Background Checks

The phrase paper and pencil used in connection with any sort of aptitude or personality instrument is an antiquated description, but it’s still a fairly commonly used term. What I’m talking about is any test that requires job seekers to answer a series of questions designed to measure a wide array of skills, inclinations, proclivities, or tendencies for nearly every field of human endeavor. There are tests for leadership, stress, verbal reasoning, numerical ability…well, you name the skill set, and there’s at least one test that will evaluate it.

As with most things, some evaluative instruments are better than others. The best have been validated over time and are excellent predictors of the things being tested. Paper and pencil tests are a great way to focus in on the strengths and weaknesses in areas of concern to the employer. Tests are also an excellent screening device to ensure that the basic qualities sought are already in place before moving forward with the hiring process.

What tests don’t tell the prospective employer is how those basic qualities will play out in association with others. For instance, if a leadership test indicates quite clearly that the job seeker has strong leadership skills, what it won’t disclose is how the candidate for employment will interact with other equally strong leaders.

Put in simplest terms, paper and pencil tests can tell you what the job seeker is like as an individual, from any number of points of view. But they don’t necessarily reveal how the job seeker has performed as part of a larger group over time. Sometimes our natural proclivities, talents, inclinations, and aptitudes are controlled by external factors, not the least of which include the previous work environment, the responsibilities of the job, or the personalities of others with whom the job seeker has been required to work.

Paper and pencil tests, therefore, are excellent tools to use; but, to maximize their benefits, they need to be used as a guide for directing the conversations held with people with whom the job seeker has worked.