Applying for a job: What are your chances of having to take a test?


Applying for a job: What are your chances of having to take a test?
January 18, 2017, 7:00:00 PM EST   By Mike Russiello

What are my chances of having to take a test?


My son recently graduated from college and entered the workforce. As a naturally curious person dedicated to the pre-employment testing industry, I was keen to see how many times he had to take a test before he found a job.

Fortunately for him (but unfortunately for me) he found a job quickly. The count? Four applications and only one test. Not a very large sample size. But, of course, I’m very (VERY) glad to see him go off my payroll and onto someone else’s!

I did notice one thing from his experience that got me thinking, however. The one test my son took was connected with his application to a large company.

We in the assessment industry know most testing is done by large companies. I couldn’t find any industry-wide data so I’ll use the data from my own testing company, HR Avatar. According to our database, about 85 percent of tests are administered by organizations with over 1,000 employees. No big surprise there. But I started to wonder how long it would stay that way.


  1. According to the HR Avatar assessment database, 85 percent of pre-hire tests are administered by companies with more than 1,000 employees.

  1. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, 60 percent of all jobs in the United States are with companies that have less than 1,000 employees.

So, if you are attempting to obtain an entry-level or near entry-level job with a large private company in the US, the chances of you having to take an assessment are better than 8 out of 10. If you are seeking a job with a smaller company (less than 1,000 employees), you only have a probability less than 2 in 10 of having to take a test.

Useful wisdom

Apply to small companies if you hate tests.   

That’s true today. But how long will it last? I mean, why is it like that and are things changing?

Why is testing a large company activity?

Traditionally, pre-employment testing been the domain of large or medium-sized companies because  smaller organizations could not marshal the resources needed to put effective pre-hire testing programs in place. Putting an effective testing program takes time and effort. Yep. It does, or at least it did. You had to select a testing company to partner with, revise your selection process to include testing at some point in the application workflow, select the test or tests you want to use, train your staff on how to administer them and how to interpret the results, and then evaluate whether the tests were doing you any good. All of this takes time and is complicated by the fact that there are multiple types of tests (personality, cognitive, skills, behavioral history, etc) and testing companies traditionally didn’t package their tests for specific job types - that is, they didn’t make it easy.

In the past implementing a testing program was like buying a new home but having to act as the general contractor and manage/oversee all the smaller tasks involved with building the home - whether you knew what you were doing or not, rather than having the building company do it for you. Hardly anyone would do that.

Finally, adding to the burden of implementing testing, online purchasing was offered by only a few assessment companies. You can’t buy an online test from Amazon - and I thought they sold everything!

So, traditionally it’s been difficult for smaller companies to implement effective pre-hire testing programs. No wonder we see the majority of tests being administered by large organizations.

But does it need to be that way?

No, it doesn’t.

Today, several companies - HR Avatar included ( - have packaged pre-hire tests to make it easy for any employer to use - by the job. Simply select your job title and go. We do all the thinking for you - with a nice dose of help for another large and very useful US Government database (the Occupational Information Network O*Net).

Today’s job-specific tests are typically “whole-person” assessments, which combine all the key types of testing that have proven to be useful when hiring candidates for a specific job. So, you can measure cognitive ability, personality, and past performance in one assessment.

You can purchase the test online in any quantity from 1 to 1 gazillion. Results are available immediately after a test is completed online, and can be emailed or texted as soon as they are ready. Assistance is available 24x7, though it’s rarely needed. Everything is easy.

So, what’s the future?

Pre-employment tests are just as valuable to small companies as they are to large ones. My prediction is that as smaller organizations discover how easy it is today, use will increase to the point where utilization of testing by company size equals the distribution of jobs.

For graduating seniors, this means that someday your chances of having to take a test will be the same whether the company you are applying to is large or small.

What to take away?

  1. If you are a small organization, get ahead of your competition and try pre-hire testing. It’s easy now.

  1. If you hate to take tests, you might stick to applying to smaller organizations, for now.
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