By Scott Tackett

More than ever before, organizations are focused on trying to make the best hiring decisions possible. Companies want to ensure they hire the right person for the job and someone who will remain with the company for an extended period. As a result, employers often use selection testing and other processes to screen applicants for hire and employees for promotion.

The more common selection processes are credit checks, drug/alcohol tests, medical examinations, and criminal background checks. Lately, however, there has been a significant increase in companies engaging in other, less common types of screening such as cognitive tests, personality tests, physical ability tests, aptitude tests, and even honesty and integrity tests.

Opposing views

There tends to be two very distinct positions regarding the appropriateness and effectiveness of selection testing. While one side believes that employment tests such as those mentioned above allow companies to predict which applicants are likely to be the most successful, the other side feels that it’s all a waste of time.

Thoughts on the validity of personality testing for selection have varied widely over the past 50 years. Research shows that testing flourished during the 1950s but fell drastically in the 1960s after it was reported that personality assessments were not good tools for selection. In the 1990s, companies again took an interest and there was a significant upswing in vendors selling personality-oriented selection tests. In 2007, controversy returned as a result of an article written by Fredrick P. Morgeson for Personnel Psychology entitled “Reconsidering the Use of Personality Tests in Personnel Selection Contexts.”

Use with caution

In my opinion, the use of selection testing and other screening procedures can be a very effective means of determining which applicants or employees are most qualified for a job. However, caution is advised, as use of these tools can violate the federal anti-discrimination laws if an employer intentionally uses them to discriminate based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age (40 or older). Use of tests and other selection procedures can also violate the federal anti-discrimination laws if they disproportionately exclude people in a particular group by race, sex, or another covered basis, unless the employer can justify the test or procedure under the law.

Another interesting area being explored in the world of hiring is the role of emotional intelligence as a predictor of job success. As the term implies, emotional intelligence is not a personality trait but a true form of intelligence.

In his article, “Personality Tests in Employment Selection: Use with Caution,” H. Beau Beaz discusses this topic: “The marketplace is beginning to recognize the importance of EQ. One survey indicated that 60% of employers would not hire a high IQ candidate with a low EQ. When asked why emotional intelligence is more important than high IQ, employers said that employees with high EQ (in order of importance):

  • Are more likely to stay calm under pressure,
  • Know how to resolve conflict effectively,
  • Are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly,
  • Lead by example,
  • Tend to make more thoughtful business decisions.”

Despite information like the above, many experts remain skeptical of the effectiveness of using EQ as part of the selection process. Personally, I agree with Mr. Beaz when he states, “The key is for employers to use valid, reliable, and legally sustainable tests in hiring employees, not only because this will reduce potential lawsuits, but also because it is the only way that employers can scientifically identify the best candidates for the job.”

If selection testing is not currently being used in your workplace, I encourage you to research the subject further to see if this type of testing could be beneficial to your hiring efforts.


Scott Tackett is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. He is considered the leading expert in restoration and cleaning for Human Resource Development and Organizational Leadership with over 30 years of experience. Through Violand, Tackett works with companies to develop their people and profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800)360-3513.