Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Are diversity initiatives impeded by pre-employment testing?

They certainly can be, as many pre-employment tests and checks can negatively affect those of certain races, women, those with disabilities and older workers. Even the best diversity recruiting initiative can be thwarted when selection relies heavily on non-validated and/or unnecessary tests given to applicants, or when any test does not focus on the job itself. This can lead to the elimination or great reduction of the aforementioned categories of applicants, throwing the initiative into a tailspin. For such an initiative to be successful, it should contain guidance on when and how testing will be used.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title VII all prohibit the use of discriminatory employment tests and selection procedures. Whether intentional, disparate treatment discrimination (such as testing only Hispanic applicants for literacy), or unintentional, disparate impact discrimination (such as a lifting test that tends to screen out women), the employer remains responsible for complying with the law, even if an outside source has validated the test. The critical issue, of course, is what constitutes a discriminatory employment test, and how a recruiting initiative can incorporate this into the plan. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers guidance on this in Employment Tests and Selection Procedures, and the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) details what criteria the courts will use to identify a lawful employment test. Both documents should be reviewed when establishing a recruiting initiative for the employer’s best protection. In brief, employment tests should be:

  • Administered without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), or disability.
  • Validated under the UGESP.
  • Job related with results appropriate for the employer’s purpose.

But don’t stop there; things can change over time. Have an ongoing plan to detect any disparate impact due to testing that may develop and a commitment to implement effective, alternative selection procedures that have less or no adverse impact. Keep job descriptions current, and update test specifications accordingly. Commit to management training that addresses casual selection tests and procedures that may be used without knowledge of their effect, such as impromptu math tests during interviews, unnecessarily heavy lifting requirements to “protect” against workers compensation claims and not allowing accommodations for test taking to applicants with disabilities.

Finally, while pre-employment tests can be effective tools to help determine the most qualified applicants, they should be only one of many components used in the selection process. Close and continued scrutiny of any pre-employment tests used to ensure they are closely related to the job applied for, and not unwittingly reducing diversity in an applicant pool, will help in the success of the initiative.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.