Depending on what type of job you apply for, you will have a different kind of physical ability testing. Some jobs require exceptionally strenuous tasks, while other jobs just require that employees have the abilities to perform physical tasks when needed. Firemen, for example, must pass a rigorous physical test before allowing to work because of the necessary strength and endurance required to go into a burning building and rescue people. Many manual labor jobs such as working in factories also require pre-employment physical ability testing, where potential employees have to perform tasks related to the jobs they seek. Policemen, physical therapists and other jobs that require specific physical skills often have physical testing before hiring job applicants, as well.
Usually, employers give physical tests after you have passed an initial general interview and screening. After the employer has verified that you have the necessary experience and learning potential to do the job, the employer may ask you to take a medical test and physical test. The medical test, administered by a doctor, determines your overall health, as well as your health risks when performing specific tasks. The physical test will examine your strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and agility, usually by methods specific to the job.
For example, firemen have to undergo a very intense pre-employment physical ability testing. People training to serve as firemen have to practice for weeks in advance in order to get in shape for the test. Some parts of the test include timed stair climbing, pulling heavy hoses and other equipment, climbing ladders, “rescuing” dummies up to 200 pounds and pushing up weighted ceilings. Prospective employees have to perform these tasks and others all while carrying 50-75 pound weights, and finish the complete circuit in a short amount of time. If you don’t pass the test, then you have to wait a certain amount of time to re-take it. Many other pre-employment tests work on a similar basis.
To prepare for these tests, employers will often tell you what the tests involve, and the most difficult parts of the tests. Many people prepare by doing weight-lifting, distance and sprint running, and stair-climbing with weights.
Employers use pre-employment physical ability testing for several reasons. For one thing, studies have shown that companies who have employees take physical tests before starting the job, have lower rates of quitting. Many times, people don’t know what they’re getting into before they start a job, and physical tests will give them a good idea of what they will have to do every day. Physical testing also reduces injuries in employees, especially shoulder and back injuries, which often results from incorrect technique and insufficient strength and ability. People who pass physical screening tests often show a higher productivity rate and fewer sick days while on the job. Sometimes, employers also use physical testing to lower their workers’ compensation costs, and these physical tests determine employees’ general health.
Sometimes, pre-employment physical ability testing can have adverse impacts because it can favor younger people and males, and discriminate against older people and females. However, most physical tests correspond closely to the tasks that the job requires, so arguably, they do not exclude anybody but those who don’t have the ability to do the job.
By Lisa Zyga