What are pre-employment screening tests?

Pre-employment screening tests are assessments used by many types of employers to determine whether candidates in their applicant pool demonstrate the essential criteria needed to be successful in a role.

The tests are generally timed assessments that candidates complete during the early stages of a recruitment process.

There are several different types of pre-employment screening tests available for employers to include as part of their recruitment process, many being bespoke to the employer depending on their assessment and selection process.

When deciding on the appropriate tests to use, employers must consider the skills, abilities, characteristics, traits, or behaviours needed for a role, and then assess these through the appropriate pre-employment screening test.

Generally, each pre-employment screening test assesses an individual on one specific aptitude or skill, meaning candidates may be asked to complete tests as part of the recruitment process.

Some screening tests provide a generalised assessment of a candidate by assessing more than one criteria, for example, personality or situational judgement assessments.

Why are pre-employment screening tests used?

how can you pass a pre-employment screening test

Using pre-employment screening tests provides employers with a cost-effective and objective way of assessing individuals based on essential criteria for a role.

As many pre-employment tests can be taken online, they are quick to administer and, from a candidate’s perspective, can be completed at a convenient time.

Candidates are generally invited to sit a pre-employment test in the early stages of the application process, with the results being used to shortlist the applicant pool.

Those that demonstrate the assessed ability, skill, or characteristic at the required level are progressed to the later stages of the recruitment process. Those that do not are eliminated from the recruitment process.

For an employer, a pre-employment test provides a way of ascertaining whether an applicant is suitable for a position leading to a successful hire.

The results from a pre-employment screening test also enable employers to gain a deeper understanding of an applicant’s areas of strengths and weakness when being evaluated on a specific aptitude.

These can then be used to help inform an individual’s development plan should they be successful in obtaining the role.

Types of pre-employment screening tests

Employers assess several skills, abilities, characteristics, and traits when recruiting for roles. This means that candidates may be asked to complete several types of pre-employment screening tests as part of the recruitment process.

Outlined below are the most common types of pre-employment tests that you may come across when applying for roles.

Aptitude tests

Also known as ability tests, these assessments evaluate a specific aptitude relevant to the role applied for.

Examples of aptitude tests include:

  • Numerical reasoning
  • Logical reasoning
  • Diagrammatic reasoning
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Mechanical reasoning
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Spatial reasoning

Aptitude tests are timed, multiple-choice assessments where there is only one correct answer.

Some top aptitude tests are adaptive assessments. That is, the questions in the test get progressively more complex depending on how well the candidate is performing on the test.

This enables an individual to perform to the best of their ability and demonstrate to the employer whether the aptitude being assessed is a strength.

Behavioural assessments

Behavioural assessments are often known as situational judgement tests. These assessments are multiple choice and have an overall time duration for completion, but the individual questions are not timed.

The purpose of a behavioural assessment is to evaluate individuals on

  • How do they prefer to react in workplace situations
  • Their behavioural preference when in the workplace.

Questions in these types of assessments are formed from scenarios individuals may encounter when working on the job. Individuals must select from the multiple choice statements that best reflect their preference in the given scenario.

Personality assessments

Personality assessments determine an individual’s characteristics and traits. This assessment is commonly used to determine whether candidates are:

  • A good fit for the culture of the organisation
  • Demonstrate the necessary characteristics to succeed in a role (e.g., sales, negotiation if applying for a sales-related position)
  • Demonstrate the necessary traits to fit into a team

Personality assessments comprise several questions, some worded differently but assessing the same characteristics or traits.

There is no right or wrong answer when completing each question, and while each question in the test isn’t timed, there is a recommended duration for completion of the assessment.

Other pre-employment screening tests evaluate specific job-related requirements, such as a sales test, honesty assessment, or skills-based tests.

Format of a pre-employment screening test

The format of the pre-employment screening test differs according to the test itself. In general, aptitude tests and situational judgment assessments are multiple-choice assessments.

Personality assessments may also be multiple-choice, or candidates may be required to rank statements according to their preference.

Most aptitude pre-employment screening tests are timed. Candidates need to answer as many questions as they can correctly in the given time limit. The more questions answered correctly, the higher the overall score will be.

The time limit for each type of pre-employment screening test may differ depending on the assessment. It is always advisable to ensure you know the time limit for each type of test.

Candidates are also provided with example questions at the start of each test. These example questions ensure that the candidate understands the instructions given with the test and what is being asked of them.

The formats of personality and behavioural assessments differ from aptitude tests in that there is often no set time limit. A recommended duration for completing the test is usually provided.

How to pass a pre-employment screening test

pre-employment screening test

You can do many things to prepare for pre-employment screening tests. Detailed below are some top tips.


One of the most important things you can do to prepare for the aptitude pre-employment screening tests is to practice. When practicing, you become familiar with the question types, what they are asking, and whether you find the questions challenging.

If you find one particular test difficult when practicing, you can then refresh your memory on any concepts or principles being assessed so that you perform to the best of your ability when sitting the test itself.

Keep calm

Taking an assessment for a position you’ve applied for can seem daunting. If you feel one part of the assessment isn’t going well, keep calm.

Focus on each question, avoid guessing but mark your best choice so you can answer as many questions as possible. The more questions you answer correctly, the higher your score will be.

Don’t second guess yourself

When completing personality or situational judgment assessments, bear in mind the characteristics needed for the position but be honest in your responses.

Multiple questions are worded differently but assess the same characteristic or trait. It’s important to not second guess yourself but provide responses that are a genuine and authentic reflection of the way you prefer to behave or react.

What happens if you fail

Some candidates fail to meet the required pre-employment screening benchmark set by an employer. In this case, candidates are eliminated from the recruitment process.

Candidates may re-apply for a position but often need to wait for a set amount of time before they are eligible to re-apply. As time limits to re-application vary by employer, it is advisable to check with the employer before re-applying.