Why Cognitive Aptitude is Such a Great Predictor of Job Performance

Cognitive aptitude tests are some of the best tools for predicting job performance. In fact, one of the best known reviews of research in the field of employee selection demonstrated that cognitive aptitude tests are far more predictive than some of the most common hiring criteria – they are twice as predictive as job interviews, three times as predictive as work experience, and four times as predictive as education level.*

Predictive Validity of Various Employee Selection Criteria

What is it about cognitive aptitude that makes it so good at predicting job performance? Cognitive aptitude is the ability to think critically, solve problems, learn new skills, and digest and apply new information; essentially these tests measure many of the qualities that employers look for in almost every job description they create. Because cognitive aptitude is associated with decision making ability and situational judgment, pre-employment aptitude tests often have even greater efficacy as a predictive tool the higher you move up the job ladder. The abilities that aptitude tests assess are well-suited for hiring employees who are, for instance, tasked with making independent decisions, coming up with big picture ideas, or managing others.  While the abilities measured by aptitude tests are drivers of performance for almost any job, they tend to be less predictive for roles that involve a lot of repetition and routine than they are for jobs that require problem-solving and frequent decision-making.

While cognitive aptitude tests measure general intelligence, they are not the same as pure IQ tests. Cognitive aptitude tests measure many of the same things that IQ tests measure, but they also measure other abilities that are more specifically relevant to job performance. For example, cognitive aptitude tests often measure attention to detail, an ability that is nearly universally applicable to every type of job, but is less commonly associated with “pure intelligence.” These are the types of abilities that drive job performance because they’re so relevant to the day-to-day tasks of many employees. Ultimately by blending practical abilities with general aptitude, pre-employment cognitive aptitude tests are highly successful at identifying the candidates who are most likely to succeed in their positions.

*Schmidt, F. & Hunter, J. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262-274.