Can Aptitude Tests Really Predict Employee Success?
The use of aptitude and knowledge tests to screen potential job applicants has long been standard practice across many different sectors. As such they have become an important and integral part of the overall interview process.
These days, any job vacancy is likely to attract a large pool of potential candidates. Pre-screening these applicants can help reduce the number to a more manageable size who will then go forward into a more rigorous screening phase.
The Accuracy of Aptitude Tests
Aptitude tests afford companies an opportunity to make a more informed decision when it comes to hiring. With often more than one applicant applying for a position, the importance of being able to make comparisons can’t be underestimated. The tests assess many factors which are very important in terms of choosing the right candidate. They can assess an applicant’s ability to problem solve, reason, write coherently and get along with others.
In conjunction with the interview, the tests give a very accurate picture of a candidate’s potential to be successful in the position they are pursuing. Different aptitude tests measure different qualities but in the end they all afford the interviewer valuable information that cannot be identified from the interview process alone. However, the tests need to be designed with the actual vacancy in mind. It makes sense to ensure the skills and knowledge you are testing is relevant to the position on offer, otherwise the results will be wholly inaccurate.
Providing the tests are applied correctly, they can be a representative measure of performance similar to actually placing that person in the job.
Types and Application of Aptitude Tests
The content of an aptitude test and the way in which it is delivered needs to be considered carefully. Not only should the tests be considered from both a cost and time point of view, but also in terms of appropriateness to the job being offered.
Types of tests include:
- Skills Tests: Typically these are easy tasks relating to an important function of the job, such as keyboard/typing speeds or data entry.
- Knowledge Tests: These are designed to measure how much a candidate knows about a particular aspect of the job. A knowledge test should be based on a particular topic that is relevant to the job to ensure a candidate has the required level of knowledge.
- Ability Tests: Typically these tests are used to measure cognitive or mental ability. Ability tests have been related to performance levels and are based on presenting candidates with workplace scenarios and asking them to explain what they would do in a given situation.
- Personality Tests: Many personality tests exist, but, the most commonly used in employment screening measures five basic factors of personality – (1) openness to experience, (2) extroversion, (3) agreeableness, (4) conscientiousness, and (5) emotional stability. This test is often used for sales positions and there is evidence that personality testing can be used to predict performance. ¹
Typically, aptitude tests are delivered in a time controlled environment, either at the employer’s premises, or at a testing center operated by a third party who designs and administers the test. Traditionally, they would be pencil and paper affairs or delivered via a PC. However, these days many employers are turning to the internet to supply and administer aptitude tests. There are numerous benefits to choosing internet based testing, including:
- Convenience for the candidate – they can take the test from home negating the need to travel to testing centers.
- The ability to test large numbers of candidates at one time.
- Real time reporting and faster results submission, meaning the process of screening candidates is faster.
Advantages of Aptitude Tests
There are certain advantages to administering aptitude tests in conjunction with the interview process:
- Studies² have shown that overall the tests are quite accurate in predicting the potential for success. There are further advantages too in using the tests to help identify the right candidate for the job, whether it is a new hire or a promotion.
- The tests are also fairly accurate when it comes to assessing a person’s strengths and weaknesses. Interviews alone may not provide the in-depth look at the candidate that is required, so the addition of an aptitude test offers greater insight into the candidate’s potential for success.
- Aptitude tests can afford the candidate an opportunity to examine the types of skills the position calls for. It is very important that the job applicant feel that they will be the right fit for the position.
Disadvantages of Aptitude Tests
- Aptitude tests can be quite costly to both develop and administer.
- The tests must be tailored to the various positions in the company. Each job requires different skills and the tests must accurately reflect those needs.
- It is also important to recognize that the tests are time consuming to administer and, at the risk of being trite, time is money.
- One other extremely important thing to keep in mind is that the tests must be kept current and relevant. Job descriptions and requirements change and the aptitude tests must change with a company’s evolving needs.
- Aptitude tests may make the job applicant quite apprehensive and stressed and the interviewer must take into account the affect such a reaction will have on the outcome. It is generally thought that the job applicant should be advised in advance that they will be required to take an aptitude test.
The Big Picture
Matching candidates to job vacancies often marks the beginning of what is known as employee-relationship-management (ERM). Setting out how candidates will be evaluated and selected is integral to forming the basis of this relationship and can form the framework on which future performance will be measured. Whilst a sound job description will help potential employees understand the responsibilities and expectations necessary to undertake the role, the application of knowledge and skills tests at an early stage can help identify future development goals.
1. The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-25. Barrick, M.R. & Mount, M.K., 1991.
2. Quantifying the effects of psychological interventions on employee job performance and work-force productivity. Hunter, John E.; Schmidt, Frank L. American Psychologist, Vol 38(4), Apr 1983, 473-478 http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/38/4/473/
This article was written by Georgina Clatworthy who writes on topics relating to business, recruitment and communications. She is a contributing writer for testing company, Sales Drive, whose sales assessment tests are counted as some of the most accurate available to employers today.
Further Reading on Aptitude Testing: