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Pre-Employment Assessments Can Reduce Bias & Discrimination and Enable Compliance

Eight in 10 companies use pre-employment assessment tactics, and it’s easy to see why. Used correctly, assessments can take the guesswork out of the hiring process, giving employers a clear idea of whether a candidate is truly a good fit. The best assessments accurately predict future job performance, enabling companies to identify their best candidates, even when lack-luster resumes or unconscious bias would have gotten in the way. 

But not every assessment is created equally—and some can do more harm than good. 

For every science-backed assessment that tests technical ability or gauges hard-to-spot soft skills and traits, there are many poorly conceived evaluations that hurt the decision-making. And even the most well-thought-out assessment can land companies in a world of trouble when used incorrectly—from inadvertently screening out great candidates to inviting employment discrimination lawsuits. 

To give you an idea of how much good the right assessment can do—and how much damage the wrong one can trigger—here are a few success stories and cautionary tales to consider. 

Assessment success: the blind-scored skills test that boosted female hires by 19%

In 2017, one of the world’s largest advertising networks decided to focus on an objective measurement of a candidate’s relevant skills to reduce unconscious bias and bring in more diverse, creative minds. 

It was a big success. The company’s global chief talent officer reported a 19% increase in women hired and a 38% increase in ethnically diverse candidates coming in for interviews. 

So how did the company do it? 

It developed a series of technical skills assessments, which it called “challenge statements.” After a candidate filled out their challenge statement, the test was anonymously scored to determine whether they would be invited in for an interview. It was only after the interviews were arranged that hiring managers received identifying details about the candidates. The company acknowledged it still has work to do, such as automating the assessments to make them easier to scale—but it’s on the right track. 

The lesson: objectively measuring skills before revealing any potentially biasing candidate information avoids harmful biases that preclude great candidates, resulting in increased diversity. 

Assessment success: the screening assessment that reduced turnover by 20%

A global business services provider successfully leveraged pre-employment assessments to boost retention. After implementing assessments to screen candidates for their call center positions, which suffer notoriously high turnover rates, attrition dropped by up to 20% in some call centers. 


Rather than relying on a candidate’s previous work experience, the tests evaluated traits that more accurately predicted if a candidate would stay in their job longer. 

The lesson: assessments can help you find candidates who will stick around and thrive.

Assessment fail: the math test that wasn’t relevant to the job and cost the employer $550,000

A global dairy supplier found itself in hot water in 2012 when the U.S. Labor Department ruled the company’s pre-employment screening tests created unnecessary adverse impact. 

While the company argued its intention was only to find the best applicants, the mistake was an expensive one. The company ended up paying $550,000 in compensation to candidates who were unfairly screened out. 

The problem stemmed from assessments that tested mathematical abilities and other skills that didn’t actually relate to the job. Since candidates wouldn’t need to use those skills on the job, the tests weren’t justified under the guidelines set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC). And with some protected demographics scoring lower on average, the assessments resulted in an unfair barrier to entry for qualified people within those demographics. 

The lesson: Traits measured by assessments must always be tied to what is required to be successful on the job. 

Assessment fail: the personality test that led to multiple disability discrimination lawsuits

As with the previous example, issues arise when the traits being measured are not essential for job success, which includes when assessments that claim to measure one thing, are inadvertently measuring or being influenced by another, unrelated thing. Several companies discovered this the hard way after using an assessment that opened them up to EEOC scrutiny. 

In one instance, a “Customer Service Assessment” led to a hearing- and speech-impaired candidate being denied a supermarket cashier position on the grounds that she was less likely to listen and communicate well, in part, because she scored low on “clear enunciation.” 

But clear enunciation—difficult for those with hearing and speech impediments—is not synonymous with being an attentive listener or ability to communicate. The candidate filed a disability discrimination claim, resulting in a lengthy lawsuit. 

The same supermarket chain faced another class-action suit on the grounds that its assessment discriminated against a candidate with bipolar disorder. The candidate, a high-achieving college student, noticed that parts of the assessment were suspiciously similar to mental health questions used by hospitals. However, questions used to assess mental health in hospitals are rarely relevant to supermarket jobs.

Worse, this wasn’t an isolated incident. To test whether it was a one-off, the candidate applied for roles with seven other companies that used this same test. Time and time again, he was rejected.

The lesson: if an assessment bars candidates from competing by either directly measuring or being influenced by unrelated attributes, the assessment opens you up to litigation. 

Use assessments correctly to reduce bias and improve your quality of hire

Pre-employment assessments are an effective way to help eliminate bias from the hiring process and find the right candidates for the job. But to be effective, they need to measure knowledge, skills, abilities, or other criteria required for the job, in a fair and effective way.

Sadly, that doesn’t describe every assessment tool on the market—or the ways some companies use them in their hiring process.

So, how do you find the right assessments and apply them in the right way into the hiring process?

We are here to help – check out our Art of Selecting Assessments whitepaper for a step-by-step guide to the assessment selection process.

Or, we can take care of the assessments for you. Career.Place has built-in assessments to measure a variety of abilities, already pre-mapped by relevance to over eleven hundred occupations. We put in the time to evaluate hundreds of providers (using the step-by-step process outlined in the whitepaper) to find and seamlessly integrate with the perfect assessments partner, Covirtus, so you don’t have to.

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