Pre-employment test results provide objective information about candidates, allowing hiring managers to see beyond what can be gleaned from a resume and an interview. 

Test scores founded on and supported by research, which is what you’ll find in pre-employment tests sold by established and reputable companies, are more predictive of workplace performance than interviews and reference checks. They also provide a measure of objectivity and reliability that a job interview cannot. 

This article will discuss how to interpret test results and why it is essential to approach and use the results report data with context and perspective.

For Best Results, Take Pre-Employment Test Scores in Context

When analyzing pre-employment test results, context is critical. Depending on factors such as the role’s needs or the organizational culture, “low” scores may not mean a candidate will be a poor fit, and “high” scores might not represent an optimal fit.

Examples of Situations Where Context Should be Applied

A job candidate with high test scores may or may not have what the role requires. 

For instance, high Agreeableness may seem like a desirable result when evaluating a candidate for a manager position, especially if they’re managing a team of multiple subordinates. When a manager needs to challenge the status quo because it is part of their core duties and critical to delivering results, high Agreeableness can be a negative. With typical manager responsibilities like conflict resolution, employee reviews, or addressing performance concerns with a staff member, managers with high Agreeableness may avoid confrontation or difficult topics, which can lead to their subordinates not respecting them or taking them seriously. 

For non-managers, high Teamwork Orientation may sound great. If they’re applying for a job that requires a ton of autonomy, however, it might mean the candidate will need too much team interaction to be satisfied with their job. This “high-scoring” candidate may not fit this autonomous role well. 

There are similar examples for “low scorers.” A candidate with low scores for Extroversion might be great in a job where they need to focus on their duties and not seek interaction with co-workers.

Using Perspective When Looking at Test Scores 

Perspective is as vital as context for two reasons: 

  1. Test results are not designed to be one-size-fits-all. While test scores provide evidence of typical behavior and ability that can be expected of a candidate while on the job, a workplace’s specific performance needs should be considered as well. 
  1. Performance expectations vary with roles and companies. A candidate that looks like an “optimal fit” hire to one company may look like a poor fit to another. 

All companies using pre-employment tests in the hiring process should carefully consider their company’s culture and the job’s specific needs before passing judgment on a candidate based solely on their test results. 

While some hiring managers may feel comfortable making a judgment call using a summary of results, reading the detailed explanations in the report is valuable. Specifically, look at the high scorers and low scorers (for aptitude results) and interpretive statements or strengths and developmental concerns (for personality results.)

The detailed explanations lend perspective for each area tested and provide an interpretation of how those scores might translate to workplace behavior. 

When interpreting aptitude test results, for example, consider the following: 

  • Is the job mentally challenging? 
  • Will the candidate need to multitask? 
  • Will they be expected to make independent decisions? 
  • Must they learn quickly, with limited supervision? 

In this case, strong aptitude test scores are desirable. 

High aptitude scores are less important if the job can be learned easily, if tasks and responsibilities are relatively stable and unchanging, and of course, if the candidate successfully performed similar tasks in past positions (ideally vetted by direct observation or reliable reference checks). 

Consider Test Scores in Light of the Role or Company 

Without collecting data specific to your organization, pre-employment test feedback should not necessarily include an overall score or recommendation of whether or not a candidate is suitable for hire, and for good reason. 

Typical behaviors associated with successful job performance vary because every business is looking for something different. They all have their values and norms, even if the job title is identical.

We believe companies get the best hiring results when considering their specific needs while interpreting a candidate’s test report.

While pre-employment test scores provide evidence of a candidate’s behavioral traits based on high-performing norms and carry some predictive power in terms of future performance, think about how the behaviors those traits represent relate to what you need in the role you seek to fill. The better you understand the needs of the job and how test results relate to successful performance, the better you’ll be at interpreting test results giving you the best chance to find the optimal personal-job fit.


Take a Step Back and Consider the Context 

Pre-employment tests are best considered with the individuals tested, the situations in which they will work and companies’ characteristics in mind. No one is hired in a vacuum. Environmental and situational variables, when accounted for, will paint hiring managers the most accurate picture of prospective candidates.