Cognitive Ability Tests Tell Hiring Managers So Much About Applicants

June 18, 2021 | Klein Consultants

Cognitive Ability Tests Tell Hiring Managers So Much About Applicants

Cognitive Ability Tests Tell Hiring Managers So Much About Applicants
Klein Behavioral Science Consultants > Cognitive Assessment > Cognitive Ability Tests Tell Hiring Managers So Much About Applicants
  • Posted by: Klein Consultants

Cognitive ability tests evaluate the abilities associated with thought (e.g., reasoning, perception, memory, verbal and mathematical ability, and problem solving). These tests ask applicants to answer questions on their ability to employ mental processes to solve work-related challenges or acquire new job knowledge.

Historically, the broad characteristic assessed by mental ability asssessments have been referred to as “intelligence” or “general mental capacity.” However, an intelligence test frequently contains a variety of item types that assess numerous and more specific mental elements, dubbed “specific mental capacities.” Arithmetic computations, verbal analogies, literary comprehension, numerical series completion, and spatial linkages are all examples of such items (i.e., visualizing objects in three-dimensional space).

Measuring an Applicants Cognitive Abilities

Certainly cognitive ability tests are given during the pre-employment process when evaluating a potential candidate. Hiring managers total the correct responses to all items to produce an overall score that serves as a proxy for general mental aptitude. If a separate score is computed for each of the several types of abilities (e.g., numerical, verbal, and reasoning), the resulting scores indicate measurements of the distinct mental capacities.

Traditional cognitive tests are highly standardized, contain items with a high degree of reliability, and can be administered to large groups of people simultaneously. Multiple choice, sentence completion, short answer, and true-false are all examples of item formats. Numerous professionally prepared cognitive tests are commercially accessible and may be evaluated when there is no compelling reason to develop a test that is especially tailored to the job or organization in question.


Tests of general cognitive ability are effective predictors of work performance and training success across a broad range of occupations (i.e., they have a high degree of criterion-related validity); The more complicated the job or training requirements, the more effective these examinations are; Other predictors may contribute just a minor amount of incremental validity in comparison to cognitive tests.

Face Validity/Applicant Reactions

Tests produced especially to refer to specific positions or job categories within the hiring company may be perceived as being more closely tied to the job (i.e., having a high face validity) than commercially developed tests.

  • Administration Method – Can be done manually or electronically.
  • Differences amongst Subgroups – Cognitive ability tests often create more racial and ethnic disparities than other valid predictors of job success, such as biodata, personality tests, and structured interviews; Other assessment methods (e.g., interviews, biodata instruments) should be used in conjunction with cognitive ability testing to mitigate any potential harmful effects.
  • Costs of Development – Typically, the cost of acquiring a cognitive test is less than the cost of producing a tailored exam.
  • Costs of Administration – Generally low, requires minimal administrative resources, and does not require trained administrators.
  • Utility/ROI – A high return on investment is possible if you require applicants with specific cognitive abilities or a strong potential for job knowledge acquisition or training; When face validity is not an issue, the cost effectiveness of producing your own test versus purchasing a commercial test is lower.
  • Common Applications – Ideally suited for tasks that require specific cognitive abilities for optimal performance and for jobs that are more complex.

Cognitive ability assessments can correctly predict performance in almost any career, from entry-level to executive. Cognitively capable employees acquire new procedures more quickly, spot difficulties earlier, generate original solutions to challenges, and are more creative. While cognitive ability is necessary at all levels of employment, evidence indicates that the more senior the position, the more critical cognitive ability becomes. Klein has developed a battery of accurate and reliable cognitive ability assessments. There are tests of general mental capacity and tests of particular abilities ranging from Deductive Reasoning to Mechanical Comprehension. Contact us to find out more about adding Klein’s cognitive abilities assessment to your process.

Klein Consultants
Author: Klein Consultants
Klein Consultants has been a thought leader in personality testing for careers for over 7 decades and continues to set the bar in our industry Our pre-employment testing suite enables hiring managers and decision makers to streamline the candidate selection process and hire better employees. We are one of the leading experts in hiring metrics and invite you to read our thoughts on variety of subjects pertaining to Pre-Employment Assessments.