Pre-Employment Testing

Thought you were finished with tests when you completed your degree? Think a GPA and resume tell an employer all that they need to know about a candidate’s credentials? Not necessarily.

Pre-employment testing is on the rise as a result of the expense and liability involved in hiring. Employers are attempting to increase the objectivity with which hiring decisions are made, and are attempting to hire “the right person” in a timely manner in order to decrease the percentage of employees who leave or are dismissed within the first year of employment. Identity theft, degree fraud, and the volume of applications received for an open job posting are additional factors in the increased use of pre-employment testing.

In some cases, pre-employment tests such as background screening, drug-tests, physicals and e-Verify might be required prior to an internship, especially if the internship is a paid position.

Common tests or test types that you can expect to find when job seeking include:

Background Screening

There are differing levels of background screening that may be conducted based on the type of employment and the employer. You can expect to have to pass a background screening in education, medical, law enforcement, and government/public administration settings, among others. If the job being sought involves financial responsibilities, you may also have to pass a credit check.

Involves: providing a driver’s license, Social Security card, and fingerprinting; typically completed after the candidate has been issued a tentative job offer.

Pre-employment Physical and/or Drug Screening

An employer may require that candidates for hire pass a pre-employment physical to assure that they are able to manage the physical requirements of a job, and/or a drug screening to assure that they are drug-free. Again, you can expect this in education, medical, law enforcement, and government/public administration settings, among others.

Involves: a basic “non-invasive” physical and a urine drug test conducted in a medical/doctor’s office or medical diagnostic testing facility; typically completed after the candidate has been issued a tentative job offer.


This is a background screening to assure that the candidate is who he/she claims to be and is in the United States legally and is legally eligible to pursue employment.

Involves: a web-based comparison of the candidate’s I-9 form and status through Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Department; typically completed prior to further processing of the candidate’s application.

Web Search

Organizations may conduct a screening of a candidate’s web-based “life” to gain a better perspective on the individual’s social activity. They may look for the type of photos, language, and activity displayed on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and may also review the candidate’s LinkedIn profile.

Tips in this area include: complete your LinkedIn profile, only use a professional email address for job applications, connect with professional groups online (or post professional comments on blogs in your industry) to represent your commitment to your career, delete photos that could damage your reputation, and in general be careful what you post on public social media platforms.

Involves: review of the candidate’s web-based activity.

KSA or Talent Assessment

KSAs are a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities as assessed for the position for which they applied. Talent assessments are similar, although they may assist an organization with where to place an applicant within the organization (e.g., customer service, administration, operations, etc.). These assessments test skill sets or competencies that are necessary for a specific job and are then “rated” or graded, ranking the candidate’s score against other applicants. Hiring agents may then use the tests as a “cut off” to reduce the number of applicants to be further evaluated or interviewed, or may categorize the applicant based on his/her score (e.g., customer service – yes, operations – no), or they may simply take the top scores from the list and consider these candidates for the position.

Involves: These tests may involve a range of subtests, from basic skills to highly technical, and use test formats such as paper and pencil (multiple choice, essay), computerized, sample job tasks (a common one is an “Inbox” assessment to score how the applicant manages his/her workflow), and interpersonal (e.g., presentation, realistic job scenario role play, etc.). Testing may be required prior to, along with, or following the application process.

Other tests that may be encountered based on the type of job and/or setting include cognitive testing, personality testing, and Emotional Intelligence (EI) testing.

Click on this link for more information on pre-employment testing.
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If you need more information or would like to discuss how a Polk State internship may fit into your education and career plan, please contact Matina Wagner Internship coordinator & Experiential Learning.