Why So Testy?

One of the core competencies of recruiting is pre employment testing. Some companies forego the testing and others have so many that it can be mindboggling. In December 2010, SHRM published a good article on their website about selecting pre employment testing (for those of you who are members here is the link: http://www.shrm.org/Research/Articles/Articles/Pages/SelectingPre-employmentTests.aspx). This blog is not about the selection of these tests but the administration of them. And the stress that can come from it.

An applicant can have many emotions when attending pre employment testing. If your company is like mine, you give all your tests at your facilities. Our location is secure and requires all visitors to sign in with Security and be given a visitor’s badge. When they get to the testing room deep inside one of our buildings, their stress level tends to peak. As a Generalist, one of the many hats I wear is Recruiter and I usually administer pre employment testing to our applicants. Back before online tests, we gave paper tests which required several days to grade and left applicants hanging for days or even a week with no knowledge of their results. Today, we are able to let applicants know right away how they did. You would think the rapidness of results would allay some of their concern but I think it merely escalates some applicant’s stress level. Hopefully I can share some tips that have helped me, as the recruiter, alleviate some of their anxiety.

It pains me as a recruiter to watch applicants become so stressed out during pre employment testing. I have witnessed applicants exhibit all types of behavior while testing including, but not limited to, shaking, sweating, hyperventilating and, on one particularly bad occasion, becoming physically ill which halted the testing session and required housekeeping to use the biohazard clean up kit. None of these situations are pleasant to watch unfurl which is why I use respect and empathy with a dash of light humor to release some of the pressure. When I go into the testing room, I acknowledge each applicant and thank them for coming and acknowledge the time they have committed to taking the test. I speak with a warm professional tone as I lay out the expectations of the session (how long the session will last, what they will be taking and what they should expect), ask if there are any special accommodations or requirements (which usually is met with a series of blank, unknowing stares) and finally I let them know when they should receive their scores. Then I say something like, “Now that I have given you a ton of information, what questions can I answer for you?” which is always met with a chuckle or two. Ah, the ice is starting to melt! I might even throw in some anecdote about my work or life experience depending on how the crowd is or even share how I felt when I sat in their seats. This inevitably helps loosen the tension and allows for clearer thinking on behalf of the applicant. Then I let them get started on their test(s). During the test, I try not to “stare” at the applicants however I regularly glance up from what I am working on to make sure the test takers are engaged and not experiencing any problems. When they are finished, I escort them to the exit so they may go on with their day.

One comment I regularly hear from fellow recruiters is how the volume of candidates is overwhelming and does not allow for the human experience. I think when our stress level is high we often forget that we are dealing with people; people who are making an important step to work with our company. Usually, the recruiter is the first impression an applicant has of your company and it is part of the recruiter’s job to make sure the applicant has a positive first impression. I understand that there may be too many candidates and resources are tight, but that does not negate the need to be aware and acknowledge the potential anguish (yes, I said anguish) that a candidate can feel. I try to remember that they are nervous and might need someone show some sensitivity. I know when I am in the pre employment process I would probably feel the same way. After all, it’s only human.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


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