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Main article: Occupational & employment tests

Employment tests are used in Employment testing which is the practice of administering written, oral or other tests as a means of determining the suitability or desirability of a job applicant. The premise is that if scores on some test correlate with job performance, then it is economically useful for the employer to select employees based on scores from that test.


As long as there have been employers and employees, employers have looked to various means to pre-qualify applicants for various jobs or positions, or test existing employees to help determine which employee or employees may best qualified for a new position or promotion. Although some employers have misused testing as a discriminatory tool, most employers sincerely want a win-win situation for their employees.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

If employees are evaluated and determined to have the right background, personality, education and experience for the job, they are more likely to perform better for the employer and have a higher degree of personal job satisfaction.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Legal context (United States)

The United States Supreme Court has decided several cases which have clarified the place of employment testing in the context of discrimination law, in particular, for the discriminatory use of tests when considering employees for promotion by requiring tests beyond the education that may be required for the job. A central finding is that the employer must demonstrate (or be prepared to demonstrate) that their selection process is job-related.[1]

Employers considering using employment tests, particularly knowledge and aptitude-based tests, should perform due diligence to assure that questions are reasonably related to the job; advice from counsel may be sensible. An example of "reasonably related" might be giving a math test to applicants for engineering positions, as math is used as part of such jobs. In order to comply with the decision in Griggs, the employer must assure the test is a reasonable measure of job performance. Therefore, if the math questions were engineering related, and not from other disciplines, and it were documented that employees lacking a reasonable knowledge of math capabilities did not succeed as engineers, the test would likely meet the Griggs test. Conversely, requiring a math test for a receptionist may be considered unreasonable as math it may be unrelated to the daily requirements of the job. for all employment tests, common sense and reasonableness must apply.

Test types used

Different types of assessments may be used for employment testing, including personality tests, intelligence tests, work samples, and assessment centers. Some correlate better with job performance with others; employers often utilize more than one to maximize predictive power.

Personality tests

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most widely used personality test currently used.

Personality Tests can be useful in personnel selection: of the well-known "Big Five" personality factors, only conscientiousness correlates substantially with job performance, but that correlation is strong enough to be predictive.[2]

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a highly validated psychopathology test generally used in a clinical psychology setting that may reveal potential mental health disorders. Official MMPI-2 Description However, this can be considered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as the employer having knowledge of a medical condition prior to an offer of employment, which is an illegal basis on which to base a hiring decision in the United States. Employers considering personality tests should focus on those designed for that purpose and do not provide any information regarding an applicant's mental health or stability.

Notable situations in which the MMPI may be used, and is sometimes mandated, are in final selection for police officers, fire fighters, and other security and emergency personnel, especially when required to carry weapons. In that context, an assessment of mental stability and fitness can be argued as "reasonably related" and necessary in the performance of the job.

Intelligence tests

Tests of general intelligence are said to correlate very highly with job performance.[3] All other things being equal, supporters claim that a more intelligent person is able to perform more efficiently. This is especially true in cognitive loaded professions, although observed correlations be low due to range restriction (e.g., most brain surgeons are highly intelligent). Those opposed to the use of these tests note that there are substantial cultural effects on scores, and that many prominent psychologists do not agree that there is a single measure of intelligence (eg, Professor Howard Gardner).

Aptitude tests

Job-Knowledge tests

"Job knowledge tests are used in situations where applicants must already possess a body of learned information prior to being hired." - U.S. Office of Personnel Management[4] Job knowledge tests are particularly useful in situations where applicants are required to have specialized knowledge or technical know-how that can only be acquired through extended periods of either experience or training. Examples of such fields are computer programming, law, financial management. Licensing exams and certification programs are also types of job knowledge tests. Passing such exams indicate competence in the field's subject or area. A major consideration of job knowledge tests is validity. Tests must be representative of the tested field, otherwise complaints in the form of litigation can be brought against the test-giver. Companies such as Ramsay Corporation offer validity studies to avoid such litigation.[2]

Work and social adjustment measures


  1. Griggs v. Duke Power Co. :401 U.S. 424 (1971)
  2. Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.
  3. Schmidt, F.L., & Hunter, J. (2004). General Mental Ability in the World of Work: Occupational Attainment and Job Performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1), 162–173.[1]
  4. "Assessment Decision Guide". Retrieved on 2008-08-14.

See also

Further reading

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