Pretraining and what eLearning can do for your business

Pretraining is a departure from standard HR practices which greatly enhances the recruitment process.  So how do you implement Pretraining for your business?

Usually associated with Psychology, pretraining is training which takes place prior to another activity, specifically in advance of an experiment or test.

When used in the context of HR it means to train someone before they are interviewed for the role.


What if you spotted a job and thought… I’d like to do that but am I qualified for it?!

The advert says “Before applying for this role please complete the pretraining to see is this for you!”

Taking 3 minutes out there is an intro video that leads to a series of materials about skills and delivery you can sense check yourself against.

At the end of those few minutes you think to yourself… actually I can do this and you apply for the role!


This approach can be done as a private or public approach.

It offers HR departments a forward thinking approach using modern technology to inspire and enhance candidates applying for roles.

Having worked with a number of companies who face large employment challenges the following is designed to address an number of internal and external HR challenges.

  • Technology
  • The mindset
  • Results
  • The Concerns
  • Wrap up

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Public pretraining

Where information is in the public domain and you want staff to vet themselves before you invest time.

To set this up you can use a tool like and here’s a video of how it works.


The world can come learn something from your business.

The HR department can vet students who work through eLearning training to select those who are right for the role before ever interviewing.


If you’ve seen the movie “Ready Player One”  this is a cinematic example form of public pretraining.

Sorry for the spoiler but the movie essentially revolves around a person who is looking to employ someone.  The employer comes up with a creative recruitment approach.


Private pretraining

So as an applicant has completed an application to your business, you would like to quickly and effectively check some basics with them.

Having the ability to deliver basic eLearning and simple testing to quickly screen applicants can save valuable person hours done during interviewing and “introduction training”.

To set this up you can use any manner of Learning Management Systems, some of which may already be in operation in your business.



Private pretraining also provides basics steps for internal promotion for employees who wish to climb the internal corporate ladder.

Consequently this can lead to the broader approach of career pathing.


Career pathing

A common concept in HR is that there is a structured progression through the organisation.

Like daisy chaining training for one role into the training for another role./


Different systems facilitate the growth and progress but instead of providing training after someone has secured the role, provide the training to the applicant before they secure the role.

The training is however on their own time

This preapplication shows:

  • investment by the employee in securing the role,
  • reduces costs in delivering training post securing the role and
  • provides demonstrate-able equal opportunity and career development for all employees.


The mindset

For you as an individual

Most people reading this blog will have applied for one job and done a job interview.

The dark arts of personal presentation, soft skills and nimbleness of mind all feature in a 30 minute or less presentation.

Before you do that interview both sides of the table wonder:

  • “what makes this person suitable for the job?”
  • “they say they’re interested but are they really?”
  • “a CV can lie, do they have the basic skills to do this?”


I once applied not long after first qualifying for college to the Royal Air Force.

I went and did a training interview which was with a classroom full of people who had all traveled for the opportunity.

The entire day for me boiled down to one sentence “your future role will involve you having to kill people in defense of other people are you comfortable with this idea?”


I didn’t pursue the role and ended up in IT which for me and my life was where I wanted to be.

The RAFs approach was a free day of pretraining.

Yet using technology they could save more time and money by providing the pretraining remotely, either publicly or privately.


A comment on the state of global industry

Automation sees more and more layoffs.  People doing repetitive tasks can be done by computers and robotics.

The concept of lifelong learning is hitting home globally.

That one job isn’t for life and you will need to constantly upskill to remain relevant unlike previous generations.


Whilst creative roles are filled by the best and the brightest, how do you attract the best and the brightest?

Furthermore and more importantly keep them.

Not everyone is a scientist and the exclusivity and cost of university educations is restrictive to most.


It is not enough that you have crippling student debt if you complete college to simply become “industry relevant”.

Consequently only to realise you need more training after you’ve finished.

Advocates of industry scream about how “worthless” college is yet they themselves posses skills and resources that college didn’t provide.

There has to be a better medium ground for everyone and pretraining addresses this need.


How technology helps

Everyone who gets on the internet ends up on YouTube at some point.

If not YouTube, Vimeo or Netflix.  Facebook and LinkedIn can provide inline videos.

