This post is for business leaders and HR professionals who are considering adding pre-employment assessments to the hiring process but aren’t sure where to start. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there, so use this quick guide to separate fact from fiction. Let’s start with a little housekeeping:

What pre-employment assessments are not:

1) Magic – Pre-employment assessments are not one of the mystic arts brought to us from a shadowland of wizards and dragons. They don’t separate “good applicants” from “bad applicants” or possess clairvoyance. The data generated by an assessment is, in fact, neutral. Anyone who expects an assessment to tell them who to hire, without context, is going to be disappointed.

2) A test – People commonly refer to pre-employment assessments by the term “personality tests.” While personality test sounds jazzier from a marketing perspective, a pre-employment assessment is not a test. You can’t pass or fail one. A pre-employment assessment is, rather, a survey for gathering data about personality traits.

3) A replacement for coaching and development – Just because an applicant’s assessment results line up with the job you are looking to fill, it does not mean that applicant will inevitably succeed. People still need training, development, and an engaging environment in which to fulfill their potential. An applicant who aligns with the job is more likely to succeed than an applicant who does not align with the job, but only when all other factors are equal. If a work environment is toxic and employees are miserable, positive assessment results are of little value.

What pre-employment assessments are:

1) An instrument for identifying applicants’ and employees’ intrinsic strengths and motivations – The purpose of a pre-employment assessment is to uncover that which you can’t see on a resume: a person’s motivators and inhibitors. The applicant whose motivators line up with the role, and whose inhibitors are largely avoided in the role, is more likely to be a top performer than someone with personality drivers that are negatively correlated to the role.

2) A tool to support hiring and development decisions – A pre-employment assessment is not meant to replace human judgment in the selection process but to augment it. Let’s say that one applicant interviewed better but the other has preferable qualifications. Assessment results show which applicant’s motivators align best with the job and, therefore, can serve as a tiebreaker. The same goes for internal-promotion decisions. Even better, employee-assessment results can help you customize your coaching and development plans for maximum effectiveness, because you’ll know your new hire’s potential strengths and weaknesses ahead of time. No surprises!

3) A way to add consistency and limit bias – Especially with roles you need to fill more than once (typically sales and customer-service positions), you can limit bias by applying the same evaluation criteria for each applicant. On a broader scale, you can use assessments to ensure your hiring managers are following the same process and not letting their personal quirks undermine the company’s talent-acquisition strategy.

Choosing an assessment

Assessments have flooded the market in recent years, some cheap and easy, but be assured that you get what you pay for. Look for an assessment that is:

1) Scientifically validated – Anyone can slap together a questionnaire, call it a pre-employment assessment, and charge 15 bucks a pop. The employer that chooses this cheap route is throwing money away, not saving it, because the results will be useless. Authentic assessments are scientifically validated through extensive research and testing to make sure they measure what they claim to measure. This is called “construct validity.” Top-of-the-line assessments also achieve something called “criterion validity,” which (jumping a few steps for the sake of brevity) means they are scientifically validated to measure job-performance potential. Spoiler alert: Our assessment, the Caliper Profile, is validated both for construct and criterion validity.

2) Proven – A phone app that hit the market 36 hours ago is probably not your most reliable resource for evaluating applicants. Go with an assessment that has a track record in the assessment industry and is regarded as venerable. Spoiler alert: The Caliper Profile has been on the market for over 50 years and is continually revised and refined as more and more performance data is collected and analyzed. It is also fully compliant with all relevant U.S. labor laws.

3) Versatile – For the ultimate in consistent application of employment assessments throughout your organization, you should use an assessment tool that works both for selection and for staff development. A versatile assessment is also scalable to the size and needs of any organization, whether those needs are occasional hiring or an integrated, enterprise-wide hiring-and-development strategy. Such an assessment could serve as a platform for people analytics, as the basis for a 360-degree executive coaching program, or as a tool for identifying and developing high-potentials. Spoiler alert: Ah, never mind. It’s not a secret anymore. The Caliper Profile.