be alone. Thousands of managers make that decision every day; ignoring the results of pre-employment tests and allowing their egos and gut instinct to rationalize very clear signs of employee behavior danger.

Pre-employment tests enjoy a love-hate relationship with managers. Some managers live and die by the results of a pre-employment assessment test in screening out candidates. Others despise the notion that a simple questionnaire might second guess a hiring manager’s gut feeling about how well a candidate might fit into a job. The fact is that both approaches are flawed.

Hiring ManagerFirst of all, both parties must consider moderation when using pre-employment tests. The die-hard advocates must put the results of these tests in context. No test should be used as the sole determinant in screening out or selecting a candidate. The best formula for hiring is one-third interview and experience, one -third reference and background checks, and one-third pre employment assessment tests.

Alternatively, ignoring employment tests as part of the employee selection process ignores a powerful ally in the search for the right fit candidate. A validated assessment offers an objective third party view of a candidate, often exposing character flaws as well as unidentified potential.

Then we have situations where the assessment results paint a clear picture of a risky hire and the manager’s opinion is called into question.

For instance, I received a phone call just the other day from a manager questioning the results of candidate’s honesty and integrity report. A candidate revealed during the interview that he had been picked up twice during the last year for driving without a valid license. The candidate explained this away by saying he had a mortgage to pay and a family to support. “I couldn’t afford to lose my job,” he said.

The employer interpreted that commitment to his family as a positive value. He questioned why the pre employment test would raise red flags about this individual’s character when he was such a good father and husband. He rationalized away that driving despite a suspended license was still illegal no matter what the reason. He ignored how this candidate might respond again if he lacked the money to pay his mortgage, to put food on his family’s table, or to purchase medications for his children. Would he resort to “borrowing” money from his employer without the employer knowing it? That’s exactly what many employees caught embezzling fund say when caught – “I wasn’t stealing because I meant to pay it back.” What lies would he be willing to tell to protect his family?

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider what lengths one employee working for a Wisconsin business went to “keep her husband happy.” (Hint: she had systematically stolen more than $600,000 from the business over five years.)

While not absolute, the pre-employment test prompts red flags in areas of conscientiousness, hostility, and honesty. The responses on a validated assessment clearly indicate how a potential candidate like the one described above might react if given a choice between family and the law. And yet employers choose to doubt what they read in the candidate’s report despite numerous confirming statements about questionable integrity.

Pre-employment tests can offer valuable insight into a candidate’s integrity, work attitude, and job fit. They are effective and reliable indicators of job fit and future performance. Ignorance is not bliss when hiring employees and pre employment assessment tests can help managers hire smarter.

Learn more about how to hire employees with a positive attitude.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

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