An aptitude test is a way to measure cognitive ability or the intelligence of a prospective employee. Aptitude tests will test candidates' competencies required for the job role they are applying for, to assess the soft skills that indicate how successful they will be in the role.
With more and more companies adding aptitude testing to their recruitment process, especially for management and customer-facing roles, it is a good idea to assess whether aptitude testing is useful for interviews.
According to the Harvard Business Review, almost 90% of employers use some form of testing on job candidates, and there are a huge number of publishers creating various types of tests, software, and even assessment games to help recruitment teams make better hiring decisions.
To fully understand whether these types of tests are useful for interviews, it is important to get a grip on the basics.
What is an aptitude test?
An aptitude test is a measure of cognitive ability or intelligence.
The content of aptitude tests is not necessarily challenging. The difficulty is the added pressure of a time limit, the anxiety of the test, and the application of skills to answer correctly.
Different types of intelligence make up what is known as human intelligence; cognitive intelligence is one facet, and emotional intelligence is another. In cognitive intelligence, measurements can be taken of learned skills as well as more fluid abilities; it is these 'fluid' abilities that are the focus of an aptitude test.
Why is an aptitude test important for interviews?
Aptitude tests are important for interviews because they allow for data-driven assessment of suitability, rather than relying on the human factor.
Many employers use aptitude tests early in the recruitment process – usually after a basic paper sift of application forms and CVs, but before the interview. This timing is one of the most important features of testing, as it allows candidates to demonstrate their suitability through competency, and ensures that only applicants who have the necessary abilities to be successful are taken through to interview.
Benefits of aptitude tests for interviews
Objectivity and fairness
It is unfortunate, and difficult to avoid, the truth that even when we are consciously trying to be objective, unconscious bias can affect our decisions. This is true in hiring, too - and perhaps the most important facet of the aptitude test is that it is completely objective and fair.
Every applicant takes the same test, which is standardized with no bearing on social, economic, or educational background. The recruitment team receives data that is just scores or percentiles, giving a snapshot of the applicants abilities at the time of the test. As such, there is no chance of subjective decisions being made.
These standardised results are compared to a predetermined ideal range and the candidates who match (or exceed) that are taken further.
The application of aptitude tests as screening tools early in the recruitment process has many benefits, but one of the most important benefits is the cost of hiring.
Aptitude tests are cost-effective: they can be scaled up to suit the number of applicants, they reduce the time taken to make decisions, and they also keep the human and manual interaction time down, too.
See beyond the CV
Aptitude tests offer several data points that can be used in the overall assessment of candidates. This allows a recruiter to 'see beyond the CV' and ensure that the applicant has the right skills to be successful.
This demonstration of cognitive abilities can prove essential when potentially thousands of applicants have similar educational backgrounds and experiences.
Can aptitude tests really predict employee success?
Good aptitude tests are based on occupational psychology. This means that they have a scientifically proven method of testing, and are constantly and consistently validated to ensure relevance and success.
Aptitude tests are rigorously studied to ensure they are reliable and valid; the prediction of job success comes from a combination of psychology and selecting the right competencies to assess. There is not much point in assessing mechanical reasoning for a role that does not require that aptitude, for example.
It is well known that high intelligence is a reliable indicator of job success, based on the performance of an employee as rated by supervisors, but also on objective criteria like the comparison to others.
There are so many different types of aptitude tests available, all assessing various aspects of cognitive intelligence in different ways. The following are the most common types used in recruitment.
Numerical reasoning is not really a maths test – it is an assessment of a candidate's ability to read, understand and apply numerical data in a reasoned manner.
Numerical reasoning questions are presented with data in the form of a graph or table, and require the candidate to extract the necessary information, and then perform basic mathematical functions to find the answer.
In most cases, the math skills needed are equivalent to GCSE level operators, percentages, fractions, and ratios.
Verbal reasoning assesses a candidate by presenting them with a paragraph of information and then asking a question related to that. In most cases, the text is relevant to the role they have applied for, but this isn't mandatory. There is no need for previous knowledge in order to answer the question because the answer is in the text.
To be successful in this, a candidate needs to quickly and accurately read the information, understand it, and then apply that knowledge to the question.
Logical reasoning tests are often the most challenging for candidates as they are often presented in a format that is not familiar. Logical reasoning assesses the applicant on their ability to use logic to form a conclusion based on the information given as part of the question.
In some cases, this can be based on statements, while in others it can be related to finding a rule that creates a pattern.
Logical reasoning tests ask the candidate to think clearly and make decisions in a logical manner.
To really assess a candidate on their decision-making skills, situational judgement tests are scenario-based questions with multiple choice answers.
Usually, based on a real-life scenario, the candidate is presented with a challenge and a number of possible actions to take. This might include dealing with a difficult customer or making a mistake.
The test is to see how they react to this, while under pressure to demonstrate how they make decisions in a workplace environment. Situational judgement tests are often found in supervisory role applications, but are also useful in a number of customer-facing roles, or where quick but considered decisions are necessary.