Why Candidates Won't Take Your Pre-Employment Assessments

Pre-employment testings have come under fire both online and in the HR community. With this article, we have tried to shed light on a candidate's perspective towards pre-employment testing.

Why Candidates Won't Take Your Pre-Employment Assessments
Pre-Employment Assessments

There has been a significant shift in the employment landscape in the past few years, especially since COVID-19 started. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and due to low demand for employees and a high supply of candidates looking for opportunities, each vacancy at any company invites a massive influx of applications.

The competition to onboard the best talent is fierce, and one wrong hire can cost a company significantly. Therefore, the logic behind automating the initial stages of recruitment is justified.

While companies try their best to treat candidates fairly and not miss out on good fits, they do this by automating the initial rounds of hiring.

However, those ways are broken and might not be in the best interests of the companies or the applicants as the outcomes could be unfair no matter how well-organised the process is.

There's no denying that including pre-employment tests as part of the custom hiring process is an efficient way to speed up the recruitment process, but solely relying on them might also not be a good idea.

What's broken? What makes pre-employment assessments unattractive to applicants?

Testing candidates on questions that have no real-life applicability

Traditional assessments use the equivalent of puzzles/obscure questions, which may or may not be applied in practice.

While it's excellent if a candidate can solve puzzles, it's not a good sign of how effective a business analyst or engineer they are. Furthermore, this method of assessing talent has an inherent bias towards more experienced individuals.

For example, we can use a probability problem to predict if a person will be excellent at financial modelling. Still, we can't expect whether they will implement a business strategy using Python or how well they would work in a team.

Some examinations have problems with high estimates and vague instructions regarding constraints. Because of these limitations, puzzle-based interviews can be unreliable as an interview strategy. The outcomes are neither accurate nor effective in selecting the ideal match for a specific position. Also, puzzles based assessments frequently use cryptic language and obscure information that confuse candidates.

Employers take "one-size-fits-all" approach

Suppose a company plans to test candidates on the Verbal Reasoning Test for two roles: an SEO manager and a customer service manager.

On the one hand, while the verbal reasoning test may be an excellent way to test candidates for the customer service manager's role, it would be an unfair way to test candidates for the SEO role.


Because there's no way, a verbal reasoning test can tell you if someone has strong SEO skills regardless of how well or poorly they perform on the test.

While companies' intentions behind conducting these tests can be completely genuine, the way they're implemented could be quite intimidating for candidates.

An ideal solution to tackle this situation would be to give candidates a task relevant to their role or have someone from the existing team they'll be a part of talk to them. But practically, with a massive number of applications for one role, that might not be possible either.

It's a common pitfall for employers to choose a ready-to-go assessment for a role that may require some specificity and subject-matter knowledge to prepare a test.

One of the solutions to this challenge is to test niched skills using customised tests. Look for a pre-employment testing tool that gives the option to select from both ready-to-go tests and custom assessments tailored according to the role's needs.

Candidates end up misinterpreting the recruiter's intention

With proper use cases, the aim of pre-assessment tests isn't unreasonable. Filtering out candidates makes sense, especially when a company lacks the resources to sit down with each candidate for a talk to assess how well they fit into their desired candidate's persona.

However, there are downsides to this approach from the candidates' point of view:

  • If you completely automate the hiring process, candidates might believe that you don't appreciate their time and what they have to offer. What's suggested to overcome this situation is setting the context right and having some form of automated process of introductions over emails.
  • These kinds of processes set the tone of empathy with candidates, showing that your company values their time and effort in applying for the job.
  • At the same time, conveying the point that the pre-employment testing process would include filtering qualified candidates for that particular role without disregarding others' achievements or skills that might be more relevant for some other role.
  • This is an extension of the above point. If your company conducts personality tests and becomes too restrictive about the candidate they select for the position, it would send out the message that your company promotes herd mentality.
  • The solution to this problem is to communicate that your company respects different points of view and encourages creativity as long as a candidate's fundamental values match your company's.

Candidates don't always reveal their true personality

Some psychometric tests ask candidates subjective questions related to their personality or give them a hypothetical situation to see how they would respond in those situations.