Everyone knows the value of the encyclopedia that is Wikipedia and it’s amazing global contribution.


Communications technology is making fast internet available no matter where you are in the world.

With the same idea you can take a call anywhere on the planet, you can get data pretty much anywhere on the planet as well.

Now what do we do with it?


An Internet Browser on a phone or on a computer enables a business to communicate with a candidate.

Job websites advertise new roles they are paid to advertise.

The volume of responses to those advertisements span the full range of “no one interested” through to “too many to count”.


Spare a thought for HR recruitment

HR departments do the hard leg work of recruitment.

They deal with encouraging people to apply for roles, all the way through to filtering out people who aren’t even suitable to interview.

What if HR could use the same tools that Marketing have to encourage applicants.


Some customers you want, some customers you don’t want.

Similarly there are applicants you want and applicants you don’t want.

There are tactics to achieve these goal pretraining like customer screening is one of these tactics.


Being the best

In March 2018, Indeed released the top 25 best places to work in Ireland.

Image from

Whilst HR teams battle it out nationally to figure out the “secret sauce” of being an amazing place to work others don’t have the budget to feature.


“While attractive perks and flexible working conditions are often associated with the arrival of US tech names in the Irish market, this year’s rankings show that investment in people is being prioritised right across a range of sectors.” Indeed senior vice president of human resources Paul Wolfe said

Meanwhile the “Great Place to Work Institute”  assesses the policies and practices in place in organisations under nine key areas: Inspiring, Speaking, Listening, Caring, Developing, Thanking, Hiring, Celebrating, and Sharing.


What is common across all the awards and approaches is that a business that invests in development reaps rewards.

How they go about that investment is what we’re considering here.  Pretraining is an investment in training.


Investing in training

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Hamburger University is a corporate university to instruct McDonalds employees in various aspects of restaurant management.

There are eight campuses globally.

More than 80,000 restaurant managers, mid-managers and owner/operators have graduated from here.


Reading what Dell employees write about their training it is clear to see it features heavily as a pro of the business.

Dell’s CEO puts it like this

Although training had always been a part of Dell’s strategy, by 1995 it was clear that it needed an even greater emphasis. So, the office of the chairman directed that the role of Dell Learning be significantly expanded. The charter of the (then) corporate university was simple but challenging: ensuring that people had the knowledge and skills to keep pace with the firm’s hyper growth.


So the heavy weights all lean to the idea that, as soon as you get in, we’re going to have to train you to make you useful.

Yet how much training could have been done before you even get in the door?


Breaking down what you need to apply for a role

Fair enough you don’t want to give away trade secrets.

Intellectual property rights quite simply should not be just shared.

Yet common skills like soft skills, manual handling, office basic first aid and computer use should not result in business cost.

Pretraining works to ensure whatever an individual can bring to an interview, they bring before they company has to pay to check its there.


In any role there are four specific training check areas that always feature as part of an applicant process

  1. Firstly there is basic general skills e.g. the ability to read and write in a specific language, numeracy, computer literacy
  2. Next up is Industry jargon. e.g. knowing that stat in Medical terms makes it urgent as opposed to a statistic in math
  3. Most importantly is Business specific knowledge.  Trade secrets and operational knowledge tends to be after you sign a contract.
  4. Finally and crucially Aptitude for the role, which tends to be inherent rather than taught and is vital to personal motivation.


Helping applicants understand whats required

Take any job on and immediately the site will split the jobs into specific headings. Why?

Consequently because people need basic understanding of areas which a business operates in, the business expects people to have some area specific knowledge before they apply.

Take a “drivers” job.  Rules of the road, basic car maintenance, a full driver’s licence on specific vehicle types…

Furthermore there are a host of skills useful to have before one applies for the role.  What is “actually” needed to fulfill the role?


What if applying for that role of a driver, the company says:  here are some general resources, make sure you’ve read and understand these before you apply!

However it’s not the company’s job to train the world.

Yet like Dell or McDonalds, you would check that a person has all those skills as part of the recruitment process.

What if the applicant could self check?  What if the applicant could train up to be able to apply?


