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An applicant pool consists of all the applicants who are applying for a particular position. The size of an applicant pool can vary depending on the job description, the amount of experience required, the intensiveness of the application process, the competitiveness of the compensation offered, and the avenues through which the job is advertised to potential candidates. In recent years, applicant pools have been growing because of online job postings, which make it easier for job seekers to both find jobs online and apply to them with ease.
While the internet may have streamlined the application process for candidates, it has simultaneously made the job of the hiring manager much more difficult. One study estimates that, on average, 250 resumes are submitted for every corporate job opening, a daunting figure. Sorting through inflated applicant pools is time consuming, which is why many employers and recruiters turn to applicant tracking systems (ATS) and pre-employment tests to help organise, categorise, and filter candidates based on their qualifications.
As it relates to using pre-employment tests, the size of a company’s applicant pool may influence an organisation’s decision concerning when in the hiring process to administer tests. Companies with very large applicant pools may benefit the most from using pre-employment tests very early in the hiring process because the data gathered from these tests can be used to narrow down large applicant pools at the front-end. Employers can choose to advance only the candidates who score well enough on the tests to the next step in the evaluation process, allowing hiring managers to spend their time and resources on candidates who meet the basic requirements for the position.
Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are software applications designed to organise and sort job applicants. Applicant tracking systems simplify the recruitment process by providing a centralised platform to view applicants, track their progress through the hiring process, and filter based on qualifications. Many applicant tracking systems can be accessed online through open source or software as a service (SaaS) products.
These types of software products are especially useful for HR departments or recruiters who must sift through large applicant pools or who need to regularly hire employees for a lot of different positions. The increase in online job postings has made it easier for job seekers to apply for jobs with ease, simultaneously inflating applicant pools. An ATS helps to minimise the extra labour associated with larger applicant pools by managing the entire recruitment process under one system.
In recruiting, the applicant-to-hire ratio is the ratio of the number of applicants applying for a position to the number of people hired for that position. For instance, if a company wants to hire two sales representatives, and 100 applicants apply for these positions, then the applicant-to-hire ratio would be 100 to 2, or 50 to 1. In other words, for every 50 applicants the job receives, 1 individual will be hired.
Applicant-to-hire ratios can vary widely depending on how the job is advertised, how attractive an employer brand may be to applicants, the level of compensation, the general health of the labour market, and other factors. Online job postings often draw in a large applicant pool, with an elevated applicant-to-hire ratio. The applicant-to-hire ratio is a useful hiring metric because it helps to shape the employer’s expectation of how intensive the hiring process will be. Companies with consistently high applicant-to-hire ratios often turn to recruitment management options such as applicant tracking systems (ATS), or they implement additional hiring criteria to filter through candidates, such as pre-employment tests. When applicant-to-hire ratios are extremely high (more than 100 to 1), using tests and other data-driven selection criteria at the front-end of the hiring process can save employers valuable time and money by allowing them to focus on the most qualified candidates.
With the Criteria platform, you can automatically notify coworkers, share score reports, schedule tests, and email candidates. Set these tasks in the pipeline stages of your job to save you time with the recruitment process.
See Test Battery.
Benchmarking as a general process involves establishing a standard of comparison and then evaluating or measuring something else against that standard. In the context of pre-employment testing, benchmarking most commonly refers to establishing certain score ranges or profiles as "benchmarks" to compare against the test scores of applicants.
For example, if a company hiring computer engineers decides to administer an aptitude test to all its applicants, setting benchmarks will allow the company to make more informed decisions for establishing cutoff scores and filtering out unqualified candidates. Benchmarks for testing can be established in a variety of ways. A company can conduct a local validity study internally by testing its current employees in a particular position to determine what score standards already exist within the company, and to determine which data points provided by tests are most predictive of performance. Alternatively, for companies that do not already have enough employees in the position they are hiring for, testing companies can provide job-specific score ranges based on much more expansive data sets.
Big Five Personality Traits
Personality research has generated a variety of different theories that attempt to define and measure personality. The most widely accepted taxonomy of personality among industrial-organisational psychologists is the Big Five Personality Traits model, or the Five Factor Model of personality. The Five Factor Model breaks personality down into five components: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Openness, and Stress Tolerance. Personality tests that are based on this model measure where an individual lies on the spectrum of each of the five traits.
Each trait measures a unique aspect of human personality:
- Agreeableness is a measure of an individual’s tendencies with respect to social harmony. This trait reflects how well the individual gets along with others, how cooperative or sceptical they are, and how they might interact within a team.
- Conscientiousness is a measure of how careful, deliberate, self-disciplined, and organised an individual is. Conscientiousness is often predictive of employee productivity, particularly in lower-level positions.
- Extraversion is a measure of how sociable, outgoing, and energetic an individual is. Individuals who score lower on the extraversion scale are considered to be more introverted, or more deliberate, quiet, low key, and independent. Some types of positions are better suited for individuals who fall on one side of the spectrum or the other.
- Openness measures the extent to which an individual is imaginative and creative, as opposed to down-to-earth and conventional.
- Stress Tolerance measures the ways in which individuals react to stress.
Business necessity is a legal concept that can be used to justify an employer’s decision to use employment criteria that disproportionately affects a particular group, based on the assumption that the company has a legitimate reason to do so due to the needs of the business. While discrimination legislation generally prohibits the use of hiring criteria that causes disparate impact, these types of hiring criteria are permitted when they are shown to be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” In other words, businesses must be able to demonstrate that the criteria they use are necessary for the successful functioning of their businesses.
