Hiring for Intelligence

Psychology Jun 03, 2019

Most cognitive ability tests measure general intelligence or ‘g’, which is an excellent predictor of cognitively complex performance. Many cognitive functions — for example, reasoning, comprehension, creativity — are all wrapped up within the umbrella of general intelligence.

What is General Intelligence or “g”?

What psychologists have come to call “g” is essentially “fluid” intelligence, or what is also called “educative” ability (as in the ability to learn). Fluid intelligence involves making sense of novel and ambiguous situations, going beyond the given to perceive that which is not immediately obvious, developing new insights, and handling complex problems.

The other type of intelligence is called “crystallized” intelligence or “reproductive” ability (as in the ability to recall stored or memorized information). This involves memorizing or mastering, recalling, and reproducing a more explicit, verbalized, and culture-specific knowledge.

A person doing well in our rote-based education system is likely to possess a high level of crystallized intelligence but may not include a correspondingly high level of fluid intelligence. It is fluid intelligence and not crystallized intelligence that is likely to predict success in cognitively complex roles. It is multi-faceted and ambiguous in nature (including most professional, managerial, and leadership roles).

Hence high scores in school or university are seldom indicative of career success.

Image Source: Very Well Mind

General intelligence is a necessity but not a sufficient requirement for complex job performance. Deficits in other areas (e.g., motivation, drive, technical knowledge) will certainly impede success. To understand the predictive power of “g”, it is important to recognize a continuum between jobs where the primary activities are relatively automated and easily learned versus jobs that have continued novelty and complexity.

In jobs that are easily learned and repetitive in nature, “g” decreases in predictive power. On the other hand, when the job content is ambiguous and multi-faceted, “g” becomes a powerful predictor of performance and success.

Image Source: Theories of Intelligence

What Information does a test of General Intelligence Provide?

A psychometrically sound test of general intelligence or “g” provides useful information about a person’s ability to reason inductively and conceptually. High scores are a sign of a “big brain” and play out on the job in terms of trainability, flexible analysis, and effective problem-solving,.

People with high scores typically demonstrate clarity of thinking. They can identify business issues in complex situations, including those that are cross-functional or in an unfamiliar industry or context.

High scores are also related to strategic and visionary thinking. On the other hand, people who score low are typically unable to analyze the problem at hand or synthesize and make sense of complex information, either due to lower mental capacity or insufficient attention to detail.

Using Cognitive Ability Tests for Hiring Decisions

Image Source: Cartoonstock

There is no better predictor of job performance than cognitive ability. Therefore, if you use just one assessment tool as part of your candidate screening process, make it a cognitive ability test.

However, cognitive ability tests are not a direct indicator of performance but rather a measure of capacity and potential.

A high score in a cognitive ability test generally predicts success in cognitively complex jobs.

However, lower scores should not necessarily doom a candidate. Experience and industry knowledge, for example, can make up for lower levels of cognitive ability.

Similarly, deficiencies in some personality factors, such as motivation and drive, may prevent a person’s intellectual potential from being realized. Hence, the most effective hiring practices employ a combination of three assessment tools to make hiring decisions — cognitive tests, personality tests, and a structured interview.

PerspectAI is a powerful game-based assessment tool for data-driven talent decisions. The tool follows a three-pronged approach. First, a candidate’s cognitive abilities are measured, personality is gauged, and soft skills are analyzed through a combination of immersive games and AI-based video interviews. This multi-dimension approach makes PerspectAI the most effective and holistic tool to gain deep insights into the candidate’s potential.

To know more on how you can bring an in-depth data-driven assessment to your talent management processes, click here.

Assessments for Work is a 3-part series written by Dr. Puranjaya Singh, Chief Strategy Officer at PerspectAI. The series takes a deep dive into how assessments can help organizations make better talent decisions.


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