Going public or private

Wooden CubesEvery business has to do the training and the checks on an employee before unleashing their raw talent on the business.

The training material is there but how is it delivered?


Practical skills which require use of specific machinery such as engineering, are costly as they require tools and people practicing with them.

Through eLearning most theory, background knowledge and academic based knowledge is easily done with the use of examples.  They are very easy to set up as public pretraining.

Even for a carpenter before you pick up a plane to plane some wood, learning about grain and cellulose can massively speed up learning the skills required.  Yet to become a carpenter you need never have read this material before.


As per the big companies, no you don’t have the responsibility to train applicants.

Consequently if you elect one of them as an employee you have to make sure they have the basic knowledge.

So why not let them train themselves before they ever use your HR departments time in finding out they don’t have some basic knowledge?

Furthermore to add insult to your injury if the person doesn’t have a basic skill, the business often pays to train people up as its cheaper than restarting the recruitment process!



The headlines

Any applicant who is serious in attaining that role will invest person time in self development to give themselves the best opportunity to secure that role.

People adopt pretraining as a benefit to preparing for a role rather than going in blind as to the requirements.


This is time you as a business do not have to invest in their training.

By being able to track their personal investment in training you can differentiate between serious contenders and people throwing their CV in every door hoping one will work.

This approach can be a cost saving measure as well as a filtering measure as part of your recruitment procedure.


Reduced operational readiness lead times

By opening training up to employees you will get people who will self develop by choice.

These enthusiastic employees are preparing for roles which aren’t currently available yet on their own time.

This facilitation also gives you a pool of skills from which to draw should an opportunity or challenge arise which needs those skills.


Industry positioning

The marketing value of having the Hamburger University is appealing to people who might not be able to afford university.

A management qualification has intrinsic value.

Employees frequently list training as one of the benefits of working somewhere.  Often referred to as a perk.

Attracting attention by providing “free knowledge” helps the growth of a pool of potential candidates.  Especially driven and focused people seeking to get ahead in their careers.


The concerns

Setup times

If you compare :

  • the amount of time it takes to properly interview basic skills by every person interviewed vs.
  • testing basic skills in an automated structured manner

the savings are massively recognisable.

The training material for general skills is widely available thanks to the Internet.  It simply requires “pointing to materials” for generalised skills.

If you have specialised skills converting those skills to elearning will take the general translation of 4 x the training courses delivery vs. 1 x develop the eLearning.  Invest the time in eLearning and it will pay off after just 4 deliveries of existing material.


Shelf life

Yes information, processes and procedures evolve over time which forces training out of date.

Modularising and isolating training results in reduced training rewritting.

Modern Learning Management Systems (LMS) provide the ability to isolate training and only have to “revise” rather than “replace” training materials.



There are a number of cost reasons for you to calculate for your own business.

  • Firstly improved retention:  the cost of having to replace turnover?
  • Next attracting the best talent:  how do you calculate an employees worth and their ability to win you new business or save you money?
  • Also employee loyalty:  whilst reducing waste, loyalty can improve market reputation
  • Furthermore market flexibility: the ability to respond to change as everyone expects change and has the skills to adapt
  • Consequently increased productivity: as productivity increases it directly links to profitability


Wrap up

Pretraining, either public or private can make vast improvements on a number of fronts to your business.

The nominal cost of setup massively increases returns in investment of time and resources.

The operational advantages will result in this approach being a competitive advantage your HR department can bring to your business.

If there’s anything in this article you’d like to chat to me about you can contact me here or on social media.



  1. Rachel

    I think eLearning for pretraining is an amazing tool if used properly and I like the idea that you are able to really zoom in and focus on the best candidate for the position with hard data to back up your selection. In my experience, I did something similar when I was hired for my most recent role. And, we’ve continued to do so over the years for other roles. We’ve found it particularly useful now that all of our hiring and candidate interviewing is done remotely as it gives us a better idea of each candidate’s skillset and how they work. So, I feel like we utilize our computer-based training software in a pretty decent way (although as with anything, I’m sure we can always improve). The list you gave about breaking down important skills before you even get to the job interview was awesome. I had never considered going through these steps as someone who applies for a job and as someone who hires. I appreciate the great tips!

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