8 Types of Pre-Employment Tests to Give an Interviewee

personality test types

When inviting candidates for an interview and making hiring decisions, HR professionals benefit from as much information as possible, including results of pre-employment tests.

Pre-employment tests are an objective and standardised way of gathering data on candidates during the interview process. Provided these tests are professionally developed and well-validated, they are one of the most efficient and reliable ways to gain solid insights into the traits, skills, knowledge and capabilities of potential employees.

There are many different interview test types available, all of which are used to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a role.

The type of interview test you perform depends entirely on the role you are hiring for. Therefore, you need to understand what is required from the role, including the knowledge, skills and abilities that potential hires must possess in order to successfully perform their job.

But it's not only recruiters and companies that benefit from pre-interview testing. According to Eliza Nimmich, the cofounder and COO of online and in-person tutoring and test preparation company Tutor the People: ‘Employees profit from evaluating abilities as well. Nobody needs to find themselves in a [job] they cannot perform. Employees who will easily become active are more likely to be happy with their work.’

Here are eight popular pre-employment tests to give potential hiring during the interview stage.

1. Aptitude tests

Aptitude tests, also known as ability tests, measure an individual’s ability to problem-solve, learn, digest and apply new information. They also measure critical thinking, and since critical thinking skills are essential to countless jobs, aptitude tests can be used in pretty much any occupational context.

As Nimmich affirms ‘tests may assess independently how much experience and ability an applicant requires for a particular mission. Using an analytical, quantitative calculation method, you will extrapolate more exactly how efficient the employee can be after they are employed.’

Under the umbrella of aptitude tests, there are a number of different types of tests you can perform, including:

  • Numerical reasoning tests: Questions asked in these assessments are typically based on statistics and charts. They assess an individual’s ability to quickly and accurately understand numbers.
  • Abstract reasoning tests: These tests, also known as inductive reasoning tests, are used to identify how well an individual understands logic. Their goal is to measure lateral thinking and fluid intelligence using shapes and patterns.
  • Verbal reasoning tests: These test a candidate’s ability to understand, analyse and comprehend paragraphs of text. Each chunk of text is following by a question, while the questions typically get increasingly difficult.
  • In-tray and e-tray tests: In-tray tests, and their e-tray equivalent, are used to test a candidate’s ability to handle real work scenarios, such as conflicting schedules, multiple requests and tight deadlines. They’re often used for administrative roles, as such roles require the new employee to be able to manage their time and prioritise their workload.

2. Psychometric tests

Psychometric tests provide a way of understanding a person’s suitability for a job and offer a robust way of sifting through many candidates. They’re useful in showing recruiters something other than academic results and are a great tool to use at the beginning of the recruitment process.

Psychometric tests come in many forms and are generally used to measure intelligence, skills, critical thinking abilities and competencies to effectively perform a job. This is a standardised, structured way of assessing certain aspects of an individual’s characteristics or capabilities.

A situational judgement test (SJT) is one example of a psychometric test. SJTs measure behaviour and attitudes to work-related scenarios. They provide candidates with situations that they would experience on the job, along with viable options for handling the situations presented. Candidates must select the most effective way of handling a situation from the options provided.

3. Skills tests

Skills tests measure competencies related to specific roles. They can be broad in nature, testing verbal, mathematic and communication skills, or narrow in nature, testing typing abilities or computer skills, for example.

As Victoria Sehgal from talent consultancy firm Peyton Ames asserts: ‘Assessments which vet technical skills allow the recruiter to weed out people with good CVs but no substance and also consider those from untraditional backgrounds who cannot prove themselves on CV alone.’

Skills tests differ from psychometric tests in that they’re based on the skill and ability to perform a task effectively. In contrast, psychometric tests are based on proven theories and statistical analyses. They’re also performed during the later stages of the hiring process. The biggest downside to skills tests is that they can be time-consuming, particularly when it comes to the evaluation process.

