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Improving Employee Selection with Practice Tests

Recruitment and selection of employees can be difficult for both organizations and job seekers. Companies want as many qualified applicants as they can to apply. To do so, they increase the visibility of job openings. What can often result is a slew of unqualified applicants, which costs the organization time and money in the selection process. This can be equally as frustrating for job seekers, who put time into their applications only to have little chance of being selected. 

Recent research in the Journal of Applied Psychology explored the use of practice tests to aid in high-volume recruiting. A practice test is an equivalent to a company’s actual employment test used for selection. However, the employment test is made freely available to potential candidates. Potential candidates may complete the practice test anonymously. Also, the test is optional; the potential candidate is not required to complete the practice test to apply for the position. However, by taking the test, he or she can receive information on how he/she would score on the actual test. He/she can also review answers to each item and receive preparation feedback tips.

To examine the relationship between the use of practice tests and selection, the researchers analyzed scores from 25,000 potential and actual job applicants of one company. They analyzed scores of those who took the practice test only, those who took the practice test and applied for the job, and those who did not complete a practice test but applied for the job. The results revealed that those who had high scores on the practice test were more likely to apply for the job than those who had low scores. They also found that the passing rate on the employment test was 11% higher for those who had completed a practice test compared to those who did not. 

Additional analyses were conducted. These analyses revealed that Black and Hispanic individuals had higher increases in their scores than White individuals. Further, these increases were not due to lack of motivation when completing the practice test. Also, it was not the case that higher quality candidates were more likely to take the practice test. Overall, the researchers concluded that the availability of the practice test led to a more diverse, yet qualified, pool of applicants. 

Why do practice tests work? The researchers concluded that practice tests send a message to potential candidates that the company is serious and fair in their consideration and selection process. The tests also convey transparency; the candidate knows exactly what the organization is looking for and can determine if they are a good fit for the role. Finally, the information on the practice tests likely increase test scores on the actual employment test because it gives the potential candidate access to relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to succeed in the job. 

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