How to conduct a cognitive ability test

August 25, 2022
Nataliia Senatorova
How to conduct a cognitive ability test

Did you know that research emphasizes that cognitive ability is the best predictor of job performance and individual differences in work? 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees rely on assessment tools such as aptitude and personality tests for external hiring.

Companies that use cognitive ability tests for hiring see increased employee performance and productivity, reduced turnover, and cost savings. By testing for cognitive ability, companies can identify employees who are more likely to be successful in their roles and weed out applicants who are not a good fit.

Cognitive abilities are hard to spot on a CV. Recruiters try to find out what kind of cognitive abilities a candidate has during an interview, but bias and subjectivity often get in the way—not to mention, it’s a complicated thing to assess on the spot! So a cognitive ability test is a great solution. It provides objective answers to questions like, “Can this candidate think abstractly?”, “How easily do they understand complex issues?” and “How quickly do they learn?” And it gives you objective data so you can compare one candidate’s cognitive abilities against another’s to make the best hire.

What is a cognitive ability test?

‍Cognitive ability is a general mental capability to perform tasks associated with perception, learning, memory, understanding, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intuition, and language. Cognitive ability is also often referred to as intelligence or general mental ability.

A cognitive ability test is usually conducted pre-employment in order to measure the cognitive ability of the candidate. This is often done as part of a cognitive screening test, which may also include other assessments such as a personality test. The purpose of the cognitive ability test is to help employers identify candidates who have the potential to be successful in the role.

‍Cognitive ability tests are designed to measure an individual's ability to learn, remember, reason, and solve problems. They are commonly used as part of the recruitment process in order to identify the best candidates for a position. Research has shown that cognitive ability tests are better predictors of job performance than other types of tests, such as personality tests. This is because they provide a more objective measure of an individual's abilities. However, picking the right type of assessment that helps you find the best candidate is tied to what you want to assess for. In some job profiles, personality outweighs other metrics.

Cognitive ability test examples

Because cognitive ability is such a broad field, cognitive ability tests will examine many potential aspects of a candidate’s reasoning and skillset. For example, cognitive ability tests typically examine:

  • Attention to detail: A candidate’s ability to complete a task while paying thorough and detailed attention as they process new information.
  • Problem-solving: A candidate’s ability to recognize issues, then brainstorm and implement solutions?
  • Critical thinking: A candidate’s ability to think analytically and solve logical problems.
  • Numerical reasoning: A candidate’s skill in working with and interpreting numbers.
  • Reading comprehension: A candidate’s ability to understand key messages in a piece of text.
  • Spatial reasoning: A candidate’s ability to understand, remember and reason about the spatial relationship between objects.

When applied to work, a candidate who possesses these abilities is able to perform extremely well. For example, a candidate with strong cognitive abilities can think on their feet and make complicated decisions with lots of variables. If a candidate doesn’t have much work experience, high cognitive abilities still indicate the potential to grow and learn quickly.

How can recruiters conduct cognitive ability tests?

‍Cognitive ability tests can assess a single skill (such as numerical reasoning) or general intelligence. The questions on these tests are typically multiple-choice, and may require the test-taker to solve logic puzzles, math problems, or answer reading comprehension questions. A time limit is a good idea, because you want to test your candidate’s ability to think quickly, so most cognitive ability tests are structured to last 10-30 minutes.

At HiPeople, we provide ten minute tailored cognitive ability tests which reflect the fast paced world of the modern workplace, where candidates have to make fast decisions. We offer several different types of cognitive ability tests which work well in isolation or in combination with one another:

  • Numerical Reasoning: Measuring the candidate’s ability to solve problems with numbers.
  • Problem Solving: Measuring the process by which the candidate attempts to overcome difficulties, achieve plans, or reach conclusions through the use of higher mental functions, such as reasoning and creative thinking.
  • Logical Thinking: Measuring the candidate’s ability or aptitude to reason logically.

These tests are tailored to the role you're hiring for, so you can pick and choose which tests are most relevant to the position. This allows you to get a better understanding of the candidate's abilities and potential fit for the job.

Why should you conduct a cognitive ability test?

‍Cognitive ability tests are the most accurate way to predict a candidate’s performance in the role. Predicting job performance can help identify hidden potential, save time and money, and reduce bias. Job performance prediction is a valuable tool for organizations of all sizes. By accurately predicting which applicants are likely to excel in a given role, organizations can save time and money on recruiting and training costs. In addition, accurate job performance predictions can help reduce bias in hiring decisions.

Here are some other important reasons why recruiters should make cognitive ability tests part of their hiring process.

  1. They measure how fast a candidate can learn, giving you an insight into what the onboarding process will be like and how much support your candidate is likely to need. This makes cognitive tests ideal for long-term hiring strategy, because you can predict how your candidate is likely to grow and develop in the role.
  2. They help you identify hidden potential. A CV can only tell you what a candidate has already done. And sometimes a candidate themselves doesn’t know what they’re capable of. But a cognitive ability test does! If someone scores particularly highly on a cognitive ability test, you might even consider reframing or changing the role to better suit your organization and their talents.
  3. They save time and money. Not only does a cognitive ability test tell you who would be good to hire, they also help disqualify unsuitable candidates. That means that if you make a cognitive ability test part of your pre-screening procedure, you can save your hiring team time and money in not having to interview and assess as many candidates.
  4. They avoid bias. Unlike much of the hiring process, when used correctly cognitive ability tests are guaranteed to be bias-free. Cognitive ability tests standardize the way you treat every candidate and offer objective data you can use to assess candidates fairly.
  5. They impress candidates and improve retention. Cognitive ability tests are a modern and forward-thinking hiring technique, meaning they’re likely to impress candidates and leave a good impression about your company. You’ll most likely hire the right person… and ensure they stay with you!

Ready to get started?

Cognitive ability tests can help you identify the best candidates for a position by providing a more objective measure of their abilities. These tests are designed to measure an individual's ability to learn, remember, reason, and solve problems. Research has shown that cognitive ability tests are better predictors of job performance than other types of tests, such as personality tests. To summarize, using cognitive ability tests as part of your recruitment process can lead to more successful job predictions.

Want to implement cognitive ability tests in your organization today? Not sure where to start? Let us help you.