Recruitment is a difficult time and problem for any company. Sifting through hundreds of applicants to find the ones best suited to the position is no easy task. Resumes and references can be forged, and one wrong decision can cost the company more than five times that bad hire’s salary.
However, there’s a way to filter out unsuitable candidates and focus on people who can fulfill their job duties and exceed them. Cognitive ability tests can be used in hiring practices, so you save time and money by focusing on candidates suitable for the job.
Cognitive ability tests are becoming more popular, and 76% of companies with over 100 employees use cognitive ability tests to find quality candidates. If you want to keep up with the times, it's best to integrate cognitive ability tests into your hiring process today.
What Is a Cognitive Ability Test?
A cognitive ability test is a written form composed of multiple-choice questions meant to test candidates on their mental capabilities. Most jobs require the ability to parse through information and make the best decision rapidly. A cognitive ability test for employment can filter through candidates without wasting time and money on lengthy interviews.
A cognitive ability assessment can measure many different kinds of intelligence based on the test administered, and different kinds of intelligence are suitable for different job positions. Giving the test to applicants and then choosing from the pool who meet your criteria is a great way to begin your candidate search.
What Are Cognitive Ability Tests Used for in Assessments?
When you give candidates a pre-screening test, you want to ensure they have the right skills for the job. However, cognitive tests for employment don’t measure skill levels or even overall intelligence.
A cognitive test for employment measures one aspect of a person's intelligence, a certain level of competence the position requires. Whether in problem-solving, numerical reasoning, or reading comprehension depends on the situation.
Measuring a candidate's cognitive abilities can help you find the person best suited for the job faster.
How Using a Cognitive Ability Assessment for Hiring Helps Recruiters
Using a cognitive ability assessment as part of the hiring process helps filter candidates and find the best ones faster than formal interviews or resumes alone. Moreover, increased job performance has been linked to high performance in these cognitive tests, helping you find better candidates overall.
1. Streamline Hiring Process
The typical hiring process has you going through tons of keyword-stuffed resumes built for computers rather than people. Then, you have dozens of possible candidates you need to schedule lengthy interviews for.
However, cognitive ability tests help filter out the candidates not suited for the position so that you can focus on the best candidates for the job. A short ten-minute test can filter a group of hundred down to fifty, a far more manageable number.
This saves the company the time and money it typically takes to conduct those interviews and makes your workload far more manageable.
2. Accurately Predict Job Performance
Cognitive ability tests for employee selection can predict a person’s job performance more accurately than resumes and hour-long interviews. A research paper by Frank L. Schmidt in 1998 and the updated version from 2016 both strongly correlate GMA and GCA (General Mental Ability and General Cognitive Ability) with job performance, primarily when used with other hiring methods like interviews.
Using cognitive ability tests with interviews and resumes can lead to better job performance and candidates than either one alone. Taking all of these methods together is the best way to find the most qualified candidate.
3. Prevent Hiring Bias
Unfortunately, there is still bias in hiring practices, be it unconscious or otherwise. Cognitive screening tests can help set aside that bias to make a genuinely informed and unbiased decision when choosing the right candidate.
Good cognitive ability tests for hiring will be fair to all candidates and won’t favor anyone demographic above another. You should periodically check these tests to ensure they are truly unbiased, as many such intelligence tests prefer one demographic above another without meaning to.
Nevertheless, if used correctly, a cognitive ability test for jobs can give you the best candidates regardless of race and gender.
4. Identify Hidden Potential
Those with the best potential for the position don’t always have the most extensive resumes, especially for lower positions where the candidates are just starting their careers. Nor do they always have the most stunning references.
However, these candidates have the potential to learn and grow into the position and exceed expectations and performance. So how do you find these hidden gems among a sea of candidates with better resumes? Cognitive ability tests.
Since a cognitive ability test measures an aspect of intelligence, previous experience and other qualifications don’t matter. All that is measured is the candidate's potential for the job, helping you find the candidates that have what it takes to grow beyond the position.
5. Save Time and Money
Interviews aren’t easy to conduct, especially if you need to perform many. It tires managers and takes away time that you could spend elsewhere, not to mention the expenses incurred due to lengthy interview processes.
However, using a cognitive test for job interviews can simplify this process considerably. By choosing from a pool of candidates who meet your cognitive criteria, you narrow the pool of candidates to those worth your time and investment.
6. Impresses Job Candidates
When people apply to a company, it's not only the company evaluating the candidates. The candidates are also considering the company to see if they want to work there. Many of the most qualified candidates receive multiple job offers, meaning they'll pick the company that best aligns with their values.
