The various tests you can administer to job applicants include achievement tests, physical ability tests and aptitude tests. Drug testing, medical exams, and perhaps lie detector testing may be prudent or even mandatory.
If you're in the process of hiring an employee, depending on the type of position you're hiring for and the industry you do business in, it may be worthwhile for you to test potential hires. In some cases, legal rules and industry standards will require you to administer tests to job applicants. There are various types of tests that can help you gather information regarding a candidate's fitness for the position you're trying to fill.
Before testing job applicants, employers must consider restrictions imposed by various federal and state anti-discrimination laws. If you have 15 or more employees and are subject to federal anti-discrimination rules, or have fewer employees but are covered by your state's law, check with your legal counsel before you administer tests.
Some of the more well-known tests for job applicants that you may be considering include:
- achievement tests
- aptitude tests
- physical ability/agility tests
- personality tests
- honesty tests
- lie detector tests
- drug tests
- medical exams
Use achievement tests to pick out those applicants who already possess a special skill or knowledge needed to perform a job. As opposed to aptitude tests, which assess an applicant's potential, the achievement test determines what the applicant already knows. Therefore, achievement tests are usually the most reliable and valid at predicting actual job performances.
What type of achievement test should you use? Some achievement tests are actually performances — an applicant is given a letter to be typed or a forklift to be driven. Typing, knowledge of a computers, and other clerical tests are, in fact, the most widely used employment tests because they are demonstrably job-related. If possible, we suggest that you strongly consider using a simple performance test by giving an applicant a task that would be commonly required on the job and seeing how he or she does.
Another type of achievement test is one that puts the applicants in a hypothetical situation to gauge their responses.
Aptitude tests can measure general intelligence, space visualization, mathematical aptitude, verbal conceptualization, and other capabilities. You might want to consider using aptitude tests if you need to measure a person's capabilities and potential.
For example, one kind of aptitude test is a performance simulation, such as a manual dexterity test that requires the test taker to manipulate small parts on a test board. A successful completion of this exercise would demonstrate the applicant's aptitude for small assembly work.
Physical Ability and Agility Tests
Physical ability and agility tests assess an applicant's endurance, strength, or overall physical fitness needed to perform actual or simulated job-related tasks.
Tests in this category do not seek information concerning the existence, nature, or severity of an individual's physical or mental impairment, or information regarding an individual's physical or psychological health. They simply measure an applicant's ability to perform a task.
True physical ability and agility tests, properly administered, are not considered medical tests and are not prohibited before a job offer is made. However, a test that measures an applicant's physiological or biological responses to performance would constitute a medical examination according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) interpretation of the ADA, and cannot be given until after a conditional job offer is made. Therefore, employers subject to federal anti-discrimination rules must be mindful of what constitutes a test of health and what constitutes a test of ability to perform a task. The distinction is not always easy to determine.
Physical ability tests must be given to all applicants regardless of disability. If the tests screen out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, and you are subject to the laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled individuals, you would have to demonstrate that:
- The test is job-related.
- It is consistent with business necessity.
- Performance cannot be achieved with reasonable accommodation.
Personality tests were developed by psychologists and psychiatrists for use in counseling and therapy. One commonly used personality test in educational settings is the Myers-Briggs test. For most employers, their usefulness is limited in the hiring process.
Personality tests may help to establish which applicants are mature, objective, sociable, happy, etc., but their use in making employment decisions is controversial. They are difficult to validate and are considered unreliable by some.
Some applicants will attempt to fake personality tests to give the "right" answers. Others will resent what seems to be an invasion of their privacy. If you do decide to use this type of test, make sure that the questions are not too intrusive and that they relate to the job in some way.
When Are Lie Detector and Honesty Tests Useful?
Other tests that can be useful to screen job applicants, but only in limited circumstances, are lie detector tests and honesty tests.
Lie Detector Tests
Lie detector tests should be reserved for instances when they are absolutely needed, such as for jobs where employees:
- have access to large amounts of money
- carry guns
Under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), and the law in many states, most private employers are prohibited from requiring, requesting, causing, or suggesting that job applicants (or employees) take polygraph tests as a condition of employment.
Further, employers may not retaliate against job applicants or employees based on the results of a polygraph test or because of a refusal to submit to such a test.
Since the EPPA became effective, polygraph testing of job applicants has been virtually eliminated by private employers.
So when are lie detector tests appropriate for job applicants? Lie detector/polygraph tests may be administered to:
- certain job applicants of security service firms
- certain employees of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers
The tests may also be randomly administered to federal, state, and local government job applicants and employees. Employees of national defense and security contractors of the federal government may be tested by the federal government but such tests cannot be administered by the contractor itself.
State lie detector testing laws. Some states place additional restrictions on how lie detector tests can be administered and what can be asked. Consult our state map to learn about additional requirements for employers in those states.
If it is determined, with the aid of legal counsel, that your company has the right and the need to test, certain notices must be provided and procedures followed to ensure that the testing complies with all relevant state and federal laws.
Even if the law prevents you from suggesting a test, a job applicant may voluntarily ask to take the test. If you wish to grant the request, all relevant procedures must be followed to ensure that an applicant is not subjected to an illegal polygraph examination.