Cognitive ability testing

Cognitive assessment tests evaluate a person’s ability to think and solve problems. Cognitive ability (also called intelligence or the g factor) refers to the capacity to reason, plan, and solve problems. A person’s cognitive abilities impact job performance. Therefore, cognitive ability plays a crucial role in an employee’s job suitability and success.

When a person's cognitive ability is measured, employers better understand their ability to:

  • Think abstractly
  • Comprehend concepts
  • Learn from experience
  • Apply new information
  • Adapt to new situations
  • Find solutions to problems

Cognitive ability is the best predictor of job performance.

There is a strong consensus among I/O psychologists that cognitive ability is the single best predictor of job performance and it is a common HR practice to utilize cognitive ability tests for selection purposes. Candidates who score well on cognitive ability tests are more likely to complete training successfully, learn and digest new information on the job, and adapt more quickly in fast-changing work environments.

Research has shown that cognitive ability tests have better predictive validity than other common selection tools (see Table 1). In practice, eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. utilize pre-employment tests to understand the candidates’ differences in cognitive ability before making a hiring decision.

Table 1. Predictive validity for overall job performance of different types of selection tools.

Types of selection tools r (corrected)
Cognitive ability tests 0.51
Structured interviews 0.51
Unstructured interviews 0.38
Assessment centers 0.37
Job knowledge tests 0.48
Job experience (years) 0.18
Biographical data 0.35
Education level 0.10

Source: Schmidt, F. & Hunter, J. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 262-274.

Why is cognitive ability such a good predictor of job performance?

Cognitive ability is predictive of job performance across all domains because it predicts learning and problem-solving. The ability to acquire job knowledge is impacted by one’s cognitive ability, and one’s command of job knowledge affects job performance. Employees with higher cognitive ability tend to adjust better to new tasks with their ability to learn and apply new information. Additionally, cognitive ability is associated with reasoning and problem-solving, so people with higher levels of cognition tend to be better at making decisions and finding the most effective solutions in novel situations.

Cognitive demands differ by position.

Despite the consensus that cognitive ability is a valid and effective predictor of job performance, organizations need to keep in mind that cognitive demands vary depending on the complexity of each job. Complex jobs that involve a high degree of independent decision-making and problem-solving require a high level of cognitive ability, but there occupations that involve a lot of repetition and routine, that are less mentally demanding.

Below is a list of different positions that require different types of cognitive abilities:

  • Pharmacy technicians – pharmacy technicians need to pay attention to detail to fill prescriptions accurately and rely on memory to recall potential side effects.
  • Personal financial advisors – financial advisors need to analyze data, recognize trends, and predict market changes.
  • Software engineer – software engineers need to concentrate for long periods of time, have working knowledge of programming languages, and be able to solve problems creatively.
  • Accountant – an accountant needs to keep track of information in a logical and organized way.

Berke’s hiring profiles define what cognitive skills are required for each company and position so that you can identify the candidates who are most likely to excel.

Berke cognitive ability tests.

Cognitive ability testing is an affordable and effective practice that can be used to inform hiring decisions. You can use cognitive ability tests early to screen out individuals who don’t meet minimal requirements during high-volume recruiting or use cognitive assessments to evaluate cognitive capabilities that are critical to job success in mid- and higher- level jobs.

Berke pre-employment testing provides you with four cognitive ability tests (Logical, Vocabulary, Rapid, and Spatial Visualization). The Berke team develops hiring profiles that outline the importance of each trait, as it relates to job performance. Hiring profiles are used to tailor job specific assessments. Job fit scores tell you whether candidates are a high, medium, or low fit for the job. No more guessing if your candidate has the cognitive ability required to excel in the job. Integrating a cognitive test into your hiring process, helps you hire the best applicants.

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