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What Is the Ideal Pass Rate for Your Pre-Employment Assessment?

July 14, 2016

Most organizations that use employee assessments to screen job candidates do some type of monitoring of the assessment pass rates. Staffing teams often want to know, for example, whether there are significant increases or decreases in pass rates over time so that they can determine if any corrective action needs to be taken to maintain the pass rate within a desired range.

But, how do organizations determine what the desired pass rate range is in the first place? Most stakeholders understand that if the pass rate is too high, too many candidates who do not have the desired capabilities for the target role will be allowed to proceed to the next step in the staffing process. That could mean that the assessment is not providing enough utility.

Conversely, if the pass rate is too low, the staffing team may feel too much pressure to fill job vacancies due to the increase in the number of candidates they need to source, and too many candidates who do have the capabilities to succeed in the job will get screened out.

What is the typical pass rate?

While every assessment implementation is different, most assessments will have a desired, or target, pass rate somewhere in the 60 to 90 percent range. However, for most assessments you do not want the top and bottom of your pass rate range to span 30 percentage points. The target pass rate range for any particular test should be narrower (typically 10 to 15 percentage points), and the upper and lower limits of the target range should be determined by the type of assessment being used.

As a general rule, shorter, less in-depth assessments are often designed as front-end screening tools that candidates will take right after submitting the job application and resume. These types of assessments often take 20 minutes or less to complete and are designed to screen out only the riskiest candidates. Such assessments will have higher target pass rate ranges, often around 80 to 90 percent.

On the other hand, longer, more rigorous assessments are typically designed to be administered later in the staffing process (e.g., as the last step before a face-to-face interview). These assessments often take closer to an hour or more to complete and are designed to identify the best candidates for the job. These assessments tend to have lower target pass rate ranges, often around 60 to 75 percent.

The general rule

The general idea behind these recommendations is that the more comprehensive and thorough the assessment, the more selective you can be with it. Also, more rigorous assessments tend to have higher cost and require more time and other resources to administer, so they are often utilized later in the staffing process.

It’s also important to note that the above recommendations are just rules of thumb and may not apply in certain circumstances. For example, some organizations may have good reasons to use assessments as information-only; others may do very low-volume, high-level hiring and use an extremely rigorous, costly, and time-consuming assessment process in which pass rates may be of little interest.

The above recommendations assume that the assessments in question have been validated in some way and are a measuring the right capabilities for the target job. If the test does not measure the right skills, it will not help identify qualified candidates, no matter what the pass rate is.

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John Fernandez, Ph.D. John Fernandez, Ph.D. was a Senior Consultant at PSI and lead the implementation of assessment programs for both selection and development. John has extensive experience working as an internal expert within HR for large companies to deliver large scale, global assessment solutions. John’s areas of expertise include project management, job analysis, assessment design & validation, and presentation of assessment results to sponsors.