Debunking 10 Common Myths about Pre-Employment Assessments

Debunking 10 common myths about pre-employment assessments

There is a growing use of science-backed assessments as a powerful component of the talent acquisition process. And for good reason. Effective decision-making requires objective data and sound judgment, and that applies to decision-making about people as well. Yet, even in post-pandemic 2024, most of the millions of talent-related decisions made every day are not informed by objective data. Despite the proven outcomes of using talent assessments, some employers dismiss the value of assessments due to some common myths about how they really work. 

Here are 10 of the most prevalent misconceptions we hear from companies:

Myth #1. Assessments create a poor candidate experience.

Some businesses have been led to believe that assessments, by default, create a poor candidate experience. The truth is, that can happen if the assessments are poorly designed, misused, or confusing to candidates. However, assessments that are validated, scientifically backed, and incorporated at the right point in the hiring process can strengthen a candidate’s experience – not weaken it.  

Candidates prefer the opportunity to showcase their talents and feel favorably about assessments when the experience is properly framed. We know that companies that invest in assessments are 3X more likely to improve the candidate’s experience because the more opportunities for candidates to demonstrate their competence, the greater their overall satisfaction with the process. Furthermore, job-specific assessments help candidates present the full range of their skills which has led to an increase in the number of employers using job-specific assessments consistently.

The bottom line? Candidates don’t dislike assessments, just bad ones.

Myth #2: Assessments lengthen the hiring process.

Many employers are surprised to learn that pre-employment assessments shorten the hiring process, not prolong it. By including a pre-hire assessment in the process, hiring decision-makers remove time-consuming and often unreliable steps such as searching through resumes or conducting initial screening interviews. 

With effective and sophisticated talent assessments, hiring decision-makers receive instant objective and accurate data on a candidate and their fit for the position, eliminating the need to review initial interview notes, scan through resumes, or screen a bevy of poor fit candidates. 

Similarly, the misconception that candidates themselves are turned off by a lengthy assessment is also unfounded. Consider that job seekers spend anywhere from five to ten hours preparing for a job interview and an opportunity they might not be qualified for. While many employers are concerned with assessment lengths and candidate dropout, the research shows that the length of an assessment doesn’t predict completion rates at all. Most candidate dropout occurs within the first 10 minutes of an assessment, and there is arguably little usefulness of an assessment under 10 minutes in length. Candidates perceive assessments between 1-30 minutes in length to be the most fair and valuable. Lastly, aspects such as how an assessment is integrated with an ATS may have a larger impact on completion rates than any aspect of the assessment itself.

Myth #3: Assessments are not good during a talent shortage.

Yes, assessments do screen out candidates who aren’t qualified – but that’s the point. In today’s competitive hiring environment, companies need practical and powerful tools to effectively screen out poor-fit applicants and screen in candidates best-suited for the job – quickly and remotely. 

Talent assessment solutions help companies maintain high-caliber hires by delivering objective, science-backed data so recruiters can focus only on best-fit candidates equipped to do the job. More than a century of data implies that talent assessments measuring a person’s competencies, behaviors, values, and cultural fit helps support a standardized process of informed decision-making. 

These powerful tools and solutions based on psychometric science, provide organizations with a reliable and accurate way to systematically evaluate an applicant’s ability to successfully perform a specific job while fitting into a specific organization. Several recent survey efforts clearly show the value assessments can add, including 4X more likely to improve quality of hire and 3X more likely to improve retention – two crucial outcomes to strive for, particularly during a talent shortage.

Myth #4: Some people just aren’t good at taking tests.

We can’t argue that some people may be better than others at taking tests and performing well under pressure. Some candidates may be highly intelligent but can’t perform well under stress. The same holds true that some people are better during interviews than others but may not have the competencies needed to perform successfully in the job. 

The truth is, there are candidates who, in spite of having the right domain skills, do not have the confidence or communication skills that may be equally important for a specific job role. Identifying people who get nervous during tests can help predict underperformance in demanding job roles. 

Effective talent assessments will be inherently built to be as engaging and informal as possible to ensure candidates feel less nervous and can perform better in the assessment. Companies won’t lose good candidates because they can’t function properly under intense pressure, and for many job roles, knowing whether a person performs well under pressure may be critical to making the right hire.

Myth #5: Assessments don’t predict job performance.

Of course, there are several factors that contribute to job success, some of which are related to a candidate, and some aren’t. Therefore, there is always going to be some degree of inaccuracy in the prediction of nearly any future behavior. 

However, pre-employment assessments that are science-backed, well-designed, and job-related are very effective in predicting job performance 

Assessments that have been validated mean they are able to predict job performance with a great degree of accuracy and it is possible to use assessment scores to identify candidates most likely to perform well in the job. 

It’s important to keep in mind that not all assessments are created equal. In fact, research shows that most personality tests are just slightly better at predicting job performance than evaluating past work experience alone. 

The most effective way to measure future job performance and success is by using an assessment that measures multiple components, including cognitive ability, values, behaviors, and cultural fit. These types of assessments are highly reliable because they measure and assess a range of factors, giving hiring managers a better view of their whole. 

Myth #6: Assessments don’t work in my industry.

