A variety of pre-employment screening tests exist for
employers to evaluate the best candidates for a position.
The tests come with risks and rewards, though, along
with legal implications. In all cases, the candidate’s
permission should be obtained—in writing—to perform
any and all screenings, tests and assessments, and
even checks into their history online and through social
networks. Because laws change frequently, have your
documentation reviewed by your legal counsel annually
as part of your risk management plan.
1 INTELLIGENCE AND TECHNICAL TESTS
Definition: Knowledge and skill tests
Why perform such a test: They appear to be the easiest
to correlate to essential job functions and apply without
bias when used wisely.
Drawbacks: Must verify they accurately test attributes
2 REFERENCE TESTS
that relate directly to job essentials and, as Craig D.
McMahon, partner of Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP
reported, “…provide a reasonable measure of job perfor-
mance, evaluating the person for the job, not the person
in the abstract.”
Mitchell Rosenberg, Ph.D, sited another consideration,
“Most skills are ‘trainable’ and usually do not distinguish
the average candidate from the exceptional performer.”
Definition: Contacting former employers; confirming said
education, designations, and licensing directly; checking with contacts on social networks such as LinkedIn
regarding an individual; and performing Web searches to
see if and how a particular individual is reflected.
Why perform such a test: References can confirm a
candidate’s ability to perform, as well as whether a
candidate is being truthful about their experience and
Drawbacks: Not all previous employers will be open
about the candidate and his or her performance.
Additionally, Web-based information isn’t always accurate.
3 CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
AND HONESTY TESTS
Definition: Public and criminal records searches to
determine if a person has been convicted of a crime;
and assessments to identify job candidates who are
untruthful about their pasts
Why perform such a test: Criminal background checks
increase in importance when there is access to high-
risk items such as money or other assets, and confiden-
tial business or tenant records. Conducting a criminal
background check is relatively easy and inexpensive.
Drawbacks: Laws vary widely from state to state regard-
ing the administration of criminal background checks.
Concerns regarding accuracy stem from the lack of a
centralized database that maintains records of convic-
tion. McMahon cautioned, “Convictions should not be
an absolute bar to employment. Rather, the employer
should carefully evaluate the severity of the crime in
relation to current work demands as well as passage of
time since the conviction.”
Honesty tests are rarely reliable and may violate anti-
discrimination laws and violations of privacy.
4 CREDIT CHECKS
Definition: Running a candidate’s credit report to indicate
if delinquent payments exist, bankruptcies have been
filed, or any judgments have been assessed.
Why perform such a test: If a position will be handling
money or other assets, have authorization for spending or access to customers’ property, you may want to
ensure the person has financial maturity, responsibility,
and is not in economic straits.
Drawbacks: The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires a
candidate’s written consent to check her or his credit.
Should the person be turned down because of the credit
check’s results, the act requires you provide the candidate a copy of the report, the source of the report, and
inform the person of the right to dispute the report.
5 PHYSICAL TESTS
Definition: Inquiries into an applicant’s physical ability
to perform job-related functions—and is not a medical
Why perform such a test: Physical tests can ensure a
candidate can perform any physical functions related to
Drawbacks: Physical assessments are an area where
discriminatory practices can abound. McMahon advised,
“Ensure they do not disproportionately disqualify applicants based upon their protected class characteristics
and require such tests only if all applicants are required
to do so.” Use insured, third parties to determine how
the testing is administered and evaluated to add legal