The Role of Pre-Employment Assessment in Employee Hiring

You Can Assess Your Candidate's Skills With These Sample Test Ideas

A business presentation is a great pre-employment assessment for a candidate who will make presentations to his customers and his team.
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You don’t want to hire an employee who will give presentations to clients, either internal or external and then find out that she is so nervous presenting that she can’t get a coherent sentence out of her mouth when standing in front of a group. You don’t want to hire a programmer who doesn’t know the programming languages listed on her resume.

How do you ensure that the people you hire aren’t just making stuff up in the interview? The formal background check helps, for sure. But, in another great way to determine appropriate background skills, many companies check the candidate’s actual skills through pre-employment assessments. You want to do any pre-employment assessment correctly, so keep in mind the following issues:

  • Only ask your most qualified couple of candidates to participate in a pre-employment assessment. It’s not fair to ask marginal candidates to spend the hours necessary for the pre-employment assessment unless they are a finalist for the position.
  • Set a time limit for any pre-assessment you request. Any work that you ask a candidate to do is taking time out of their busy schedule. Never ask your candidate for anything that requires more than an hour or two of preparation and testing unless you are willing to pay consulting fees for their time.
  • The pre-assessment test selected should not become your work product. Don’t ask a graphic design candidate to design a new logo, then not hire that person, and use the logo. Don’t ask an analyst candidate to write a report, and then use that report. That’s called stealing work. And remember, your job candidate owns the copyright on whatever they produce. Their product is not work for hire because you didn’t pay for it.
  • The pre-employment assessment should relate directly to the job. A basic math test is a must for grocery store cashiers, but not for the people who collect the carts. Asking an administrative assistant candidate to do a sales presentation makes no more sense than asking a sales candidate to do a python coding test.

Pre-Employment Assessments

While many companies test for technical skills (appropriately for software developers) or do personality assessments which are always open to interpretation, the following pre-employment assessments may provide more useful information.

Presentation Skills

Does the candidate know how to handle herself in a presentation? Can she create engaging PowerPoint slides? Can she answer questions mid-presentation without being caught off guard and losing her place? Can she speak clearly and coherently? Remember, when you request your candidate to make a presentation as a pre-employment assessment, you need only a short time, 10-15 minutes, to assess your candidate’s skills in presenting.

Internal Technical Skills

Technical skills are easy to spot on a resume, and likely your applicant tracking system returned this resume because the keywords matched. But it is one thing for a candidate to say, “I can do X,” and another thing for her to demonstrate the actual skill. While your applicant’s resume may look impressive, the person may not be able to effectively demonstrate the actual skill you need.

Why is that? The possibility that the candidate exaggerated her skills always exists, but you also need to consider the possibility that you and the candidate think about the skill differently. When you ask a candidate, “can you work with Excel?” the person may think, “yes, I can make graphs, and I can add columns of numbers, so yes.” But, you, the employer, are thinking, “We create macros that communicate between databases and generate automated reports.”

Often, a person who is doing the job right now is the best person to assess whether the candidate has the needed technical skills.

Analysis Skill Assessment

Many people have analyst roles in the workplace, but what the job title, analyst, means varies widely from job to job and company to company. Just what will you need your new employee to analyze? Give her a pre-employment assessment that is a sample analysis assignment with a report to write. Her output will demonstrate whether she understands what is going on, or not.

Customer Service

Just how do you assess a candidate’s customer service skills? Give her a customer, an employee playing the role of a customer, of course. How would she handle an irate person? Or, what does she do to make a customer feel listened to and heard out?

Remember that you haven’t trained the candidate on your company protocols, so don’t grade her based on following your three steps for conflict resolution. Look at the candidate’s overall performance and interaction and ask yourself whether you believe you could train her to your performance standards. You need to determine if she has the base that you can build on.


How does the candidate react when you give her feedback on your pre-employment test? Does she balk and become defensive? Does she calmly explain why she did what she did and ask you for additional information on why you made the suggestions you did?

This isn’t an opportunity to verbally assault your candidate but an opportunity to assess how she reacts when she is under pressure. It’s just normal feedback, “I agree with your analysis on X and Y, but I disagree with Z. Can you explain a little bit more about how you drew that conclusion?”

Don’t Forget Your Goals in Using Pre-Employment Assessment

The goal of pre-employment assessment is to determine if the person is capable of doing the job, with the amount of training you are willing and able to provide. You should never expect perfection on a pre-employment assessment because each company has its own standards and protocols.

Keep this in mind when you’re evaluating pre-employment assessments to use with potential new employees. This understanding will help you find the best person for the job. Remember, business is always changing, so hiring the candidate who can learn new skills is more important than hiring the person who does the job perfectly today.