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Dos and Don’ts: Cognitive Ability Testing tips

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Cognitive ability tests are used to predict candidates’ future job performance. There is usually a time limit built into the test that forces them to think quickly, thus, reflecting the need to make several quick decisions in a short span at the workplace.
The questions presented to the candidates are typically short and multiple-choice, made up of logic puzzles, math problems, or reading comprehension questions. The test is usually not very difficult and is designed to be finished within 10-30 minutes.

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Dos and Don’ts: cognitive ability testing tips

While cognitive ability tests are a productive tool, they have to be used as part of an intelligent hiring process. The tests on their own will provide valuable data, but the most critical factor is how that data is used. Here, the recruiters can note the best practices or the common pitfalls while using cognitive ability assessments.


  1. Test transparently
    Candidates deserve to know about the tests they are to perform, the data collected from them, how their test scores will impact the final decision, and how this data may continue to be used after being hired. It is essential to be transparent to avoid any possible legal or privacy issues.
  2. Use the test results
    It is common not to use the cognitive ability test results and value the long resume of past accomplishments or the interview results more. It is vital that recruiters use the test results in tandem with all other assessments and not exclude them only because of an impressive resume or how the interview went.
  3. Distinguish the adverse influence
    Use cognitive ability tests as only one element in the hiring process and combine it with various other selection criteria, controlling the system’s odds of bias. Do the calculations regularly using tools that calculate the selection rate for all applicant subgroups (race, gender, or another category) or by dividing the number of candidates who do reasonably well in the cognitive ability tests by the total number of applicants from that group. The calculations and analysis derived from these will tell if there’s any systemic bias hidden inside the standardized test.
  4. Give a great experience to the candidates
    Employers can curate tests that include a flavor of their brand and culture, helping the candidates to understand more about the company they’re looking to join. Communicating through brands also attracts top talent. Moreover, the overall testing experience matters a lot to the candidate, and recruiters must make it a priority. It affects how positively they view a potential employer. Today, many candidates are proactive about going through an assessment as that’s a way to understand the role and culture before joining a company.


  1. Be discouraging or scary
    Candidates usually find the recruitment process daunting. But the tests are not meant to scare them. Hence, it becomes the recruiters’ job to make candidates feel at ease. Recruiters must talk freely and positively to make them comfortable.
  2. Rely solely on cognitive ability test results
    The test results are an essential element of the hiring process, but using them as the sole selection criteria is common. The cognitive ability tests give more imminent success when used in collaboration with other hiring assessments. Moreover, cognitive ability tests measure intelligence and ability to learn, whereas, in some roles, experience and knowledge play a more significant role than learning new things.
  3. Suggest the same test for every role
    Every job role is distinct from one another. Complex jobs with higher training demands require cognitive ability tests; hence, recruiters need to use various tests to assess a candidate multi-dimensionally. This is true for more senior roles or leadership roles. Similarly, for junior positions, only relevant tests for that role are adequate.
  4. Be biased
    The primary reason behind adopting cognitive ability tests is to hire without bias. Ensure that the tests you create or use are not supporting systematic bias as a part of standardized tests. The recruiters should be vigilant in spotting any biases.