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How to Make a Cognitive Ability Test a Part of Your Hiring Process

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The average turnover rate across all industries is approximately 18 percent. That’s a significant number of hiring mistakes and is tremendously expensive and time-consuming for the companies tasked with finding replacement employees. There are methods to avoid this expense and using pre-employment tests, such as cognitive ability tests, will increase your chances of hiring success the first time.

Although the benefits of their usage have been seemingly well established, some companies have historically avoided using cognitive tests for several reasons. First, they may be unfamiliar with the use of pre-employment tests in general. After all, pre-hire tests have occasionally been viewed as an unnecessary step that would increase the time-to-hire, at the risk of making the candidate less interested.

Then there’s also the additional expense of the tests, which will add to the hiring budget. However, with the ease of online testing and per test pricing, it’s a mistake to miss the opportunity that it provides. The key is to make sure the tests are job-relevant while keeping each test “in its own lane” as part of the broader hiring process.

What Will a Basic Cognitive Test Show?

A basic cognitive test can be similar to an IQ test. It measures the abilities of a candidate to solve problems and to adapt to a new environment. The resulting data is useful information for an employer as it’s a predictor of how well a new hire will perform on the job.

Cognitive tests can also demonstrate what kind of aptitude a candidate shows. One benefit of this knowledge is that it further helps the company set up career paths for their new employees, beginning on the first day of employment. According to a survey done by The Harris Poll for Instructure at least 70 percent of employees plan to leave the company if they aren’t provided opportunities to learn on the job.

A Standard Cognitive Test Isn’t Everything

This isn’t to say that a standard cognitive test should be the only basis for hiring new employees. The hiring decision should be based on multiple factors included in the recruitment process. Referrals, interviews, and internships still need to be a part of the plan. You could use the cognitive ability test as an additional, objective data point to zero in on the best candidate.

How Can We Ensure the Tests Are Job Relevant?

There’s a variety of aptitude tests out there, measuring different abilities and different types of cognitive tools. It’s important to choose the right test for the job role you’re looking to fill. As a first step, you should start by examining what the position entails and what skills and abilities a new employee needs to excel on the job.

One option is to have an HR administrator survey current staff working on the same or similar positions and get their insight as to what makes a good job candidate. The test content should be related to the open job. It’s best to test for a critical skill without which a candidate wouldn’t be able to perform.

For instance, if you’re hiring a consultant, you should look for the ability to make assumptions and recommendations based on a data set, which is often incomplete. On the other hand, a test that measures spatial ability won’t predict how well a candidate would perform as a consultant. Those spatial skills however are essential when hiring an engineer.

By applying common sense and relying on feedback from your employees, you can select a test that will help spot the right candidates (and eliminate the less skilled ones).

Setting Up the Testing Process

Set up ground rules on how tests will be administered. These rules will ensure both candidates and test administrators are very comfortable with the process. You should disclose that a cognitive test will be administered and that the results will factor into the hiring decision. This will allow candidates to mentally prepare to perform at their best.

As many as 30 percent of hires are based on employee referrals across all industries, so you’ll want the testing process, as well as the hiring process as a whole, to be a positive experience for each candidate. Repeated bad experiences can put an end to the employee referrals of possible candidates.

What Kind of Cognitive Ability Tests for Employment Should Be Used?

There are different types of cognitive ability tests available for talent acquisition teams, each measuring a different type of ability. While all positions won’t likely require the same type of test, each applicant for the same job should take the same test.

As an example, a mathematical reasoning test could be an option when hiring for accounting-related roles. On the other hand, a spatial intelligence test will be better suited for hiring an interior designer or an engineer.

For more detail on this topic, read our previous article: “Which Cognitive Ability Test to Use and Why“.

Follow Up with Performance Reviews

An HR team needs to set up performance reviews to check up on employees periodically. These reviews will provide feedback on how the employee is doing on the job. This can also include a measure of teamwork, to examine if the new hire is working in tandem with other employees. Reviews can be submitted by both a supervisor/manager and co-workers, which provides a 360-degree view of the employee’s work.

You’ll then want to compare these performance reviews with the results of the cognitive ability tests. Doing so will show you how predictive the test is of the employee’s performance. This key step is often overlooked but it’s critical to make sure the investment in cognitive tests (or any pre-employment test) is worthwhile.

To Sum Up

A cognitive ability test should be included as part of the hiring process of most companies. It’s an inexpensive tool that will reduce hiring mistakes and increase retention. There are different types of cognitive tests and the one used should match the requirements of the job position.

You should also periodically evaluate the use of any pre-hire test to ensure that the results align with the job performance of the employees that completed it during the hiring process. Cognitive tests are an important tool that will help talent acquisition teams make smarter hiring decisions.

EmployTest’s offer includes a variety of cognitive and reasoning assessment tests – check out a free sample to learn more about our testing process.