4. Cognitive ability tests

These assessments measure a variety of mental abilities, such as verbal and mathematical ability, mechanical reasoning, reading comprehension and memory span.

Cognitive ability tests are divided into the following two categories:

  • Fluid intelligence: The ability to differentiate between different factors, retain new information and handle issues under various circumstances.
  • Crystallised intelligence: An individual’s capacity to use data and utilise their expertise to perform different tasks.

Cognitive ability tests have proven extremely useful predictors of job performance and are frequently used when making selection decisions for a wide range of jobs. These tests are one of the lowest-cost selection methods (many are available free of charge online), while their predictive value also increases as the complexity of the job increases.

While cognitive ability tests certainly have their benefits, they have been known to be vulnerable to ethnic and racial differences, and as such, managers and HR professionals should perform them in combination with other tests.

5. Personality tests

Personality tests measure behavioural traits. Personality tests that assess traits relative to job performance have been proven to be effective predictors of subsequent job performance.

Factors that are frequently assessed include conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion, motivation and emotional ability. Research has found that conscientiousness is one of the most useful predictors of performance across a range of jobs.

‘Assessments are useful during the hiring process in that they help provide additional insights into a person's personality,’ says Sehgal. ‘Assessments which provide insights into personality allow interviewers and recruiters to probe further into traits that could be culture or manager fit deal breakers.’

Personality tests usually consist of multiple-choice or true-or-false questions measuring different personality factors, although other factors are also useful predictors of performance in certain roles. With personality tests, there are no right or wrong answers. It’s more a case of whether the individual is a good match, not just from a job fit perspective but from a cultural perspective, too.

6. Physical fitness/ability tests

Physical ability tests are used in certain selection situations. They focus on physical attributes of job candidates, such as an individual’s endurance, strength or general fitness necessary to perform the job.

Firefighters, for example, need to be able to carry people out of burning buildings, as well as firefighting equipment. Other jobs that require physical fitness include lifeguards, military personnel, construction workers, choreographers and police officers.

While physical ability tests are a great measure of one’s fitness levels, you should also take into account age, gender and ethnicity when assessing results.

7. Integrity tests

Integrity tests were some of the first-ever pre-employment tests carried out and continue to be used to this day to predict job performance. They measure attitudes and experiences that are related to an individual’s trustworthiness, honesty and dependability.

Integrity tests come in two forms: overt integrity tests and covert integrity tests. Overt integrity tests involve asking direct questions related to integrity and ethics. Covert tests, on the other hand, evaluate personality traits linked to integrity, such as conscientiousness.

Like many of the abovementioned tests, integrity tests are typically administered in multiple-choice formats. They’re considered less biased than other tests, with few differences found between people of different races or age groups. The biggest concern with integrity tests is with candidates faking their answers, especially in the case of overt integrity tests.

8. Presentations

Presentations are often used to assess an individual’s ability to think under pressure. Whether you’re pitching an idea or a product, this sort of test is used to measure your confidence levels – and your ability to communicate.

For certain roles, asking a candidate to do a presentation is a great way to determine one’s diligence and capacity to do the job. This also shows recruiters the thought processes and levels of creativity a potential hire possesses.

Hiring top talent has become of vital importance to organisations. In this ever-changing and dynamic work environment, it’s fundamental that businesses possess optimal recruitment strategies, such as pre-employment testing.

The traditional screening methods adopted by HR departments, such as group discussions, panel rounds and basic tests, have become less prevalent. Organisations and HR departments are becoming more adept at adopting effective recruitment assessments during the hiring process.

As Nimmich also states: ‘Any new employee would of course require time to learn and transition to their new job. Yet workers who will instantly start becoming effective would help the employer minimise the expense of training.’

To boost the efficiency of pre-employment testing, it’s recommended to use at least two types of test in order to streamline the hiring process and make more the most informed hiring decisions.

What pre-employment tests are you using to help with your hiring decisions? Let us know in the comments section below!


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 7 June 2013.