Corporate Payroll Services

Our previous post looked at alternatives to “working interviews” that allow you to try out a potential employee before hiring them full time.  When you test applicants however, there are guidelines you should follow in order to avoid potential discrimination claims.

The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP)–jointly adopted in 1978 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice–provides a framework for determining the proper use of tests and other selection procedures.  The guidelines were designed to assist employers, among others, with federal requirements prohibiting employment practices that discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  The EEOC recommends the following best practices for testing and selection:

  • Ensure that employment tests and selection procedures are job-related and appropriate for your purposes.  For example, a proofreading test might be appropriate for an editing position or an administrative assistant job, but it would not be a valid test for an automobile mechanic or an electrician.  If you use an outside vendor for testing, the vendor’s documentation supporting the validity of a test may be helpful if you find your company in litigation.  However, you as the employer are ultimately responsible for ensuring that your tests are non-discriminatory, both in intention and effect.


  • Assess whether your selection procedures unintentionally screen out a protected group–for example people of a certain race or sex.  If so, determine whether there is an equally effective alternative selection procedure that has less adverse impact and, if there is one, adopt the alternative procedure.


  • Keep your tests and procedures up-to-date relative to the specific positions.  Job duties change over time, and as they change, so should your employment tests and selection procedures. There’s no sense testing for skills if a job no longer requires those skills.  Tests and selection procedures should be predictive of success in the job.


  • Make sure whoever develops the tests, purchases them from a vendor, administers the tests, and assesses their results understands the effectiveness, appropriateness and limitations of the test.  Tests can a useful management tool, but managers who use them need to know what they’re doing.

If you want to avoid the hassle of pre-employment testing, another way to get an idea of an applicant’s skill level is to ask follow-up questions during the interview process and request that the applicant provide examples.  So, if a candidate says in the interview that they have a particular skill, you could ask them to tell you about a time they used that skill or how they might handle various scenarios that require that skill.  You could also pose questions that only someone with that skill would know how to answer.

The use of pre-employment testing can be helpful in finding the right candidate to fill a position.  Being mindful of non- discriminatory practices helps avoid problems that might otherwise arise.  If you have questions about pre-employment testing, the HR Pros at HR Support Center can help.

For more information see the HR Help Center.