A cognitive ability test is an unbiased way to test job candidates and is an excellent way to impress job candidates and show them your company has an open and honest company culture. Cognitive ability tests improve company values and show candidates you are interested in performance, not in a biased workplace.
7. Boosts Retention
Those who score high on ability tests tend to stay with the company longer than those who do not. Only qualified candidates are selected for positions, leading to fewer people who quit or are fired.
Retention is one of the leading KPIs for HR departments and leads to higher company performance overall.
Strategic companies will use cognitive ability tests to hire lower positions, but with those who have the potential to grow within the company and take over leading positions one day. By structuring the hiring process this way, you’ll hardly ever need to hire for leadership positions, as you’ll already have qualified candidates ready to take over.
This leads to long-term growth for companies and insurance against future hiring crises.
Different Kinds of Intelligence: Picking Tests for the Job
Intelligence is not just one catch-all category. Different people are better at different things, just as different job positions have other criteria candidates need to meet. Then the issue becomes how to measure cognitive ability effectively.
Different test forms target various aspects of intelligence, and various job positions require different types of intelligence. Then the issue is picking the right kinds of tests for the job position in question.
Numerical reasoning is the person’s ability to use numbers and reasoning logically to arrive at the correct answer. Naturally, positions that deal heavily with numbers will benefit most from this type of cognitive test.
Accounting, IT, and positions that deal with money will benefit most from this type of intelligence and test. Numerical reasoning is best used to screen candidates who will be working with numbers daily and where those numbers matter quite a bit.
Verbal reasoning is the ability to draw relationships between words and make correct inferences from very little information. Unfortunately, you don’t always have all the information you need available to you, and the ability to fill in the blanks and make decisions based on what you have comes into play.
An excellent example of this would be customer service. A customer might not give a representative all the information they need, but they can come to the solution by drawing on inferences and the provided information.
Verbal reasoning is necessary when candidates need to be able to make the correct decisions with limited information in a short time frame.
There’s a lot of information generated by companies, and much of it is noise. However, the ability to parse through this noise and find the information you need is another type of intelligence.
Reading comprehension involves reading through a lot of information and finding the key points and essential information. It’s best for positions that require parsing through information and noise.
Reading comprehension is an important skill to have when there’s so much information. A good example would be HR departments. It involves a lot of reading emails and other materials, including resumes and applications.
Critical thinking is about thinking analytically and solving problems logically. Advanced and leadership positions need to understand what to do when something doesn’t work and develop a new strategy.
If a marketing strategy doesn’t produce the numbers it should, will the marketing manager switch things up to try and find a solution, or will they stick to what’s comfortable? Critical thinking is about thinking around problems.
Problem-solving is about using the information you have to develop a solution quickly. On the surface, problem-solving is critical thinking, just with a different focus. However, it's more similar to verbal reasoning than critical thinking.
Decision-making and problem-solving usually have to be done on the fly and quickly, and the ability to arrive at the best solution possible is all a part of problem-solving.
Spatial reasoning is the capability to think about spatial movement and solve problems three-dimensionally and two-dimensionally. This reasoning is best for positions that require candidates to design objects or spaces, like engineers or architects.
Spatial reasoning can have more applications beyond the basic design standpoints. However, it's not used as often as the others due to its niche use.
Multiple Types of Intelligence: Intelligence Theory
What is a cognitive ability test? What is a cognitive ability test for employment? Which leads to the question, what is intelligence?
And nobody can agree on what intelligence is. Philosophers, psychologists, neurologists, and men of science have debated this question for centuries, and there are hundreds of theories detailing the exact nature of intelligence.
However, most theories nowadays come from two prevailing trains of thought: General intelligence theory and multiple intelligence theory.
General Intelligence Theory
Charles Spearman first proposed general intelligence theory in 1904. It suggests that there is only one general intelligence, a “g-factor,” as they term it, that underpins all cognitive ability.
By measuring this g-factor with tests, you can gauge a person’s intelligence in all areas. However, this theory has been replaced by the following one, but there is still a place for it today.
Multiple Intelligence Theory
Howard Gardner primarily introduced the theory of multiple kinds of intelligence in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. It states that there are numerous types of intelligence that different people have different proficiencies in.
Intelligence is not just one general intelligence but rather competency in various areas of reasoning and thinking. This is the most common theory nowadays, and the different types of cognitive ability tests are based on this theory. By measuring these various bits of intelligence separately, you can get a better idea of the intelligence of a single individual.
