Kelly Fullerton headshot

Kelly Fullerton
Director of ESP
Emergenetics International

When I talk to people about the strengths of hiring assessments, I often start by asking them “Have you seen the show The Voice?”

The premise of The Voice is that the four judges understand what is technically required to be a great singer. In the “blind auditions,” judges cannot see the performer, so they decide whether a person makes it to the next round based solely on the voice of that artist and how it compares with the talent required to succeed on the show.

The Emergenetics Selection Program (ESP), our hiring tool, is similar, and even better because there isn’t a studio audience that could influence the judges’ opinions.

With ESP, companies identify the essential job skills and motivations an employee needs to be successful, and then assess candidates against those specific requirements, resulting in an objective view of the candidate and their ability to perform a specific job.

This methodology of hiring does more than just help you find a great new employee. It can also protect your company from potential legal disputes related to hiring.

Almost every day, there is a new case from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) regarding discrimination in the hiring process, so talent acquisition professionals need to be careful to shore up their practices to protect their companies from prospective litigation.

Hiring practices are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among a number of other laws. At the simplest level, employee recruitment processes must not discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age or disability. If any part of a hiring process disproportionately impacts a protected class, the onus is on the company to prove their selection decisions are based on job requirements or business necessity.

ESP and other valid hiring assessments can help you demonstrate that your company is upholding lawful practices and demonstrate business necessity in several ways:

1. By using a legal, valid assessment, your company establishes a set of minimum requirements for each job that you fill using the assessment. With ESP, this comes in the form of a job analysis.

Similar to the judges on The Voice, hiring managers and recruiters understand the minimum requirements a person needs to successfully fulfill a job role. Through the job analysis, companies define the required motivations and skill level. Because these requirements are job-related and a business necessity, your company is justified in making hiring decisions based off the established criteria.

2. Hiring assessments provide quantifiable data about an applicant. When a person takes the ESP assessment, they are scored and compared to the specific requirements outlined in the job analysis. The results of the assessment provide specific reasons for why a candidate may or may not have been hired. The reliance on objective measurements helps reduce reliance on “gut feelings” that may have unconscious bias.

3. Hiring assessments provide consistency to all prospective candidates. Similar to the blind audition of The Voice, hiring assessments like ESP are standardized in their content and administration. Tests like ESP are crafted according to job-related criteria, so it gives everyone the same opportunity to be successful.

Using an effective hiring tool can make a notable difference to companies when they are establishing business necessity and demonstrating objective criteria for their hiring practices. When selecting a hiring assessment, we advise hiring professionals to consider the following:

1. Is the hiring assessment well-validated? There are many personality assessments that are not legal for hiring because they do not pre-define required traits for a specific job. Make sure that you are using a hiring assessment that is validated and standardized.

2. Does the hiring assessment measure skills that are truly required for the job? In 2016, Gordon Food Service used a strength test as a physical requirement, which was discriminatory towards women. It was discovered that the strength requirement was too stringent and people could adequately perform the role without passing the test. The company was fined for discriminatory hiring practices.

The point of this story is that tests are valid only when the requirements your company sets are necessary for the job. If the test is not job relevant, it’s not legal. ESP can help you identify and appropriately define the skill level and motivations necessary for your employee to successfully perform a job – thereby helping to protect your company against claims that your requirements are not job related.

3. Have you conducted a thorough and careful review of the assessment? A test can be an effective hiring tool, but no assessment should be implemented without a clear understanding of its effectiveness and limitations, appropriateness for a specific job and whether it can be appropriately administered and scored. Also make sure that the assessment follows the 1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures and 2014 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing.

4. Once the required job skills are identified for a position, how will you make sure they are represented in the job description? When you have clearly stated all job requirements an applicant will be assessed against, you mitigate legal risks.

The next time you hire a new employee, take a look at your hiring processes to see if you’re applying a Voice-like screening process or if there are some gaps that you can shore up with a hiring assessment.

If you notice an opportunity for more objectivity in your process, please reach out to me at


Learn more about ESP and Legal Hiring Assessments!


The information contained within is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with EEOC regulations. Instead, it provides you with background information to help you better understand regulations that may apply to hiring assessments. This legal information is not the same as legal advice. Please consult with your attorney on how this information applies to your specific circumstances.