About Testing

Frequently Asked Questions About Employment Testing

Click on each question below to find more information about that question. There is a list of more sources of information at the bottom of this page.

What Are Employment Tests?

Why Do Companies Use Employment Tests?

How Can You Be Sure People Are Telling The Truth On Employment Tests?

Is It Legal To Use Employment Tests?

What Does “Job-Relevant” Mean For Employment Tests?

What Do “Validation” and “Reliability” Mean With Regard To Employment Tests?

What Questions Should I Ask About An Employment Test Before Our Company Uses It?

Why Can’t We Make Our Own Employment Test For Use In Our Company?

Where Can I Get More Information About Employment Testing? 


What Are Employment Tests? An employment test, as the term is used in this context, is any instrument such as a questionnaire, or a computer-administered set of questions, that is used to measure some aspect of a person’s knowledge, skill, or suitability for a job or task. There are two basic kinds of employment tests:

  • Aptitude, or ability, tests measure how well the test taker can perform some skill that is required by the job, such as the ability to count money accurately under time pressure.
  • Attitude tests measure the test taker’s attitudes or opinions about a specific subject that is related to the job, such as attitudes about punctuality or attendance.

Employment tests should be developed according to the guidelines published by professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Education Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education and promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Employment tests should always be used in addition to all other job-relevant information about an applicant and his or her knowledge, skills, and abilities.



Why Do Companies Use Employment Tests?




To Avoid Bias In Hiring Procedures

There are two kinds of bias that should be considered. The law forbids discrimination, sometimes referred to as bias, in hiring. According to the U.S. employment law as promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, all aspects of the hiring process, such as interviews, application forms, reference checks, background investigations, physical examinations, drug testing, job-relevant tests, etc., are to be fair and not biased against any individual or group.

A second kind of bias arises from the natural human tendency to allow impressions, pre-conceived notions, and variations in interpretation to affect decisions and actions. This is almost always an unconscious, unintentional bias on an interviewer’s part in the hiring process.

The best way to guard against the second kind of bias exerting an unintended influence during the hiring process is to rely on procedures and tools that are objective and consistent. Properly validated employment tests that are job-relevant help companies avoid the influence of the second kind of bias in the hiring process. There is usually no such evidence that can be shown to support the idea that the interview, reference checks, or any other part of the hiring process is equally fair and unbiased.



To Obtain Job-Relevant Information About An Applicant

Job-relevant tests provide specific information about knowledge, skills, abilities, or attitudes required by the job. They can help an employer learn in advance whether a job applicant has the knowledge, skills, aptitudes, or attitudes that are needed to do the job.



To Identify Qualified Job Applicants

Employment tests help improve the match between the job and the person who will be placed in that job by helping the employer match the job’s requirements with the person or people who come closest to meeting those requirements.



To Gain Consistency And Uniformity In The Hiring Process

Employment tests ask the same questions, in the same order, every time. They are scored and the results are presented in exactly the same way. This sameness lets the employer focus on the applicant’s responses. Even the best interviewer can have a bad day and forget to ask all the questions of each candidate. Tests don’t have bad days.



To Save Time

Applicants can answer hundreds of test questions without taking up an interviewer’s time. Employment tests use the applicant’s time, not the company’s time. When there are many candidates for the same position, tests help an employer narrow the number of people who will be considered to those who meet certain job requirements — and do so in a time- and cost-effective way.



To Demonstrate Respect For The Applicant Or Employee

Employment tests give each applicant an opportunity to demonstrate their job-relevant skills or attitudes in a fair, unbiased way. Giving all applicants and employees this same opportunity is a demonstration of fair-mindedness and respect on the company’s part.



How Can You Be Sure People Are Telling the Truth On Employment Tests? It is always important to evaluate how accurately a person is reporting attitudes or preferences that grow out of general personality characteristics. Well-designed employment tests include questions about situations and attitudes that are widely experienced and agreed upon. People who answer most of these questions in an unexpected way raise a question about how accurately they are reporting their attitudes throughout the employment test. The most important thing to keep in mind when you suspect that an applicant has not told the truth on an employment test is to try to understand why they have done so. Some people who are new to the working population are apprehensive about making self-critical statements, and that can make them sound as if they are not being honest when, in fact, they are simply trying to make a good impression.