Almost every type of hiring criteria will disproportionately affect certain groups over others. For instance, simply requiring a college degree may disproportionately screen out members of certain socioeconomic groups. This disproportionate effect, also called disparate impact (or adverse impact), is relatively common across different hiring criteria.
As it relates to pre-employment tests, employers should only use tests that screen for abilities that are job-related and consistent with business necessity. For example, if a company is hiring hairstylists, it would be inconsistent with business necessity to administer a Microsoft Excel test to the applicants unless the company can demonstrate that Excel skills are necessary for performing the job. In this case, a candidate’s ability to use Excel proficiently would not be job-related or consistent with business necessity, and therefore not legally defensible.
Computer Literacy & Internet Knowledge (CLIK)
See Computer Literacy & Internet Knowledge.
There are several different measures that can be used to validate tests, one of which is construct validity. Construct validity is used to determine how well a test measures what it is supposed to measure. In other words, is the test constructed in a way that it successfully tests what it claims to test? Construct validity is usually verified by comparing the test to other tests that measure similar qualities to see how highly correlated the two measures are. For example, one way to demonstrate the construct validity of a cognitive aptitude test is by correlating the outcomes on the test to those found on other widely accepted measures of cognitive aptitude.
One way to validate a pre-employment test is to measure its content validity, which reflects how well a test is measuring a quality or skill that is related to a certain job. In other words, is the test’s content effectively and comprehensively measuring the abilities required to successfully perform the job? Ascertaining a test’s content validity is necessary for ensuring that the test is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Discrimination legislation prohibits employers from administering pre-employment assessments that are not related to the job they are hiring for, and content validity is one way to validate a test’s proper use within the hiring process.
Counterproductive Work Behaviour (CWB)
A counterproductive work behaviour, or CWB, is any employee behaviour that undermines the goals and interests of a business. Counterproductive work behaviours come in many different forms, but can include tardiness, theft, fraud, sexual harassment, workplace bullying, absenteeism, substance abuse, workplace aggression, or sabotage. These types of behaviour not only impact the quality of work produced by the employee engaging in CWBs but also can negatively affect the productivity of other employees in the company and create undesirable risks for the employer.
In general, employers should seek to hire individuals who are less likely to engage in any counterproductive work behaviours, and some pre-employment tests can help assess the likelihood that an individual is more prone to CWBs. Specifically, behavioural tests and integrity/honesty tests can help employers mitigate risk related to CWBs by measuring conscientiousness, rule adherence, attitudes towards theft, and overall reliability.
Criteria Attention Skills Test (CAST)
See Criteria Attention Skills Test.
Criteria Basic Skills Test (CBST)
See Criteria Basic Skills Test.
Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)
See Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test.
Criteria Mechanical Reasoning Assessment (CMRA)
See Criteria Mechanical Reasoning Test.
Criterion validity is the most powerful way to establish a pre-employment test’s validity. Also called concrete validity, criterion validity refers to a test’s correlation with a concrete outcome. In the case of pre-employment tests, the two variables being compared most frequently are test scores and a particular business metric, such as employee performance or retention rates.
The relationship between test performance and a business metric can be quantified by a correlation coefficient (ranging from -1.0 to +1.0), which can be used to demonstrate how strongly correlated two variables are depending on how close the number is to -1.0 or +1.0. The more correlated the two variables are, the more predictive validity the test has. In the case of pre-employment testing, the more correlated test scores are with job performance, the more likely the test is to predict future job performance. And as with most correlations, criterion validity can only be established with large sample sizes, making it somewhat challenging to measure.
There are two main types of criterion validity: concurrent validity and predictive validity. Concurrent validity is determined by comparing tests scores of current employees to a measure of their job performance. Comparing test scores with current performance ratings demonstrates how correlated the test is for current employees in a particular position. For example, a company could administer a sales personality test to its sales staff to see if there is an overall correlation between their test scores and a measure of their productivity.
Predictive validity, however, is determined by seeing how likely it is that test scores predict future job performance. If an employer's selection testing program is truly job-related, it follows that the results of its selection tests should accurately predict job performance. In other words, there should be a positive correlation between test scores and future job performance. Determining predictive validity is a long-term process that involves testing job candidates and then comparing their test scores to a measure of their job performance after they have occupied their positions for a long period of time.
A cutoff score is an established score used to filter out unqualified candidates on any specific test or assessment. In employment testing, cutoff scores can be established to filter out job candidates who did not score high enough on a particular pre-employment test.
Many organisations opt to not use a “hard” cutoff score, meaning they will still consider applicants who do not score in the desired range. If a hard cutoff score is used, deciding where to set a cutoff score depends on several different factors. To establish a reasonable cutoff score for a particular position, a company can administer the test to its current employees in that position, and then establish a cutoff score based on the current employees’ scores. This technique for establishing cutoff scores requires a large pool of test takers, so companies that do not already have many current employees in that position can instead rely on standard cutoff score recommendations provided by testing companies.
Another factor to consider when establishing cutoff scores is the size of the applicant pool. If a company is faced with a rather large applicant pool for a particular position, it can afford to set a reasonably high cutoff score. Setting higher cutoff scores not only makes it more likely that the candidates will be qualified, but it also helps reduce the amount of labour involved in the hiring process by narrowing the list of qualified candidates to move through the hiring process. However, if a company is dealing with smaller applicant pools or needs to hire a lot of people for a particular position, setting high cutoff scores may unnecessarily constrict the list of qualified applicants, making it more difficult to find and hire employees for that position.