Questions About Testing in Business Settings

How do tests help business?

Business organizations use a variety of tests as aids in hiring, placing, or promoting employees. Tests can help human resource professionals find the right person for the right job as well as advance an employee along a career path that makes the best use of his or her talents and strengths. Tests can be also be used in putting together effective teams or work groups and in helping them to operate well together. Testing, when properly used, results in more motivated, productive, and satisfied workers and less friction and dissatisfaction in the work force.

What kinds of things do tests measure in business?

Employers sometimes use certain tests to help judge an applicants suitability for a particular kind of job or level of responsibility in other words, to match persons to the jobs for which they are best suited. Tests may also measure specific aptitudes such as mechanical skills or sales abilities, or characteristics such as trustworthiness.

Tests are also used to determine the training needs of organizations, their departments or sections, and employees. Test results can indicate whether individuals know how to do their jobs and which specific task need additional improvement. Human resource departments can use this information to target training needs and implement interventions that support increased productivity. Tests can also measure the effectiveness of training that has been conducted in the organization.

Is it legal to use tests in hiring?

Yes. Tests are just one of a number of procedures that have a legitimate place in making employment decisions. Certainly some kinds of questions for example, about age, religion, or other private and protected information may not be asked and tests used in hiring decisions must be designed with this in mind. But these concerns are not limited to tests. The same federal and state guidelines that apply to tests also apply to interviews, background checks, and so on.

Why do companies rely on tests?

Tests have several advantages over traditional interviews and other commonly used employee hiring and placement procedures. Tests are even-handed; they ask the same questions of everyone. Tests typically require less time than interviews, so they are more efficient in obtaining job-related information. Appropriate tests have been carefully screened to be fair and unbiased and not to ask for improper information. Tests allow the persons answers to be compared with hundreds or even thousands of other peoples answers to the same question under the same standard conditions. Finally, the decisions made from test results are based on research studies that prove their accuracy and effectiveness. No other procedure can make these claims.

Do tests invade people's privacy?

It is possible that a misuse of a test could result in an invasion of privacy. For example, a clinical test intended for use in medical settings should not be used as a part of routine employment screening. But well-designed tests that are used for their intended purposes do not ask questions that invade a persons privacy.

Also it is true that people are sometimes unaware of what they are revealing about themselves by taking the test. However, taking a test is in many ways like answering questions during an interview. A person is equally unsure about inferences or interpretations made by an interviewer. The difference is that the questions on tests have been screened for fairness, are applied consistently to everyone, and that the resulting interpretations are based on research that has proved them to be reliable, fair, and valid. On the other hand, the opinions of an interviewer are just one persons views, however experienced that person may be, and interviewers can be distracted and influenced by prejudices of which they may not even be aware.

Do tests prevent qualified people from getting hired or promoted?

Employment screening involves the selection of some people over others. Sometimes there will be more qualified people applying for a position than can be hired. A properly chosen test has an important place in selecting the candidate with the best fit to the position. Using other procedures without considering the results of a good test will tend to rule out more qualified people than will a procedure that includes an appropriate test.

Should a person be hired or promoted on the basis of the results of tests alone?

Even a battery of tests should not be the sole deciding factor in hiring or promotion. Properly used, tests are only one part of a process that includes other steps such as application forms, personal interviews, supervisor ratings, and background checks. Considered together, the results of these techniques can provide a more comprehensive picture of an individual to help an employer make the right decision for both the employee and the company.

What about testing for the disabled?

Appropriately developed and properly administered tests used in hiring new employees conform to legal requirements with regard to disabilities. Test publishers can, and often do, advise companies on ways to reasonably accommodate test takers with disabilities. Where it is appropriate and feasible, norms for specific disabled populations are developed.