The Seven Most Important Pre-Employment Tests

November 10, 2022
Mikaella McInerney
The Seven Most Important Pre-Employment Tests

Recruitment is a tricky process. There’s all kinds of stumbling blocks where you can fail to find out the information you need about your candidate. CVs are famously uninformative and often either exaggerate a candidate’s professional history… or are too humble for their own good! Interviews often come down to people skills—important, but not the be all and end all when it comes to a candidate’s professional abilities. Otherwise, they can be occluded by bias or simply constrained by the time and the pressure of the situation.

But guess what tends to be the most objective, accurate and valuable insight into a candidate’s professional abilities, working style and personality? That’s right, pre-employment tests! Sometimes also called talent assessment tests, pre-employment tests are a crucial stage in the recruitment process. Building them into your hiring funnel ensures a higher quality of hire every time.

There’s so many types of pre-employment tests out there that it can be overwhelming and hard to know where to start. In this article, we’ll break down our picks for the seven most important tests and how you can introduce them into your hiring process.

What is a pre-employment test?

Before we get to examples of the best pre-employment tests, let’s discuss exactly what a pre-employment test is. Essentially, a pre-employment test is a series of text-based or media-led questions or challenges testing a candidate’s expertise in a specific skill. It can cover up to three or four skill areas, and it’s comprehensive across that one skillset. For example, you might set a candidate a pre-employment test in logical thinking.

We recommend keeping pre-employment tests short, taking around ten minutes. This simulates the real world urgency of workplace tasks, as well as helping keep candidates engaged and interested in the recruitment process.

Why is a pre-employment test important?

A pre-employment test offers a key set of advantages in getting to know your candidate and assessing whether they would be a good fit for your organization. Let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits you get from conducting pre-employment tests.

Objective data saves you time

Rather than combing through CVs and trying to decide how well a candidate performs, a talent assessment test has an objective marking system that provides you with concrete results. You don’t have to wonder how much a certain promotion was because of a candidate’s cognitive abilities: their pre-employment test can tell you! It’s a more efficient and objective way of assessing a candidate’s abilities.

Compare candidates fairly

Because everyone has a different professional and educational background, sometimes it’s difficult to tell which candidate will be the best fit for the role. Using pre-employment tests tailored to the open role at hand gives you a chance to objectively compare your candidates against one another across the same playing field. Without introducing bias into the situation, you can find data-driven insights which indicate which candidate will perform best in the role.

Ensure accuracy

It’s an unfortunate truth that lots of people exaggerate on their CVs. And more than one person has told a white lie in a job interview! But there’s no way to cheat or lie on a pre-employment test, so you can be sure that you’re getting an accurate and truthful sense of who the candidate is. It’s a great way to bring honesty back into the recruitment process.

Increase employee retention

Pre-employment tests are proven to lead to a better quality of employee, ensuring that you have less turnover after filling positions. Candidates who score highly in employment tests are more likely to be a good fit for the role and stay with your company for longer. As such, pre-employment tests also save your recruiting team and the wider organization a lot of time and money further down the line!

For more information on why pre-employment tests are so important, check out our complete guide to talent assessments!

The top seven pre-employment tests

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of pre-employment tests which you can use to assess candidates on both soft and hard skills. This is a huge boon for recruiters, because it means that you can tailor-make a group of pre-employment tests to focus on the specific skills needed for the open role you need to fill. For example, with a customer sales representative you might focus more on people skills, whereas for a tech role you might turn your attention to problem solving skills.

However, this also makes it difficult to get a sense of which pre-employment tests are most important. To make it easier, we’re breaking down the most important pre-employment tests you should make part of your recruiting process! Let’s get straight into it.

Personality and culture fit

No matter how skilled a candidate is, if they’re unpleasant to work with, they’re not going to be a good fit. People with poor people skills or communicative abilities tend to alienate and discourage their colleagues, and they can cost your company lots of bad feeling as well as hits to your budget and reputation. 

As such, ensure that you test the candidate’s personality and culture fit to better understand their potential for job performance and satisfaction. Personality tests measure the characteristics an individual exhibits, and so personality and culture fit tests explore these traits and ensure they’ll fit within your company culture. A good personality test can make all the difference when it comes to hiring someone who thrives at your company… or someone who struggles to keep up. Personality and culture fit tests offer insights into the candidate’s energy, drive, information processing skills, decision making abilities, and working lifestyle.

Cognitive abilities

Cognitive ability tests are the single-most important pre-employment test: research has shown that they offer the best predictor of job performance. They’re so important that we’ve written a whole guide to why cognitive ability tests are important and how to conduct them! But to break it down simply: cognitive ability tests help you understand a candidate’s capacity for dealing with challenging mental processes successfully.

