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Hire the best

Hire the best

by Dr. Michael Mercer

Question: What’s the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to have profitable, productive and honest employees?

Answer: Hire profitable, productive, honest people!

Unfortunately, managers often hire underachievers or losers. Fortunately, pre-employment tests give managers a simple-to-use, quick, customizable way to hire the best.

Only One Reason to Screen Applicants
The sole reason to assess applicants is to predict – or forecast – how an applicant will behave on the job before you hire the person. It’s crucial to predict this before hiring an applicant, rather than finding out the expensive way after you put the person on your payroll.

The main methods used to predict if an applicant will succeed on the job are:

  • Interviews
  • Reference checks
  • Pre-employment tests

Alarming Research
Large-scale research discovered that most interviewers and reference checks make lousy predictions of actual on-the-job performance. Interviews and reference checks often are about as useful as flipping a coin.

On the bright side, pre-employment tests prove to be the best forecasters of actual on-the-job performance. Reason: tests are developed with scientific research techniques so they objectively predict how an applicant will act on the job. In contrast, interviews and reference checks typically offer only subjective “guesstimates” of an applicant’s work potential.

Three Types of Pre-Employment Tests
Traits required for job success boil down to A + B + D:

A = Abilities – mental abilities – brainpower – to do the job
B = Behavior – interpersonal skills, personality and motivations needed to succeed
D = Dependability – work ethic, impulsiveness, theft/stealing and substance abuse

As such, A + B + D = Success on the job. Importantly, you can use tests to predict an applicant’s abilities, behavior and dependability.

A = Abilities Tests
Did you ever hire someone and, later, horrifyingly discover the person had the IQ of tire pressure? That person did not have brainpower to (a) learn the job or (b) solve problems on the job. Abilities tests help you avoid hiring people who lack brainpower to learn and do the job.

Five abilities tests tell you how well the applicant handles:

1. Problem-solving
2. Vocabulary
3. Arithmetic
4. Grammar, spelling and word use
5. Small details

B = Behavior Test
Each job requires crucial behaviors. For example, my research shows superstar sales reps often are money motivated, optimistic and assertive. Many jobs require teamwork, friendliness and customer service. To help you, behavior tests forecast an applicant’s:

1. Interpersonal skills
2. Personality
3. Motivations

For instance, a behavior test predicts three interpersonal skills: (a) friendliness, (b) assertiveness and (c) teamwork. Five personality traits assessed include (a) energy level, (b) optimism, (c) objectivity, (d) procedure-following and (e) desire to focus on feelings or facts. Motivations uncover if an applicant strives to do a good job to (a) make lots of money, (b) provide customer service, (c) do creative work, (d) exert power or control or (e) increase knowledge.

D = Dependability Test
Did you ever hire someone who had a lousy work ethic? Or who acted impulsively and had accidents or safety violations or acted horribly? Stole from your company? Abused alcohol or drugs? Lied or was dishonest? That cost you loads of money and time!

Dependability tests help managers avoid hiring problem employees.
A good dependability test will help you predict important work-related dependability factors, including:

1. Honesty
2. Work ethic
3. Impulsiveness (related to accidents, safety violations, and rudeness)
4. Theft/stealing concerns
5. Substance abuse concerns

When you hire a good apple – and avoid hiring a bad apple – you make a big difference in your company’s productivity and profits.

Customize Tests You Use
It is highly recommended that you customize abilities and behavior tests for each job in your company. Note: You do not need to customize dependability tests.

You customize abilities and behavior pre-employment tests by conducting a benchmarking study.

Example: Let’s say you want to hire profitable, productive sales reps. Start by testing some of your current sales reps. Statistically pinpoint your superstar sales reps’ typical test scores. Then, when you test a sales applicant, you will see if the applicant’s test scores were similar to – or different from – your superstar sales reps’ test scores. You, of course, would prefer to hire applicants whose test scores are similar to your superstars’ test scores – plus also impress you in interviews and other prediction methods you use. However, you could avoid hiring an applicant whose test scores are much different from your superstars’ test scores.

Six Steps for Pre- Employment Testing
You can hire the best using pre-employment tests by following these steps:

Step 1: Find a skilled Ph.D. – industrial psychologist whose expertise is in pre-employment testing. You only would allow a skilled surgeon to perform surgery on you. Likewise, you only want an industrial psychologist who specializes in testing to help you find, custom-tailor and use pre-employment tests.
Step 2: List jobs for which your company will profit if you hire highly productive employees.
Step 3: With your Ph.D. – industrial psychologist’s help, find tests that are (a) job-related, (b) valid, (c) reliable and (d) customizable for jobs listed in Step 2.
Step 4: Customize the tests with expert guidance from the Ph.D. – industrial psychologist. Statistically uncover test scores of your superstar employees in the jobs you listed in Step 2.
Step 5: Test applicants and show preference for hiring applicants who score similar to your company’s most profitable, productive, superstar employees.
Step 6: Benefit from increasing profits and productivity when you hire the best.

© Copyright 2017 Mercer Systems Inc.

Michael Mercer, Ph.D.Michael Mercer, Ph.D., has written six books, including “Hire the Best & Avoid the Rest,” and created three pre-employment “Forecaster Tests.” These pre-hire tests assess job applicants for personality, intelligence and dependability. He is a frequent speaker at conferences. Subscribe to “Dr. Mercer’s HIRE THE BEST Newsletter,” plus see info about the three pre-employment tests at You also can call Dr. Mercer at (847) 382-0690.

This article originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. 2017 issue of Industrial Supply magazine.


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