How to test candidates before interview and during the the recruitment process. I want to test personality, aptitude, attitude, position specific knowledge, coachability, soft skills but not sure how to get a hold of scentificly approved tests for this. We are a small business that want to start of with right people and have a limited budget for hiring process.

UPDATE Since we are a small company with somewhat experienced few people in different field of expertise, we would like to focus a lot on training and giving young people a chance to shine. That being said, we need to find rights ones in order to put some knowledge in them. It would be a logical thing to start testing coachability, soft skills, logical thinking, positive attitude, self-motivation, work ethics. What I would want is to find a good source of tests that will give us a clear answer just in these areas.

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    The answers here would likely be position specific. What positions are you looking to fill? – Myles Oct 21 '14 at 22:09
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    There is a whole profession dealing with these questions, called I/O psychology. There are some companies out there that will sell you prefab assessments that may offer a little insight into an applicant's suitability, but you'll have to research for yourself whether the benefit is worth the cost. We offer a very few prefab assessments, but the majority of our assessments are built specifically for a job at a single company. Before you ask, I have never done an assessment for a technical position. – Amy Blankenship Oct 21 '14 at 22:49
  • @AmyBlankenship I have update my question. – John Oct 22 '14 at 12:55
  • At this point we want to focus on personality test in order to see if person is applying to corresponding position. After that we want to test if a person has what it takes in order to grow at work and as a person. – John Oct 22 '14 at 12:59
  • If determining personality as it relates to success at work could be done with a quiz, by now everyone would be doing it and doing it successfully. That's obviously NOT the case! There is no such thing as a short cut in hiring, you just have to evaluate each person one at time and take a risk on each one. – teego1967 Oct 22 '14 at 16:34

The problem with a start up using a personality test is you don't really know what you're looking for in these applicants. There is no history of what types have performed well at your company and those that haven't. You could have current people take the assessment and look for similar profiles, but this can make it difficult to help you balance your team/fill in the gaps. What do you do if your current people "think" they are similar, but the test shows that you're not? What profiles do you pick then.

If you want, you can search online and find out what are more valid tests or select the most common. You may find cost is an issue, so balance that factor. Selecting the test may not be your most difficult part, but interpreting and applying the results will be.

I believe Google discovered that the best indicator for job applicant selection was certain managers were just better at picking "winners" than others. All the tests, college experience, aptitude, etc. weren't as good.

If you're looking for something definitive, I feel you're going to be disappointed. Just like the fairy-tale, you may have to kiss a few frogs before you find the prince.

  • We came to the similar conclusion, but since we are a small company with somewhat experienced few people in different field of expertise, we would like to focus a lot on training and giving young people a chance to shine. That being said, we need to find rights ones in order to put some knowledge in them. It would be a logical thing to start testing coachability, soft skills, logical thinking, positive attitude, self-motivation, work ethics. What I would want is to find a good source of tests that will give us a straight answer just in these areas. – John Oct 22 '14 at 12:52
  • @JeffO, basically you're saying that no approach is better than at least trying. I agree that tests based on people currently in the job can fall down for various reasons, but you have to start somewhere. – Amy Blankenship Oct 22 '14 at 22:38

Personality tests tell your prospective recruits that you are an impersonal employer, that you don't care to get to know them but would rather let some test tell you what they are like. Not a good start to a relationship where the intention is to help people grow and shine. Not only that, studies (and here) show that they are not good predictors of job performance.

Rather than trying to find this information from a test, you might consider improving your interview process. When we interview, we start with a phone interview which covers experience, education, and skills. The in-person interview focuses on soft skills. We list for ourselves the traits we are looking for and we select questions (usually about 20 of them) designed to elicit information about the specific aptitudes. Questions typically ask for the candidate to give examples from their past work experience that will demonstrate this skill.

Example: I need someone with good problem-solving skills, so I might ask what steps the person takes to solve a problem, and then ask for an example of a time they have used those steps to solve a problem. Usually I have some things I am looking for in an answer (do they break the problem down into parts, do they consider the urgency of the problem, do they collaborate with others to solve, do they talk about how they get information to help solve the problem), but sometimes they surprise me with answers I did not anticipate.

Example: You can google for sample questions. Try "interview questions for coachability" - I did and found this question: "What’s most important to you about your relationship with your boss/manager and what type of management style works best for you?" You could follow this with, "Can you talk about a manager from your past where you had a relationship that really helped you grow?" If they start telling you about a manager who was very hands-off and trusted them to figure things out their own way, you might be looking at an employee whose learning style does not mesh with your needs.

The other thing you might want to think about is spending plenty of time in your onboarding process explaining your work culture so your new hires know what to expect. In particular, talk to them about how feedback works in your organization, what work ethic you expect, how you expect them to approach problems, how you want them to report their concerns... A lot of younger workers come into the workforce not understanding "how work works" and they need it explained.

Have a check-in at about 3 months and correct any misperceptions they have about the workplace. If they are not meeting expectations with regard to soft skills, give them feedback about what you need.

