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October 7, 2022 | Klein Consultants
One of the most extensively researched topics in the field of behavioral genetics is cognitive ability (McGue & Bouchard, 1998). Cognitive ability, also known as general intelligence, is critical for human adaptation and survival. It consists of the ability to “reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience” (Plomin, 1999).
Intelligence, in addition to memorization and imitation, supports the ability to comprehend situations, determine what is required, and plan a course of action. Educational attainment, occupation, and health outcomes are all strongly linked to cognitive ability (Plomin & Von Stumm, 2018). As we consider the life choices and pathways that become available to young people during this sensitive period of life, the question of how genetics and environment contribute to cognitive ability in adolescence becomes a central issue.
Functional expertise or job knowledge, core competencies, and professional attributes are required or minimum qualifications for most jobs. However, the nature of human resources work, both strategic and functional, necessitates that professionals in this field possess specific cognitive skills that allow them to perform their job duties. A cursory review of any number of human resources job postings reveals that basic cognitive skills, such as language, memory, logic, and reasoning, are valued by employers looking for qualified human resources staff.
Cognitive skills are mental abilities such as perception and reasoning that are required for information processing and knowledge acquisition. Another cognitive skill that may be particularly useful for human resource professionals is intuition. The ability to be intuitive is a cognitive skill that determines the potential and quality of interpersonal relationships. It is a cognitive skill that enables human resource professionals to identify attributes, traits, and characteristics in applicants, candidates, and employees that create a philosophical fit within the organization. In some cases, intuition is used to justify choosing prospective employees over other candidates based on how their professional styles mesh with the workplace culture.
Employers are more likely to look for cognitive skills that can be applied. In other words, no one will ask you in an interview, “Can you think?” However, the interviewer may inquire about the candidate’s ability to perform specific tasks that require thought.
When preparing for an interview, be sure to prepare specific examples of occasions when you performed that task in a professional context for each task you wish to highlight. Do not expect the interviewer to believe you when you say you have certain skills.
Short, multiple-choice tests are commonly used to assess cognitive ability. Logic puzzles, math problems, and reading comprehension questions can all be included in tests. A cognitive ability test can be designed to test a single skill (for example, numerical reasoning) or as a general intelligence test that covers all categories of intelligence.
The questions aren’t particularly difficult in and of themselves, but there’s usually a time limit built into the test that forces the candidate to think quickly. Cognitive ability tests are typically only 10-30 minutes long. The rapid pace of the tests mimics the real world, where we must make quick, logical decisions hundreds of times per day, accurately predicting a candidate’s workplace performance.
There is no magic formula for hiring the perfect candidate every time, but recruiters should use any tool that helps the hiring process. Cognitive ability tests are just one of many tools available, but based on their effectiveness, they may be the most underutilized.
One of the most compelling reasons for using cognitive ability tests is that they accurately predict job performance. For example, in 1998, Frank L. Schmidt assessed the ability of 19 different employee selection techniques to predict job performance. He evaluated the most common methods of candidate selection used by recruiters: education level, job experience, structured and unstructured job interviews, job knowledge tests, and cognitive ability tests.
You can identify “diamonds in the rough” candidates with thinner resumes who have all the skills required to thrive in your organization by testing for cognitive ability. This is especially useful when hiring for junior positions, where few candidates are likely to have prior experience. You’ll have brilliant employees at every level of the company hierarchy if you hire quick learners and stack your organization with bright people. Every recruiter should work hard to avoid bias during the hiring process. Cognitive ability tests help to add objectivity to hiring. Even the most fair-opportunity recruiters may harbor unconscious intelligence biases that cause them to treat candidates unequally.
Taking the time to thoroughly vet potential employees demonstrates that you place a high value on hiring the right people. You demonstrate that you are forward-thinking, act impartially, and that everything your company does is well thought out. You’re giving candidates a positive glimpse into what it’s like to work at your company by using modern screening tools, asking thoughtful questions, and allowing them to demonstrate their intelligence.
Cognitive ability tests can help you hire and impress the right candidates from the start, which can improve organizational retention. Employee retention is frequently one of the HR team’s most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicator).
This is due to the fact that the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to double their annual salary.
That may appear to be a lot of money, but when you consider the costs of advertising the position, interviewing, screening, hiring, onboarding, training, management time, lost productivity, lost engagement, lost customer service, increased errors, ongoing training costs, and cultural impact, you can see how quickly the costs add up!