Chapter 1: What are Pre-Employment Assessments

“An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it.” – Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of VISA.

A fundamental challenge for many HR departments, recruiters, sales managers, and sales executives is finding the “right” people to fill open sales positions. When good salespeople are hired in a company, productivity is higher, turnover is reduced, morale is high, and profits increase. When the wrong people are hired, a lot of time and money is wasted – exacerbated by the cost of lost business opportunities.

To better meet the challenge of selecting the best possible candidates to hire, companies are increasingly turning to pre-employment assessments. These are designed to evaluate potential hires for specific abilities or traits, these being indicative of suitability for a specific job function.

There are several types of pre-employment assessments in use today, including:

Cognitive: measure mental ability, such as intelligence (IQ), reasoning skills, spatial perception, communication skills and more.

Aptitude: measure the inherent ability to perform or learn new skills

Personality: focus on attitudes, emotions, social behavior and motivations.

Performance/Job Knowledge: measure the ability to perform specific job functions or possess specialized knowledge, such as nursing or computer programming.

Situational: provide hypothetical scenarios which measure the test taker’s judgement in difficult job-related situations.

Most pre-employment tests yield one or more scores or ratings which, when measured against those which correlate to high performance, can be used to rate suitability or desirability by an employer.


Pre-employment assessments have been in wide use in the U.S. since World War I, when recruits were given the Alpha and Beta tests. Private employers adopting their own testing mechanisms have had to stay abreast of increasing regulation, most notably in the form of the Civil Rights Act and the “Uniform Guidelines of Employee Selection Procedures” adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To avoid discrimination claims, any pre-employment test given must be reliable, valid and equitable, and must consistently predict success on the job regardless of race, sex, age, religious preference, or other bias.

Given the above, using well-designed, objective tests with proven correlation to job performance should decrease the risk of legal liability. This is because employers can back up their hiring decisions with empirical data as opposed to subjective factors such as personal interviews, experience, and educational background, which could be subject to bias.

Pre-employment assessments for salespeople

There are a wide range of aptitude assessments used in HR departments across the United States and in our neighboring countries. Some of these are more sophisticated than others. For some of the most popular assessments, the results are highly complex, difficult to interpret without special training, and lack sufficient correlation studies to prove their validity.

Another common issue for aptitude assessments is they can be more “general purpose” tests and not optimized for the sales role. There are subtle differences that can make any of these assessments more reliable in one situation than another.

The two assessments that Asher Strategies have sold over the last 20+ years are:

Craft Personality Questionnaire – The CPQ was developed specifically for sales roles and excels at matching personality traits to sales-specific positions based on compatibility. It has been administered over a million times and thus there’s a large pool of data that confirms correlation of scores to real world performance.

Advanced Personality Questionnaire – The APQ is an upgraded version of the CPQ and is currently, in our opinion, the best pre-employment assessment for both customer-facing employees (sales, CSRs) as well as sales leaders (managers and executives). It is the test used at ASHER for all our clients.

Advanced Personality Questionnaire

The APQ is a sales-focused aptitude assessment comprised of 81 multiple choice questions. It can be taken from any internet-connected computer/tablet, or mobile phone. It takes approximately 25 minutes to complete. The test plots applicant personality trait scores against the ideal scores for specific sales roles, such as inside sales, outside sales, sales managers, customer service representatives, and over 20 more.

Here is a list of the nine primary traits tested for on the APQ:

· Intensity/Drive

· Independence
· Need to Analyze

· Need to Serve

· Assertiveness

· Self-protection

· Drive for Recognition

· Interpersonal Trust

· Optimism

In addition to these, the APQ also reveals scores for the following secondary traits:

· Achievement motivation
· Empathy to understand the needs of others
· Prospecting motivation
· Employment stability
· Receptivity to coaching/supervision
· Ability to handle confrontation
· Proficiency to manage time and resources
· Charisma to influence others to buy
· Confidence/persistence to close the sale
· Customer service orientation

These traits are explained in-depth through several easy-to-grasp reports with color-coded test scores and descriptions of how each trait potentially impacts sales performance. This allows hiring managers and sales executives to quickly discern a candidate’s suitability for a given sales job.

These reports could further be used as coaching tools. First, they bring an awareness to each test taker of his or her own personality strengths and weaknesses. Second, the APQ provides actual coaching tips customized for each candidate which can be used to s-t-r-e-t-c-h traits into more optimum ranges.

In conclusion

Pre-employment assessments such as the APQ are essential for every sales organization. They provide deep insights into potential hires, prevent costly hiring mistakes, and can improve performance through coaching. While many exist, we feel the best currently available is the sales-focused APQ.


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