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Cognitive Abilities Testing

What is Cognitive abilities testing?


Cognitive abilities testing refers to a pre-employment test used to measure an applicant’s cognitive skills. These tests are a part of a growing body of candidate screening tests that help identify better candidates, speed up and simplify the recruitment process. 


What does a cognitive ability test measure?


Cognitive abilities testing measures a candidate’s cognitive abilities across different categories. They don’t measure what the employee knows - they measure how they think. Cognitive ability tests measure mental skills like:


  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Reading comprehension
  • Spatial reasoning


In a recruitment context, cognitive ability tests measure a candidate’s likelihood to succeed at their job:


  • For senior roles, they measure a candidate’s ability to think on their feet or make complicated decisions with many variables involved.
  • For junior roles, they can identify high-potential candidates who are quick learners but haven’t had a chance to prove themselves yet.


How is cognitive ability tested?


Cognitive abilities testing is typically conducted in the form of short, multiple-choice tests. These tests can be made up of logic puzzles, math problems, or reading comprehension questions. The test can be designed to measure on individual skill or can be formatted as a general intelligence test hat covers every category of intelligence. 

There’s usually a time limit built into the test, putting the candidate in situation where they have to think quickly. In most cases, cognitive ability tests are only 10-30 minutes long. 

These fast paced tests creates a real world simulation where candidates have to make quick, logical decisions, therefore accurately predicting a candidate’s workplace performance. 


Is a cognitive ability test the same as an IQ test?


In a loose sense, a cognitive ability test and an IQ test are similar, but they aren’t the same. 

Culturally, the term “IQ” is often used to refer to a test an individual’s general intelligence, their ability to understand concepts and solve problems. 

In the technical sense, “IQ” refers to an individual’s score on a cognitive ability test relative to the average population. IQ is just one way to describe the result of cognitive abilities testing, which measures the test taker’s intelligence. 


Benefits of cognitive abilities testing


Hiring the perfect candidate isn’t a treasure hunt. It’s a process that should be continuously improved upon, and recruiters should take advantage of any tool that improves the hiring process. Cognitive abilities testing is one of the most under-utilised but effective tools available for improving hiring chances. 

Here are a few reasons to start using cognitive ability tests today: 


1. Cognitive abilities testing predicts job performance


Cognitive ability tests are a strong predictor of job performance, and it is on of the most compelling reasons to use them. 

For instance, in 1998, Frank L. Schmidt measured 19 different employee selection techniques on their ability to predict job performance. He assessed the most common methods recruiters use to select candidates: education level, job experience, structured and unstructured job interviews, job knowledge tests, and cognitive ability tests. Schmidt’s research found that cognitive ability was the strongest predictor of job performance.


2. Cognitive ability tests measure learning and problem-solving


Cognitive ability tests determine how quickly a candidate can learn on the job rather than what they already know. The higher their cognitive abilities, the faster they’ll learn, the quicker they’ll adapt to a changing environment, and the more effective they will be at finding problems to new solutions. 

Therefore, cognitive tests are effective at predicting job performance because they can accurately predict how agile a candidate can be when navigating am ever-changing job environment. 


3. Cognitive ability tests help you identify hidden potential


Resumes can’t predict what a candidate is capable of. They’re just a record of what’s already been done. By testing cognitive ability, identify the candidates that possess the skills needed to thrive in the organization. 

This is especially helpful when hiring for junior positions where it’s likely few candidates have past experience. By hiring quick learners and ensuring that the organization is occupied by bright people, leaders can ensure that they have employees with high potential at every level of the company. 


4. Cognitive ability tests save time and money


Frank L. Schmidt’s 1998 study determined that cognitive tests were the most cost-effective method of hiring great employees. Pre-screening applicants with ten-minute cognitive assessment tests can help employers avoid from interviewing too many candidates, thereby saving them time and money. 


5. Cognitive ability tests avoid bias—when used correctly


Recruiters should actively work to avoid bias as part of their hiring process. But it’s not unusual to find even the most equal-opportunity recruiters carrying unconscious biases about intelligence that will cause them to treat candidates unequally. However, cognitive ability tests can help add an objective perspective to hiring. 

With cognitive abilities testing, recruiters can evaluate a candidate for their actual intelligence rather than their resume of past jobs, and standardise the recruitment process to eliminate subconscious ideas of what intelligence may look like.


6. Cognitive ability tests impress candidates


Taking the time to thoroughly vet potential employees shows that you value hiring the right candidates.

You show off that you’re forward-thinking, that you act without bias, and that everything your company does is well thought out. 

By using modern screening tools, asking thoughtful questions, and giving candidates the ability to showcase their intelligence, you’re giving candidates a positive peek into what it’s like working at your company.


7. Cognitive ability tests improve retention


Cognitive ability tests can improve your organizational retention by helping you to hire the right candidates from the get-go. Employee retention is often one of the HR team’s biggest KPIs, because the cost of losing an employee is incredibly high.