How to Use a Cognitive Ability Test for Employment
Now that you know why you need a cognitive ability test as part of your onboarding process, you need to understand how to implement it. It can be hard to get started with cognitive ability tests. However, once they are in place, they make hiring suitable candidates easier.
Get a Benchmark
So the first thing you need to know is what is a passing score on the cognitive ability tests. You can’t grade these the same way IQ or school tests are graded because you don’t know the average.
The tests don’t come with grading scales because it differs by company and position. You need to find the benchmark your candidates need to meet to be considered for the post. The passing score is the goal for competency they need to display.
But there’s an easy way to find the benchmark. First, you gather the high performers of the position you’re looking to fill or just the best workers in the company overall.
Then you administer the test to them. Once you get their scores back, you average them out, leading to your company's average competency for the test. This will give you a rough idea of where candidates need to score to keep up with everyone else in the company.
You can fine-tune this benchmark and change the passing score for different positions as needed.
Be Honest With Candidates
You should always strive to be open and honest with candidates about the hiring process and requirements for the position. Candidates who understand what the cognitive ability test is for and why it’s a part of your hiring process are more likely to take it seriously.
This is also a part of impressing candidates. If you’re open and honest with candidates in the hiring process and its components, they’ll be more comfortable with your company, making them more likely to choose your job offer.
Take the Test Scores Into Account
If a candidate scores low on the cognitive ability test but has an impressive resume, it can be tempting to disregard the score entirely. But that isn’t the point of the cognitive ability test.
If you intend to disregard the scores, there’s no use putting the test in with your hiring practices. You should always consider the scores with the other hiring practices you have instated.
That being said, considering only the scores is no good either. To find the ideal candidate for a position, you need to balance the cognitive ability test scores with interviews and resume considerations.
Measure the Adverse Impact of the Test
There is no test completely free of bias. People write all tests, and all people carry their preconceptions and unconscious biases. However, you can cut down on this bias as much as possible.
Adverse impact is the number of failed test candidates compared to the most successful demographic. If the other demographic falls behind the top demographic by 80%, you should strive to fix the test, so it's fairer to all demographics.
You measure the adverse impact by taking the top demographic, then dividing the number of those who passed by the total number of applicants in that demographic. Then you take the other demographics and do the same thing, the number who passed divided by the number who applied.
Ince, you have these two numbers, compare them. If the other demographic is only 80% of the top demographic or even lower, you need to fix the test for adverse impact.
Which of the Following Is True About Cognitive Ability Tests?
Cognitive ability tests are infinitely valuable for hiring suitable candidates for the job. However, they can seem quite intimidating and befuddling to those who don’t know how to use them correctly.
However, cognitive ability tests are worth the extra trouble it takes to implement. The saved time and money are well worth it in the long run, and the growth that comes from hiring the right people.
Is the cognitive ability test the same as an IQ test?
No. IQ tests measure the general intelligence of subjects, the g-factor of general intelligence theory. It assigns a number or a score compared to the rest of the human population.
Most cognitive ability tests are designed to test a particular facet of intelligence, which aligns with the multiple intelligence theory. So while they may seem similar on the surface, they’re made with two entirely different ideas on intelligence.
Is a cognitive ability test the same as a skill test?
No, a skill test measures a candidate’s level of competency in skill, not overall cognitive ability.
It’s the difference between testing a child’s affinity for music with their skill on the tuba. While the child may not be inclined to music, long hours of practice on the tuba can offset this.
Just because a child has musical talent doesn’t mean they will understand how the tuba works right away. The opposite is also true. It may help them pick up the skill, but their competency in tuba at the beginning is still low.
Nevertheless, a candidate's affinity for a position may matter more than their acquired skills. At the increasingly rapid pace technology develops, skills needed for a job can change just as fast, and those who possess a talent for learning such skills will perform better than those who do not.
What is Cognitive Ability?
According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive ability involves the skills used in performing the tasks associated with memory, perception, learning, understanding, awareness, intuition, reasoning, judgment, and language.
Intelligence has been a hot topic for debate since the beginning of humanity, and it will continue to be discussed in the future. The currently popular theory of multiple intelligences may one day be replaced with a more accurate approach. Still, until that day, the current cognitive tests will continue to test candidates on different types of intelligence.
Where Do You Get Cognitive Ability Tests?
Many online resources are available to find cognitive tests that suit your business or association—able tests from the Myers-Briggs company, Maki People, and many more. You can even attempt to create your test!
Keep in mind the requirements for the test, and measure the adverse impact carefully before using it as part of the hiring process, but it's doable. However, using online resources can save you the trouble of creating your own and still save you money.