As such, a cognitive ability test assesses your candidate’s abilities around thinking: reading, problem solving, verbal ability and more. These tests aren’t as specific as technical tests which might interrogate your candidate’s knowledge of a particular subject (like a coding language or copywriting), but they’re significantly more challenging than personality tests. They might ask candidates to display skills including problem solving, numerical reasoning and more. 


A language test won’t be necessary for everyone, but when it’s necessary, it’s very necessary! Unfortunately, language skills often feel subjective. Your candidate might feel like they’re competent in German, but what if the difference between a B1 and a B2 is extremely significant in this particular role? Alternatively, what if you’re hiring for a fluent English role, and a non-native speaker is technically fluent but lacks the ability to successfully use appropriate slang and jargon as necessary?

That’s where language tests come in. A language test measures a candidate’s proficiency with a specific language, and it can be tailored to suit the proficiency level required in the role. For example, you could use a language test to emphasize jargon, or friendly conversation (for a sales role), or public speaking. This employment test is extremely important for assessing whether your candidate has the language skills they’ll need for the job. As such, it’s useful to conduct a language test before you invite them to a job interview for added efficiency.

Situational judgment

How will your candidate react during an unethical situation? What will they do if they need to disagree with their manager? How will they approach the problem of changing a difficult colleague’s mind? All of these questions and more can be answered by a situational judgment test, which helps you understand how your candidate would make decisions within specific contexts.

A situational judgment test works by offering a description of a specific situation, immediately followed by a question asking how your candidate would handle it. The emphasis is usually around risk, stress, ethics and other important business factors. They can assess your candidate’s approach to business ethics and compliance, as well as their negotiation skills, and they offer insight into how a candidate applies theoretical knowledge to work-related contexts. As such, they’re particularly useful for managerial and leadership roles.

Role-specific skills

Now is the time to really tailor your pre-employment tests to the role at hand. Testing role-specific skills gives you an objective sense of whether your candidate can get this job done or not. As such, they tend to be more technical and knowledge-based, especially for specific industries or niches. 

What does this look like? A test for role-specific skills evaluates your candidate’s professional expertise in specific knowledge areas, so they’ll test how much a candidate knows about a professional topic. For example, a marketing test might evaluate a candidate’s overall marketing aptitude (using general marketing psychology) as well as a basic understanding of marketing best practices. It might even ask for a short example of copywriting or something else relevant to the role. On the other hand, for an accounting role you might rely on role-specific skill tests that evaluate accounting concepts and terminology and their numerical abilities. You might even assess their Excel ability!

Programming skills

Another important role-specific skill, programming skills are a staple for most tech roles. They are all-important as part of modern business and innovation and for software engineers, fullstack engineers and more, programming skills are going to be crucial to performing well. On top of this, though, is the issue of just how different programming skills, tools and languages can be. A candidate with a great professional background and excellent track record of work still might not have the specific skill required to succeed in your organization. 

A programming skills test saves you the trouble of hiring a great engineer in the wrong role. Evaluate exactly which programming skills are required in the open role, making sure to consult with the hiring manager and the colleagues your candidate will be working with, and then pick the right test to assess them. For example, you might test HTML5, asking your candidate to apply knowledge of this markup language in developing websites and web applications. Or you might ask a candidate to demonstrate their coding skills with a PHP test where they perform small codding assignments. 

It’s important to note that programming skills tests can differ from other pre-employment tests in that they might last longer. You don’t want to give your candidate more work than they can realistically perform, so assess your test and how much time candidates should have for it with other programming experts in your organization. 

Software skills

Like programming skills, this type of pre-employment test is important for tech roles, but it’s more geared toward productivity and proprietary platforms. And it doesn’t need to be restricted to tech roles! A software skills test evaluates your candidate’s ability to adapt to your business environment, and so it could be important across a variety of departments.

Software skills test your candidate’s comfort and competence with anything from cloud CRM solutions (like Salesforce, HubSpot and Zendesk) to more traditional programs (for example MS Word and MS Excel) and email productivity suites (like Outlook and Google). You could also test your candidate’s abilities with marketing platforms, like Facebook Advertising or Google Ads. This kind of test is not just important for disqualifying unsuitable candidates, but in working out where your suitable candidates might need some extra onboarding support. For example, if you have a candidate who is suited for the role in every way but not comfortable with HubSpot, you’re unlikely to turn them down. Having a sense ahead of time that they’re not yet skilled with this tool gives you the chance to build it early into their onboarding!

All together now!

Unsurprisingly, all of these pre-employment tests work best together as part of a tailored group of talent assessments. Diversifying your assessments ensures you go deeper and get a full understanding of each candidate. We never work purely with one skillset, whether that’s programming or problem solving, but rather we use them to complement one another. The best talent assessments understand that and use all of these pre-employment tests, and more, to provide data-driven insights and ensure the right hire every time. 

Ready to get started? Not sure how to bring all these tests together? HiPeople offers a range of pre-employment tests to cover every aspect of a candidate’s skillset. Book a free demo today.