Is It Legal To Use Employment Tests? Yes, job-relevant, validated employment tests are a fast, fair, accurate, and legal means to better selection, placement, and promotion decisions. The better the match between a person’s skills, knowledge, abilities, and attitudes, and the requirements for the job, the more likely the person in that job will work productively and successfully. The proper use of employment tests is good for the employer and good for the employee or applicant. There are two legal criteria that employment tests must meet. Employment tests must be (1) properly validated, and (2) job-relevant. If they meet these criteria, then it is legal to use them.



What Does “Job-Relevant” Mean For Employment Tests? There must be a demonstrable link between what the employment test measures and what the job requires. This means that the test publisher is responsible for making sure that the employment test measures the skill or attitude that it is designed to measure, through a process called validation, and the company that uses an employment test is responsible for making sure that the job description demonstrates the need for behavior or attitudes that the employment test measures.



What Do “Validation” and “Reliability” Mean With Regard To Employment Tests? “Validity” refers to how well an employment test measures what it is supposed to measure. A validation study is a systematic gathering of data and information to support a claim that an employment test is valid, or (in other words) that it measures what it says it measures. “Reliability” refers to the consistency in performance of an employment test: does it measure the same knowledge, skill, or ability every time it is used?

Employment tests should be carefully documented so that people and companies that want to use them can examine the way they were developed and validated, and for what purpose they are intended.

There are professional guidelines and standards for how an employment test is validated. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission publishes Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures that includes standards that a proper validation study should meet. This does not mean that EEOC “approves” a validation study or an employment test. The EEOC does not review, approve, or give stamp of approval to specific tests.

The American Psychological Association has published Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing that serve as guidelines for psychologists to use in the development and use of tests. These standards do not have the force of law, but psychologists who are involved in the development and use of employment tests should be thoroughly familiar with them.

Our Assurance To You: All of the employment tests that Helm and Associates, Inc., develop and market exceed the American Psychological Associations standards, and the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines. Helm and Associates is dedicated to the proper use of employment tests to make hiring, placement, and promotion procedures fair and objective. It is our belief that both organizations and their employees benefit most when there is a good match between the job and the applicant who fills it.



What Questions Should I Ask About An Employment Test Before Our Company Uses It? You should ask about the basic purpose the test was designed to serve. For example, was it designed to be used as an employment test and, if so, for what positions and in what industries? You should ask to see a copy of the validation and reliability study [CLICK HERE for more information about validity and reliability.] You should ask how the employment test is scored or evaluated, and what kind of customer support the company from which you buy it provides.



Why Can’t We Make Our Own Employment Test For Use In Our Company? Making the test is the relatively easy part. Validating the test must be done according to the E.E.O.C.’s Uniform Guidelines, and that is the hard part. The test validation process is costly, time-consuming, and technically challenging. Making your own test is about as difficult as making your own airplane and, if your test is legally challenged, it is about as risky. Like the man said, “I like milk, but not enough to buy a cow. If I want milk, I’ll go to the store and buy a quart.”



Where Can I Get More Information About Employment Testing? There are many sources of information about employment testing and the list of sources below is far from exhaustive. Your state’s employment commission may have information that is relevant especially for you, in addition to these sources. Other sources of information can be found in the local public library, and by contacting organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, or your state or local psychological associations.

American Psychological Association. STANDARDS FOR EDUCATIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING. APA, 1200 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, 1985.

Anastasi, A. PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING. New York: Macmillian, 1988.

Association of Personnel Test Publishers. MODEL GUIDELINES FOR PRE-EMPLOYMENT INTEGRITY TESTING PROGRAMS. APTP, 655 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, 1990.

Guion, Robert. PERSONNEL TESTING. New York: McGraw Hill, 1965.

Rose, Robert G. PRACTICAL ISSUES IN EMPLOYMENT TESTING. Odessa, Florida: Psychological Assessment Resources, 1993.

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. PRINCIPLES FOR THE VALIDATION AND USE OF PERSONNEL SELECTION PROCEDURES. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, 1987.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. UNIFORM GUIDELINES ON EMPLOYEE SELECTION PROCEDURES IN 29CFR1607. U.S. EEOC, 1801 L Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20507, 1978.