What Are Talent Assessments and How Do Companies Use Them?

Woman taking online Talent Assessment for employment position.
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What are talent assessments, and why do employers use them? Some companies test applicants for employment to determine if candidates are a good match for their job vacancies. Companies who conduct talent assessments are seeking applicants that match their hiring criteria.

Why Companies Use Talent Assessments

Talent assessments also called pre-employment tests or employment screening tests, are used to help employers identify candidates that will be a good fit for jobs at their company.

These tests help predict a new hire’s on-the-job performance and retainability. So, in theory, applicants who pass the screening test should perform better as employees if they're hired.

Talent assessment tests are based on hiring and retention case studies and analyzing employee data. The test results will give the company an indication of how close a match the candidate taking the test will be to the company's hiring specifications.

What Are They Used For?

Talent assessments are used as part of an online screening process that helps employers to decide which candidates to interview. Most talent assessments are given online, or in a company or store office via computer or a hiring kiosk. They are typically incorporated into the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) employers use to track applications.

Many large companies like Macy’s, PetSmart, Bloomingdales, Sears, Express Scripts, Walmart, Burger King, Neiman Marcus, and Luxottica Retail Group, to mention a few, use pre-employment testing.

Types of Talent Assessments

Most companies utilize online questionnaires to assess whether the personality, work style, knowledge, or skills of candidates fit the job at hand or company culture.

How The Tests Work

While applying at one of the companies that use online talent assessments, the entire hiring process leading up to interviews is handled via the Internet. Job postings are listed online, candidates apply online through the company website, and then take the talent assessment.

Applicants either take the test when they apply online or are directed, via email or the company website, on how to take the test. Tests may be hosted on a third-party website. In that case, you'll be given instructions on how to access and take the test.

Some employers will use job simulations that are designed to measure whether candidates can perform tasks associated with the job. For example, an employer might ask a staff member to roleplay scenarios with candidates to assess sales, problem-solving, verbal communication, or counseling skills. Candidates for administrative or clerical staff positions might be asked to perform tasks that assess their accuracy, speed, proofreading, writing, and editing skills.

For jobs that require physical ability, employers might set up simulations to assess strength, dexterity, or endurance. For teaching or other jobs that require public speaking skills, employers might ask candidates to teach a lesson or give a group presentation.

Validity and Outcomes

Companies that have developed job descriptions and candidate profiles that are detailed and well-aligned with success factors for jobs will have the most useful output from talent assessments. Organizations must be careful to conduct assessments in a consistent, standardized manner to generate reliable results. Ethical hiring standards dictate that assessments be delivered to all candidates for a particular job and not applied selectively.

After you take the test, you may be told immediately whether you passed or failed, or you may not learn how you did.

In some cases, you will be notified if the company is interested in hiring you. In other cases, you may not hear back at all, depending on company policy regarding notifying applicants for employment.

By the way, pass or fail is a relative term. The results are based on how the employer thinks a candidate should answer, which doesn't necessarily correlate with your qualifications for employment. In many cases, the company is looking for a certain type of employee that is a fit for their organizational structure and company culture.

Companies often have a waiting period before applicants who don't pass the test can take it again. Details on retaking assessments should be available on the company website.

Sample Questions

What best describes your experiences providing feedback to others at work?

  • You do not have experience
  • You have provided feedback to co-workers
  • You have provided feedback to people working for you
  • You have given feedback to direct reports about their performance
  • You have set standards to achieve optimal feedback

Select matching terms for: ___________ is to water as eat is to ___________

  • dog - cat
  • foot - hand
  • woman - office
  • drink - food
  • ocean - mountain

It is best to analyze all the facts before making a decision.

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neutral
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

Tips for Taking Tests

Do Your Homework

If you’re applying for a large, well-known employer, you may be able to get the inside scoop from current and former employees. It isn’t cheating – the actual questions will likely vary. But you can get a general sense of what to expect by Googling the employer plus “talent assessment” or “pre-employment tests” or similar. You’ll likely find accounts from employees on Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, and other social media/message boards.


If you’re taking the test at home, make sure that you have time and space to complete it to the best of your abilities. Don’t try to dash off answers at the kitchen table during dinner prep. Take the process seriously, and you’ll produce better results.

Be Honest

Talent assessments and personality tests are supposed to provide an honest assessment of your skills and potential for cultural fit. Fake your answers, and you might land the job — only to find yourself miserable after a few months and back on the job search again.