February 27, 2014
'My SAT scores? Seriously?' Why hiring employers still request job applicant scores
By Jasmin Rojas, JD, Legal Editor

Remember the SATs you took, probably during the spring of your junior year in high school, maybe again next fall? If you are interviewing for a job, you might have to dredge up bad testing memories. And quick.

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You may be asked to provide your scores, even if you have been out of college for several years!

According to an article by the Wall Street Journal, major companies, from Goldman Sachs to Boston Consulting Group, still want to see the results of those college entrance exams.

It might seem odd or even downright silly for employers to consider the results of a test administered to teenagers. But SATs remain relevant in part because they are a hiring metric that recruiters can easily understand. Some recruiters claim that having access to a candidate’s SAT scores is helpful when comparing candidates with differing backgrounds or figuring out whether someone has the brainpower required for the job.

Indeed, while consulting firms and banks still ask new college recruits for their scores, other companies request them even for senior sales and management hires, candidates who are well in their 40s and 50s.

To recap, SAT, short for Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a test administered to high school students. Most colleges require applicants to submit their scores as part of the application process. Apparently, a low score doesn’t necessarily end a person’s employment chances.

To illustrate, at one company, candidates with weak math results will still be considered if they can demonstrate that they possess other strengths, such as expertise or leadership ability. However, some companies do set qualifying minimum target scores, particularly in the math section.

Problems with using the SAT as a hiring tool

The use of SAT scores may be problematic for employers. The SAT has faced a great deal of criticism because it is a standardized test that, many argue, is inherently biased. First, some claim that the test results do not necessarily reflect the applicant’s ability to contribute to the company. That’s why many schools, such as Bowdoin College (my alma matter) don’t require the SAT exam as an entrance requirement.

Further, some studies suggest that the test favors the affluent and penalizes minorities. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2013, SAT test-takers in the “Black or African-American” category scored an average 431 on the exam’s critical reading section, 429 on math and 418 on writing. In contrast, White test-takers scored nearly 100 points higher on average in every section.

Accordingly, employers relying on the SATs as a screening tool may inadvertently engage in a hiring practice that has an impermissible disparate impact.

Moreover, while recent college graduates may not mind, asking for SAT scores may turn off coveted experienced candidates who don’t understand how the scores are relevant to their future with the company. Indeed, there does not appear to be any evidence indicating a significant correlation between SAT scores and job performance.

On the other hand, as the Wall Street Journal points out, many high profile executives such as the CEOs from Viacom, Kayak, Zillow and Codecademy, all share above-average SAT test scores, suggesting that it may be somewhat of a predictor of success in the business world.

So should SAT scores determine whether or not you should hire a particular candidate? Employers will have to make that decision for themselves, but knowing that there are definite cons may help you make the right decision for your business.

JasminJasmin M. Rojas, JD, is a Legal Editor for BLR’s human resources and employment law publications. Ms. Rojas has several years of experience as an attorney and writer in the field of human resources and has published numerous articles on a variety of human resources and employment topics, including compensation, harassment, discrimination, work/life issues, termination, and military leave. Ms. Rojas has also presented seminars and conducted supervisory training on issues including, but not limited to, sexual harassment and other forms of workplace harassment, ADA, FMLA, internal investigations, workplace violence and workplace privacy. 

Before starting her career in publishing, Ms. Rojas advised and represented employers before state courts and administrative agencies on labor and employment law matters such as claims of unfair labor practices, discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliation, sexual harassment, unemployment and employee discipline.  Ms. Rojas is a cum laude graduate of Western New England University, School of Law, and is an avid basketball and rugby fan.

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