  • I don't agree that "Tests tell your prospective recruits that you are an impersonal employer". The purpose of tests is to open the door to persons traits, so recruiter can on persons skills and interests. Interviews are not always objective. Example>tall person wants to play sport. Would you recommend him to play basketball or baseball? I am not saying he shouldn't play or could not be successful in baseball, but he has a main attribute that could help him become a good bb player. Why overlook that? Height is easy to spot without a test, coachability for example is not. – John Oct 22 '14 at 17:30
  • I was addressing personality tests, not skills tests. I have edited the first paragraph and included links to two studies about the ineffectiveness of personality tests for predicting job performance. – MJ6 Oct 22 '14 at 19:54
  • @MJ6, would you mind offering an answer to my recent question: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/125177/…. – Daniel Dec 22 '18 at 6:43

The problem you are facing is a "known hard problem" and an active area of research - sufficiently hard and active that entire branches of science are dedicated to it. The problem has a few names, and the most common ones that pop up I believe are "job performance prediction", "job analysis", and the more broad problem of "job selection" and "job placement".

The science, and thus most scientifically tested and valid tests, belong primarily to the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (usually just called "Work Psychology" in Europe, I believe).

As to the specific areas you want to look at, you have:

Personality and Coachability = Psychological Assessment, Personality Psychology

Aptitude = Intelligence research, one of the most studied areas in all of Psychological Assessment

Position Specific Knowledge = Job Analysis and Performance/Knowledge Evaluation (from Industrial/Organizational Psychology) + Psychological Assessment

Soft Skills = Psychological Assessment, Personality Psychology, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Most broadly and realistically, you are in need of help with Job Recruitment, Job Selection, and Job Assignment, which are areas of specialties in the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (many of whom are members of society's like SIOP). You want to be able to apply scientifically valid systems and tests to help predict future work performance. An Industrial and Organizational Psychology professional has precisely this set of experience, knowledge, and access to modern valid tests and can help you choose between them. This professional will need at least a Master's degree in their field, and probably with a preference for a PhD with consulting experience and published peer-review research in one of the mentioned fields.

Part of the complexity that requires an expert is that the most scientifically tested and validated tests are often related to modern intelligence tests, and often require a Master's technician or licensed Psychologist to apply and interpret results in a proper way, and the costs of such testing is not trivial - hours of work, a week or two likely added to your hiring decisions, and costs are likely to be in the range of $200-$4000 per person tested in this way (depending on tests, provider, etc). And it may be that that people who would be the best hires would tell you to shove it and move on to a company that doesn't require potential hires to see a psychologist first. And there's many such tests, and often a single score is not available or warranted and you'd need to know what scores are actually useful to your situation!

They aren't the only tests, though - and some tests are available in online or pencil and paper format. These are the sort of tests Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut use to screen applicants, for instance. These may or may not be utterly inappropriate to your situation. There is no general use, "here, take this and if you score well you will be a good hire" test, and what would be useful will depend heavily on it's relation to the job, business, and company.

So, much like telling a person they need to talk to a lawyer - you need to talk to a psychologist!* :) And I mean that in a good way!

*Note: In the US you can't actually call yourself, legally/officially, a psychologist unless you are a licensed clinician, so I-O psych's are often called professionals, consultants, researchers, etc, but often don't carry the title of Psychologist. But I couldn't resist the fun.

  • Thanks for helping put clear names on problems. It will help us doing some additional research. But I still think all answers are missing a point. We are not looking for a 100% suitable candidate that would be an immediate impact other words robot. We are looking for candidates that posses solid basis for learning. We think coachability, soft skills, logical thinking, positive attitude, self-motivation, work ethics are just that. How will that person evolve is complex topic, that we do not want to go through now. We are interested to find a way to test these basic traits we found important. – John Oct 22 '14 at 17:34
  • @John Perhaps I didn't convey this part clearly, but each individual thing you are looking for is a complex topic with a whole field of research, and some of them have common tests developed and some don't. Soft Skills might mean Emotional Intelligence or Interpersonnel Communications Skills or Sales Skills, Coachability is not a well understood construct and is considered complex at least in sports science (another field), positive attitude is testable but obvious and easily manipulated in all modern tests I'm aware of (such as from AuthenticHappiness.com - from Positive Psychology)... – BrianH Oct 22 '14 at 18:14
  • ...self-motivation does not exist as a single construct at all (self-efficacy, goal setting/directedness, intrinsic vs extrinsic motivators, motivating potential of a job - those all exist, but not "self-motivation" - it's a colloquial term that is not of much scientific use), logical thinking is an area of specific intelligence testing and is standardized and has wide acceptance, work ethic has a number of inventories and there are at least 4 competing models with no single standard developed (7-factor, 5-factor, some believe it is subsumed entirely by "work commitment")... – BrianH Oct 22 '14 at 18:26
  • ...and that's just a taste of the variety and complexity of what you ask. A good professional should be able to select tests that match your requirements, desires, and budget - or inform you when what you want doesn't exist or is not yet sufficiently empirically verified or examined. Some have been accepted to not even be useful extant constructs, but merely words for a conglomeration of orthogonal measurements, traits, and even moods. I fear you look for a Tests'R'Us where scientifically valid tests are available for all these things - it doesn't exist, and if it did I wouldn't recommend it. – BrianH Oct 22 '14 at 18:31
  • And finally - some of the tests that do exist, are widely accepted, and thoroughly empirically verified and understood (like for logical thinking and intelligence), are absolutely not for sale to anyone other than specifically trained and certified professionals in their field - often requiring PhD and institution verified credentials, even some requiring an active state license! Like in the medical field, over-the-counter tests are a tiny fraction of the tools available to a trained, certified, licensed professional. Sometimes OTC is good enough, and sometimes it just isn't. – BrianH Oct 22 '14 at 18:39

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