Because the stakes are too high for candidates, the situation puts them in a tough spot. The majority of them would not answer the questions honestly in the hope of a positive outcome—consciously or subconsciously, falling into the trap of "social desirability bias."

Competent candidates see no purpose in taking these tests

Candidates who apply for any vacancy consist of a diverse pool of applicants of competent and incompetent individuals for the role.

There's a sea of pre-employment assessment tools out there on the internet, some excellent ones too. But not all of them may specialise in providing the best service for the role you want to hire for.

The common problem with most of these tools is that they have a set number of questions for any given test. Many of those questions are googleable, which defeats the entire purpose of conducting a test in the first place.

Therefore, it becomes crucial to weigh all your options. Your company must use a tool that provides an anti-cheating feature. It will give all candidates assurance that they will be tested and evaluated equally and fairly, without loopholes that could lead to cheating.

Tests are not candidate-friendly

Pre-employment tests are built with an employer-first approach in mind, which leads to a horrible experience for candidates. The purpose of these tests is to bring out the best in candidates and match them with the job that will interest them the most.

To be honest, the majority of the pre-assessment tools are pretty unfriendly. They are lengthy and complicated.

According to one research, the chance of candidates opting out of a test decreases significantly if the test doesn't stretch beyond 45 minutes.

What's the solution?

Your company can make the process smooth for candidates by letting them know about the testing process in the job description and giving them ample time to prepare for the test. Also, keep the test as short and straightforward as possible.

Solely relying on pre-assessment tools isn't the right way to hire

There are thousands of articles online with a message about how outdated hiring candidates based on their educational qualifications and work experience has become.

The same goes true for pre-employment assessments. Hiring decisions should never be based solely on the results of pre-employment assessments. Crucial decisions such as hiring that impact the overall success of your company should be based on a well-thought-out process that's balanced and includes a combination of different criteria.

Try to make the process as humane as possible. Interviewing candidates, examining their portfolios, connecting with their references, and observing how they interact with the rest of your team are some of the ways to find the right candidate beyond using pre-employment assessments.

Unsegregated evaluation of performance

Pre-employment tests might contain questions from multiple skills or topics. Not every pre-assessment tool may generate an evaluation card that gives an employer a clear picture of which questions, categories, or topics the candidates did well on.

Often employers don’t distinguish between the must-have skills and good-to-have skills when setting up an assessment.

While reviewing scores, employers might not discount weaker scores on good-to-have skills even if a candidate has done well on the questions focusing on the must-have skills.

Now that we have talked about all the problems, what's the solution that we bring to the table?


Here's what Adaface is doing differently from the status quo to deliver the best pre-employment assessment experience to both candidates and employers.

We help organisations find qualified engineers by automating screening interviews with a conversational chatbot, Ada.

Ada engages candidates with a friendly chat involving relevant challenges instead of asking trick questions on a test. Our subject matter experts design a custom assessment based on the role's requirements for each role in a company.

Our platform is designed to help companies and candidates find out if they're a good fit for each other. Companies can figure out the best-suited candidates for their roles while being humane in the interview process. And for candidates to figure out if they'd be a good fit.

The Adaface difference:

  • Shorter assessments (45-60 minutes) to ensure engineers can complete the task as soon as possible, investing as little time as possible while still demonstrating their expertise.
  • Custom assessments tailored to the requirements of the role (NO trick questions)
  • Questions at the simpler end of the spectrum (it is a screening interview) with a very generous time allowance (3x what it takes our team to write code for it)
  • Extremely granular scoring that eliminates false positives and false negatives.
  • Friendly candidate experience (hints for each question, friendly messaging, and chatbot; average candidate NPS is 4.4/5).

Bottom line

The purpose of pre-employment assessments should not be to confuse the candidates by making it challenging. These tests should be balanced enough to give employers an insight into the necessary skills required to perform a role.

Look for pre-assessment tools that help your company and candidates figure out if there's a good match while still being humane with the hiring process. And for candidates to figure out if they'd be a good fit for your company. This would result in a win-win situation for both parties.

A point to remember here is that no kind of testing is error-proof. Pre-assessment tools can only help filter better fits and give employers a deep insight into a candidate's ability to perform a role.