What can you do if you believe a preemployment test is unfair or invades your right to privacy?

This can be a perplexing situation. Most job seekers fear that if they question a test and its relevance to the job for which they’re interviewing, they’ll be perceived as difficult or defensive, leaving a negative impression on their prospective employer.

However, Bill Banis, who has a Ph.D. in management and industrial/organization psychology and is director of university career services at Northwestern University, believes that job seekers have a right to ask an employer how the test or selection method is related to the job. Most interviewers should be able to give an explanation of why the test is used and how it relates to the job for which the candidate is interviewing. Keep in mind, however, that in order to maintain the integrity of the test, they may not be able to discuss its job-relatedness until after the testing process is completed.

“We advise our students that if they have a concern about a questionable practice in an interview, they should not jeopardize their candidacy,” he says. “They should come to me or one of the other staff, and we can inquire about the practitioner and circumstance without revealing [the student’s] name.”

For those job seekers who don’t have a career services office to turn to, Toni Kovalski, associate director of test development for the International Personnel Management Association Assessment Services Division, suggests calling the department that administered the test. Job seekers can express their concerns and request some explanation of the test’s job-relatedness. If the job seeker still feels that something was wrong with the testing or interview process, his or her next move will depend on the nature of the complaint.

If Banis learns that an employer is using an inappropriate or illegal preemployment test, he will address the situation with the employer. Sometimes illegal interviewing or testing methods enter the hiring process quite by accident.

Because of legal and other problems that can result from irrelevant or unfair tests (or tests that have “adverse impact”), be assured that many companies now choose their preemployment tests and interviewing techniques very carefully. In addition, career services professionals such as Banis often review preemployment tests that will be used with student job seekers before interviews begin. Checks and doublechecks are made on the reliability, validity, and job-relatedness of preemployment tests. As Kovalski points out, it is a waste of an employer’s time and money to administer tests that don’t give them the appropriate information about a candidate, which makes it unlikely that inappropriate tests will slip through the review process.

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