Pre-employment tests are one of a number of selection tools that can provide insight into applicants’ abilities to do well in a job and help ensure that the right persons are matched to the right positions. As a result of court cases challenging the validity of pre-employment tests against job performance, many organizations have chosen to drop pre-employment testing programs. In order for a pre-employment test to be valid, a correlation must exist between the factors being measured in the pre-employment tests and the factors of actual job requirements.
Some examples of tests used today to help determine applicants’ job suitability for a given position include:
- Job knowledge tests that measure the knowledge and understanding an applicant has about the job.
- Proficiency tests that measure acquired knowledge and skills.
- Work sample tests that measure performance of job tasks.
Examples of tests include software or data entry tests administered by Job Service North Dakota, a presentation by the applicant during the interview, and a portfolio of work samples provided by the applicant.
As indicated above, there are numerous tests used to help determine an applicant's suitability for a position. The key is to ensure that tests are valid indicators of successful job performance. If the use of tests creates an adverse impact on employment opportunities of individuals, it can be construed as discrimination.
The tendency may be to rely too much on tests for screening or hiring. Tests indicate which individuals are most likely to do well, not which will do well. Therefore, tests should not be the sole determinant in employee selection.
Tests may screen out potentially good applicants who may lack specific skills or knowledge being tested, but that may be acquired through minimal on-the-job training. Furthermore, some individuals simply do not do well on tests, but may be very qualified and do well on the job.
Employers should test with caution, as some tests may be discriminatory to certain individuals. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is discriminatory to use employment tests or other selection criteria that screens out or tends to screen out an individual with a disability, unless they are job-related and necessary for the operation of the business. Tests must accurately reflect the skills, aptitude, or other factors being measured, and not the impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills of an applicant with a disability.
If requested, the employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation for pre-employment testing. It is discriminatory to use pre-employment tests or other selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability. The exception is if the tests are truly measuring factors of the job and are necessary for the operation of the business.
The process of validating a test is very technical and complex, and is performed by specially-trained professionals. Before using a pre-employment test in the selection process, contact your agency human resource representative or legal counsel to ensure proper use of testing.
Post Job Offer Tests
The following tests may be administered under certain circumstances after a conditional offer of employment:
- Physical abilities tests
- Medical exams
Interviewers may not ask disability- or medically-related questions at the pre-offer stage of the selection process. However, there are ways to evaluate whether applicants are qualified for the job:
- Ask about ability to perform specific job functions. For example, state the requirements of the position and ask if they can satisfy these requirements.
- Ask about work-related qualifications and skills, i.e. education, work history, and certifications or licenses.
- Ask applicants to describe or demonstrate how they would perform job tasks with or without reasonable accommodation.
Once a conditional job offer is made, disability-related questions may be asked and medical examinations required, as long as this is done for all employees in that job category.
Information obtained regarding the medical condition or history of an applicant should be collected and maintained on separate forms and kept in separate files, because medical information is confidential and not subject to the North Dakota Open Records Law, NDCC 44-04-18.
Tests to determine whether and/or how much alcohol an individual has consumed are considered medical exams.
In summary, medical exams may be required if they are:
- consistent with business necessity, and
- only after a conditional offer of employment has been made.
Drug testing may be available for certain positions. Prior to the use of drug testing, contact your agency head or legal counsel.