Pre-employment assessments can positively benefit any industry. 86% of companies across e-commerce, retail, fast-moving consumer goods, real estate, pharma, and manufacturing sectors use assessments for candidate screening. That’s because sophisticated, I/O psychology-backed assessments can measure competencies and qualities in candidates that are fundamental to core job function, regardless of industry – such as critical thinking or problem-solving skills that can be universal to any role. 

Most important, effective assessment solutions can be customized to specific industries and job role, based on benchmark assessment data on similar roles and through specific questions curated by subject matter experts within the organization.

Myth #7: Assessments filter out strong candidates.

The truth is that pre-employment assessments avoid filtering out strong candidates. Traditional and often standard practices of resume scanning and interviewing are more likely to be unreliable ways to filter strong candidates in or out. A recent study by Forbes found that recruiters only spend 6-8 seconds reviewing a resume. 

Pre-employment assessments that are structured well and backed by science and data are far more reliable. They allow strong candidates to demonstrate their behaviors, values, and cognitive abilities without any doubt or bias. They offer an added bonus of being even more predictive of job performance than other subjective filtering tactics like resumes and interviews. 

In fact, a recent study noted that a significant percentage of HR professionals said a job candidate who scores high on an assessment but doesn’t meet the minimum job requirements on a resume would still be very likely to make it onto the list of final candidates for consideration. When organizations utilize assessments, hiring decision-makers know they are getting the strongest candidates based on results ranking and the assurance they haven’t overlooked a potential star employee based on their resume or interview alone.

Myth #8: Only game-based assessments engage candidates.

There has been a perception among some employers that “gamified” assessments are the newest trend and are popular among candidates. That’s simply not the case. Though somewhat dated, we still agree with this Research that has shown candidates would rather be drug-tested (15%) than take a game-based assessment in the hiring context. From an employer standpoint, should we be engaging our candidates or entertaining them? Candidates may not want to just play a game; they’d rather demonstrate their skills. 

So, assessments shouldn’t gamify just to gamify. There is potential for advanced technologies and techniques (e.g. gamified assessments) to be job-relevant and assess for role simulations but they must be skewed towards skill demonstration vs. entertainment. At a minimum, assessment vendors should have technical documentation describing the reliability, validity, and prescribed uses of their assessments. The bottom line is that decades of research has shown that traditional assessments of cognitive ability and competencies that are specific to the job, continue to be some of the best predictors in the market. 

Prioritizing pre-hire assessments that measure competencies, values, behaviors, and cultural fit over assessments you think may be “fun” for candidates is a safer route to take.

Myth #9: It’s easy for candidates to cheat on assessments.

Contrary to many beliefs, it is not easy to cheat or fake your way through a pre-employment assessment. Many of the traditional hiring practices such as relying on resume information or interviews, offer candidates greater opportunity to cheat or be dishonest. Consider that up to 85% of candidates lie on resumes and AI bots don’t change this reality.  And 3 in 4 hiring managers have selected the wrong employee for the job because of misleading information shared through resumes. 

Self-report assessments that measure personality or values are subject to impression management, where a candidate is simply presenting the most positive version of themselves because they are motivated to get the job – think dressing professionally for an interview vs. wearing what you’re most comfortable in like jeans. Impression management can be considered a good thing and is vastly different from faking or lying about skills or past experiences. If a candidate is not smart enough or motivated enough to impression manage to at least some extent, they’re likely not a very strong candidate. 

Well-designed and science-backed pre-employment assessments take precautions to ensure that candidates have little to no opportunity to cheat or be dishonest, detect attempts to manipulate responses, and take impression management into account. Well-built assessments are validated, meaning they accurately measure what they are supposed to measure and make them more resistant to types of response distortion. 

Myth #10: Using assessments increases your likelihood of a lawsuit.

The truth is most assessments are EEOC compliant as long as they are related to successful job performance or a candidate’s likelihood to be successful. Assessments can decrease the likelihood of discrimination and being sued. The standardized format and objectivity of assessments reduce bias and increase fairness by creating a level playing field, replacing the use of restrictive and potentially unfair predictors of job success such as resumes and educational attainment. 

On the contrary, the most frequently challenged selection tool in lawsuits is the unstructured interview, which represents around 57% of all challenges, because they are least likely to withstand scrutiny and ultimately end up going against the defendant. 

Organizations can reduce the risk of conscious or unconscious biases that are often part of today’s hiring process through automated tools and algorithms that remove factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, and more. However, one of the most effective ways to avoid hiring based on gut feel or bias is to adopt objective, data-based assessments that drive hiring decisions which are based on unbiased data, naturally expanding the applicant base to a diverse range of candidates. 

A More Accurate View of Pre-Employment Assessments.

It’s important to understand the myths and realities surrounding assessments so that you’re armed with all the reasons why your organization should be using them. From improving efficiency to avoiding a bad hire to being able to predict success and team cohesiveness to reducing bias, assessments are helping organizations create powerful, productive, and innovative teams. 

XBInsight has pioneered the talent assessment industry, designing and building one of the most sophisticated, multi-faceted, and proven assessment platforms in the sector. In partnership with leading I/O psychologists and data scientists, our assessments are backed by science and validated to measure cognitive abilities, recognize important behavioral traits, and predict future performance. 

Visit here to learn more about how XBInsight uses objective science-backed data to drive talent assessments and virtual hiring solutions.