6 Different Types of Pre-Employment Tests (Pros and Cons)

Candidates taking pre-employment tests for a company.

Do you use pre-employment tests to screen candidates before progressing further with interviews? If you need to whittle down a large pool of applicants or if you want to be able to easily and objectively compare candidates during your selection process, you may find that pre-employment tests are an invaluable tool.

What Are Pre-Employment Tests?

Pre-employment tests can assess a wide range of skills. They may involve testing candidates’ knowledge of a particular piece of software, asking them to carry out a typical work task, or getting them to take a personality test. They can also check specific skills, like problem solving or math.

Using pre-employment tests can speed up your hiring process considerably. They can also reduce bias and help you make data-based hiring decisions.

Free Download: How to Hire Employees

What Are the Primary Types of Pre-Employment Tests?

Pre-employment tests can assess a whole range of skills. Most pre-employment assessments will fall into one of the following categories.

1. Job Knowledge

While you may be happy to provide plenty of on-the-job training for some roles, chances are you have roles that require specific knowledge. When you test candidates on their job knowledge, you’ll be more likely to make a good hire.

A job knowledge test will cover technical or theoretical expertise. For instance, in information technology (IT), you may ask candidates about the key features of a particular programming language. In the healthcare industry, a job knowledge test may include questions on specific medications and their contraindications.

Best for: Roles that involve a lot of acquired knowledge, perhaps from a specific qualification or many years of experience.

Limitations: Job knowledge tests only demonstrate what a candidate already knows—they don’t tell you how fast that candidate will learn, or how easily they can apply what they already know to a new situation.

2. Cognitive Ability

A cognitive ability test is designed to measure candidates’ intelligence. It often looks at logical, verbal, and numerical reasoning. You may also know it as an aptitude or cognitive aptitude test.

Cognitive ability has a strong positive correlation with job performance. Candidates who score well will be skilled problem-solvers who excel at analyzing data and situations. Their critical thinking and decision-making skills are likely to put them among the best candidates for the role.

Best for: Making confident hiring decisions based on clear data. Candidates can’t “cheat” a cognitive ability test. Qualities that may cloud an interviewer’s judgment (e.g. charisma) won’t affect the test.

Limitations: Some candidates may be highly intelligent and great at problem-solving, but they could lack other attributes that would make them a great fit for the role. For instance, they may be abrasive toward colleagues or highly defensive about negative feedback.

3. Integrity

Integrity pre-employment tests look at applicants’ values and ethics. They ask questions like:

  • Would you lie to a client?
  • Would you do something illegal if your manager asked you to?
  • Would you cheat on a test if you knew you wouldn’t be caught?

An integrity test is designed to make sure that employees are a good match for the organization, will work well with colleagues, and will avoid taking actions that could be seriously detrimental to the company.

Best for: Roles that require a high degree of integrity, such as finance, cybersecurity, or healthcare.

Limitations: On integrity tests, the “right” answer is generally obvious to applicants. They may claim that they would never lie, cheat, or do anything illegal, even if that’s untrue.

4. Personality

Personality tests can be useful for making sure your new hires will fit into your company culture. You want to hire people who will feel happy and fulfilled in their role, and who will get along well with their colleagues. There are lots of different commercially-available personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs test and the DISC model.

You may need to encourage candidates to answer as candidly as possible, explaining that the personality test is only one of the ways you’ll assess their suitability for the role.

Best for: Positions where candidates’ personality traits are strongly relevant to how well they’ll likely perform in the role. For instance, you may want to make sure you’re hiring confident, extroverted individuals for a healthcare role involving patient interaction.

Limitations: It’s easy to be untruthful on a personality test. Candidates may give the answers they think you want—or the answers that they wish were true—rather than accurately reflecting on how they’d behave in different situations.

Related: 7 Common Personality Interview Questions

5. Emotional Intelligence

For people-facing roles, emotional intelligence is particularly crucial. It’s also important for purely internal roles, where your employees need to get along well with one another.

Candidates who score highly on an emotional intelligence test are often:

  • Easier to manage
  • Able to accept critical feedback
  • Calm under pressure
  • Capable of handling setbacks well

Best for: Customer-facing roles, human resources (HR) positions, and any role that involves frequent interaction with peers, as well as high-pressure or stressful roles.

Limitations: As with other personality-based tests, it’s easy for candidates to give what they feel is the “right” answer.

6. Skills

Skills assessments may test candidates’ hard skills or soft skills, particularly the competencies listed on their resumes. They differ from job knowledge tests in that they ask candidates to show their skills in some way.

If you’re recruiting for an IT role, you may provide a skills test that asks the candidate to write a short piece of working code or debug an existing code snippet. If you’re recruiting an electrical engineer, you could ask them to demonstrate how they would test a specific device. In the healthcare industry, you could ask candidates to roleplay delivering difficult news to a patient.

Best for: Roles where you need someone to come in and perform well immediately, without spending months on training.

Limitations: The test results may not accurately reflect the reality of day-to-day work. For instance, if someone has a full week to complete a short coding project, the quality of their work may be artificially higher than what you’d expect when they’re facing time pressure on the job.

Related: Why Should You Use Skill Assessments? Here Are The Top 5 Reasons

Other Types of Pre-Employment Tests

There are several other common pre-employment tests you may use for certain roles, including:

Situational Judgment

A situational judgment test presents candidates with a typical work scenario and asks them to rank possible responses in order of effectiveness or in order of which they’d be most likely to do. This type of test can give you a good sense of the types of decisions a potential employee would make in different situations on the job.


You shouldn’t ask candidates to undergo a physical (medical) exam or physical ability test before making a conditional offer, as taking the results into account when hiring could be discriminatory. Also, all candidates in the job category should undergo the same exam. If a candidate has disabilities, you need to take this into account.


As with other physical and medical examinations, you should only ask job applicants to take a drug test after you make a conditional offer. You’ll need to adhere to state rules about drug tests, and you should take into account any ADA requirements for the candidate.

Benefits of Pre-Employment Testing in the Hiring Process

As a hiring manager, pre-employment testing has a wide range of benefits for your company.

1. Speeding Up the Hiring Process

Pre-employment testing speeds up the time it takes to find the best job candidates. When all of your candidates take one or two tests, you can narrow down the applicant pool before carrying out screening interviews or full interviews.

2. Helping to Reduce Bias

We all have unconscious biases, and pre-employment tests can help reduce them. The test data is objective and makes it easy to compare one candidate against another. If an unsuccessful candidate challenges your hiring decision, the test data can help you make it clear why they weren’t chosen.

3. More Useful Interviews

Pre-employment tests give you insights into each candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and experiences. You can use this insight when deciding on interview questions, perhaps asking a candidate to go into more detail about something they briefly described in the pre-employment test.

Hire Employees With Insight Global

Arranging and administering pre-employment tests may feel like yet another task on a long hiring to-do list. At Insight Global, we can take the pressure off by helping with the entire hiring process while working within your budget.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can find talent, curate and screen candidates, conduct interviews, and even onboard your new hires.

Let Us Know Your Hiring Needs

We can compile a list of quality vetted candidates fit for your needs in as little as one week. Questions? Call us toll-free: 855-485-8853