5 Dangers of Using Off-the-Shelf Pre-Hire Assessments

6 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 8 February 2022

Pre-hire assessments can be a great way to screen potential applicants. They can save time, help you hire employees that are a better fit, and improve new hire retention.  

However, today’s recruitment leaders have an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to candidate assessments. One question many of us have is whether to use an off-the-shelf assessment or partner with an expert to develop their own.  

Off-the-shelf (aka generic) pre-hire assessments may seem appealing, but you should first consider the dangers of using these types of tests. Generic pre-hire tests are just that – generic. They don’t take into account the individual role you are hiring for, the culture and work environment, or the candidates your asking to take it.

On the other hand, custom pre-hire assessments can be more accurate and give candidates an accurate idea of what it’s like to work in your organisation which is proven to improve new hire retention. It’s also important to note that building a customised candidate assessment doesn’t always mean it’s going to cost more; generic assessments can actually be more expensive if used regularly.

The 5 Main Dangers of Off-the-Shelf Pre-Hire Assessments

Off-the-shelf pre-hire assessments or generic pre-employment screening tests should be used with extreme caution. As these tests are not customised for your organisation, they may not be measuring the right attributes in a context that’s relevant to the roles you’re actually recruiting. As such they can result in recommending the wrong people to hire, and, in the worst-case scenario, they could even leave you open to legal action due to inadvertent hiring discrimination. 

1. Accuracy (aka predictive validity) 

The first area we must consider is accuracy. Accuracy is important when testing so that you can ensure you select the right candidate for the job. You should remember to check that any test you use during the recruitment process has predictive validity. Validity measures the skills, knowledge, and abilities that are directly related to the position you’re hiring for. 

Each company and each role is different, so each test should be too. Off-the-shelf solutions aren’t designed with your organisation or the role you’re hiring for in mind; therefore, it’s practically impossible for them to measure the exact skills and competencies the role requires.

Custom assessments give candidates a real idea of what the position will be like. For example, at ThriveMap, our realistic job assessments use real-life scenarios to create “day-in-the-life” style assessments that measure the hard skills, softs skills, and other key attributes required to succeed in the role. These types of tests give you a better understanding of the suitability of a candidate for the role while also giving the candidate a better idea of what the job will be like. Because they measure your desired skills and behaviours in the context of how these attributes appear in the role, they are more accurate than generic assessments.

2. Legal implications

There can be legal implications associated with using off-the-shelf pre-hire assessments. If assessments don’t reflect the day-to-day realities of the role, candidates could accuse you of unfair hiring practices. When using an off-the-shelf assessment, it’s vital to ensure that both the test is only measuring attributes that are intrinsic to the nature of the role and that it is measuring them in a fair way. You should consider any potential discriminatory impact a test may have within your organisation, and don’t assume the makers of the test have done so for you. 

In order to minimise risk, assessments should be custom-made for your organisation and consider not just whether the attributes being tested are job-relevant but also whether the context in which they are to be tested has an impact on how someone may perform on the test. The closer the test is to the reality of what people actually do in the role, the less room there is for inaccuracy, illegality, or unfairness.

3. Bias

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate hiring bias, the aim is to reduce it as much as possible. When designing a pre-hire assessment, all demographic groups should be equally capable of scoring well on the test. Your assessment should not favour one way of thinking over another, but it should take into account how someone would act in specific job situations relevant to the role you are hiring for. 

Off-the-shelf pre-hire assessments were created by someone outside of your organisation, and they use “norm groups” to establish scores. These norm groups aren’t reflective of any individual company’s candidate pool. Therefore, not only is it potentially inaccurate as a scoring system, it could have an entrenched bias in its design.

Not starting from scratch means you could be inheriting the bias of the original assessment designers – rather than deliberately designing an assessment using a diverse range of perspectives from individuals currently in the role.

4. Candidate experience 

Off-the-shelf assessments have to use generic scenarios and often quite abstract questions, which may cause candidates to question the relevance of specific questions to the job. They also don’t tell the candidate anything about what the role or company is really like, as going into too much detail will reveal that it is not a test specifically designed for the organisation.

5. New hire attrition

Generic assessments can create misaligned candidate expectations. Our research shows that 48% of new hires had left a role because it was different from how they thought it would be before they started. Generation Z employees are even more likely to leave – 73% of this age group reported leaving new positions because they did not meet expectations. 

A generic assessment just can’t manage candidate expectations in the same way that a custom assessment can. Custom tests can give candidates an idea of what it’s really like to work in your company. This helps reduce attrition because the candidates better understand the role before starting.

Final thoughts 

There are many benefits to using pre-hire assessments or pre-employment tests, but you should be careful about the type of test you use. Off-the-shelf pre-hire assessments are designed to be applicable to as many roles as possible. In contrast, custom assessments are designed specifically with your business and the role you’re hiring for in mind. If you’re in the market for a custom pre-hire assessment, we create bespoke Realistic Job Assessments (RJAs) here at ThriveMap that are custom-built for your organisation.


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About ThriveMap

ThriveMap creates customised assessments for high volume roles, which take candidates through an online “day in the life” experience of work in your company. Our assessments have been proven to reduce staff turnover, reduce time to hire, and improve quality of hire.

Not sure what type of assessment is right for your business? Read our guide.

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