If you’ve ever hired someone who seemed great for the job but whose performance could best be described as “underwhelming,” you may have found yourself wondering whether there’s some kind of test that would have helped you avoid this disappointing scenario.
In truth, work is getting more complicated every day. Even entry-level tasks require mental agility and critical thinking. How do you know whether your candidate has “the stuff” to do the job? You won’t be able to tell after a one-hour interview.
Enter the cognitive assessment tool. Yahoo!
Cognitive assessment tools measure General Mental Ability or GMA. GMA is an
indication of a prospective hire’s ability to reason, plan, problem-solve, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, and learn quickly from experience.
According to an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, GMA was first introduced into the literature more than 100 years ago, but as the knowledge economy has grown the concept has become more and more popular.
Frank L. Schmidt and John Hunter, authors of the journal article, write: “GMA predicts both occupational level attained and performance within one’s chosen occupation and does so better than any other ability, trait, or disposition and better than job experience.”
That’s definitely something to think about.
But wait! Does this mean other kinds of testing, like behavioral assessments, are a waste of time? not at all.
A behavioral assessment reveals workplace personality tendencies, and personality tendencies are NOT the same thing as GMA, but they’re just as important. Together, cognitive ability and personality greatly influence role fit.
Consider this. An employee may have great GMA but a personality completely unsuited to the job.
On the flip side, an employee’s personality may suit the job, but his GMA … not so much. Think about a salesperson who’s garrulous and charming and draws others in effortlessly, but yet he can’t solve customers’ problems. He’ll get the business, but he’ll have a hard time keeping it.
Or, think about the bookkeeper with high GMA who finds solitude difficult to bear, or the likable manager who’s clearly in over his head when it comes to resolving employee relations issues, developing employees, or formulating departmental strategy.
Put another way, cognitive and behavioral assessments are complementary and in combination give employers a complete picture of a candidate’s suitability for a particular role within a specific organization.
I’m a fan of the adage that employers should “hire slowly and fire quickly.”
Hiring slowly means doing your due diligence and taking every reasonable precaution to ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job. Testing is a part of that.
It’s funny because many hiring managers adamantly believe similar work experience is the best predictor of job success, but the research indicates otherwise. The research results make sense, though, because we know that a difference in management, procedures, and culture all impact an employee’s ability to do a good job.
That’s why an astute hiring manager will take the time to uncover a prospective employee’s cognitive and behavioral traits. Traits predict how well someone will fair in a specific work environment. Prior job experience, while certainly relevant and important, is of limited use in this regard.
It’s Your Choice
Depending on your specific goals, you’ll have to decide whether behavioral or cognitive assessments add value to your hiring process. They work well separately, but they work well together, too.