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Talent Assessment | 10 Min Read

Why Use Aptitude Tests for Hiring


It is not a good idea for a recruiter to merely rely on the interview process to select a candidate. A candidate in the final stage of the selection process should be evaluated on various parameters. Otherwise, it is likely that you are only going by your gut feeling, and data do not back your decision. Gut-based decisions can be wrong, also posing the danger that interviews can paint a completely different picture of candidates than their actual standing on skills and expertise.  

The difference between candidates’ standing and their portrayal during the selection process is the main hurdle for recruiters. And the purpose of the recruitment is defeated if a hired candidate lacks in a specific job role’s expected competencies. Recruiters have attempted to reduce the gap between the two by using various means. They must gain more information about candidates through assessments that provide reliable insights into their cognitive skills. 

In the current job spectrum, job skills are changing rapidly. In a LinkedIn survey, 62% of respondents have found it challenging to remain updated with new skills. It implies that it is challenging for recruiters to decide on the candidate assessment methods in such a volatile scenario where new skills appear frequently. Various aptitude tests for hiring are addressing this pertinent challenge and are transforming the hiring process.

Aptitude tests ensure judicious employability rather than merely being assumed right for a given job role. They offer data to support decision-making. Aptitude tests for jobs also lend objectivity to assessments and do away with traditional methods. 

Finding a scale for the gray matter has never been easy. However, with psychological advancements, different types of aptitude tests have captured some powerful insights into human intelligence and helped compartmentalize individuals according to their skills and abilities.

It is widely believed that candidates acing aptitude tests are highly likely to perform well on the job. However, it is equally important for recruiters to understand the various aspects of aptitude tests for its effective implementation. You are likely to get misleading results if you put a candidate through the wrong kind of test. So, let’s first understand the nitty-gritty of aptitude tests and their importance during recruitment.

Did you know?

In 1888, Sir Francis Galton, a renowned statistician and psychologist, had established a lab in the South Kensington Museum. In Galton’s lab, people could be measured by gaining knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses through a questionnaire. Galton also used these data for his research. He also charged people a small fee for his services.

What is an Aptitude Test for Employment?

According to the Talent Assessment Practices Survey, 35% of the recruiters use the cognitive ability for candidate assessment. Recruiter’s interest in aptitude tests indicates the effectiveness of these cognitive tests in ensuring a seamless talent journey.

Aptitude tests have a set of well-crafted questions that can evaluate a candidate’s specific area of expertise. Every job has particular demands, and a recruiter’s principal task is to find competent people for particular tasks. Aptitude tests provide insights into a candidate’s intelligence and the ability for particular jobs.

For example, a candidate must have good numerical reasoning skills for a job in computer programming. Similarly, decision-making skills and abstract reasoning make the right combination for the assessment of leadership roles.

Different types of aptitude tests cover various job roles for assessment:

  • Abstract Reasoning Tests
  • Spatial Reasoning Tests
  • Visual Reasoning Tests
  • Verbal Ability Tests
  • Logical & Critical Reasoning Tests
  • Problem-solving Tests
  • Decision-making & Judgment Test

Abstract Reasoning Test is about using the available data and information to solve a problem, with a unique perspective and approach.

Spatial Reasoning Test is an ability test to analyze two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes or patterns by understanding the spatial distribution of objects.

Visual ReasoningTest is a test of imagination that assesses the mental ability to visualize objects and shapes to solve a problem.

Verbal Ability Test assesses candidates’ language and comprehension skills. It also evaluates their communication and day-to-day working skills.

Logical & Critical Reasoning Test evaluates candidates’ ability to make the most out of the available information by finding a solution and logic behind it.

Problem-solving Test evaluates the ability to assess a problem from different angles, find alternatives, and evaluate them to choose the best solution.

Decision-Making and Judgment Test is a test of logic and common sense that evaluates various perspectives of a problem, with the ability to assess various aspects of a problem.

Factors Addressed by Aptitude Tests During the Recruitment Process

Aptitude tests help recruiters to look beyond resumes and assess candidates for their actual characteristics and prowess. Theoretical exams and interviews fail to assess candidates’ cognitive abilities. It is necessary to know candidates’ approaches to a problem. Every job function demands learning, adapting and understanding. It also involves solving problems on a daily basis, and problem-solving requires retaining and organizing the information and applying reasoning and logic to find a solution. Thus, the base of solving problems is to have cognitive abilities. Ensuring these cognitive abilities in candidates is a must for recruiters.

However, in addition to cognitive assessments, other factors lend greater relevance to aptitude tests in the HR strategy. They are:

Lead Time

The overall lead time is a critical factor in the talent journey. Once recruiters have zeroed in on several applicants for further evaluation, they need to make the next stages of evaluation with concrete results. Using aptitude tests for hiring the right kind of candidates is highly recommended as it reduces the lead time significantly, by focusing only on candidates with relevant skills.


The hiring process has several stages. The accuracy of the assessment tests determines whether the candidates coming to the final stage possess the necessary skills for a given job role. Aptitude tests for hiring the right kind of candidates ensure that they have been evaluated granularly and possess the necessary qualities to fulfill them.


Recruiters must focus on different competencies to make a successful hiring process. Most jobs require candidates with a combination of skills to fulfill the criteria of the job requirements. For example, candidates applying for the product development role should be good at logical and critical thinking. They must offer equally good visual and abstract reasoning skills - aptitude tests for hiring support different competency frameworks defined by organizations.


Online tests for hiring provide a medium to recruiters to ensure they are always focused on the right candidates with the needed skills. It is an effective screening tool to find the right talent pool out of the bulk of applicants. Screening unsuitable candidates make the process easier and efficient for further stages.


Only candidates with the right skills and aptitude can help organizations grow, and aptitude tests can objectively assess them for particular job skills. For example, prospective business analysts must be evaluated on their data interpretation and abstract reasoning skills. Objective evaluation of the candidates is one of the most important benefits of aptitude tests.


Pre-employment aptitude tests are scalable. Depending on the number of job applications and openings, you can easily administer aptitude tests to any number of candidates simultaneously. The test results are generated automatically, and there is no need for human intervention to prepare the results.


The cost involved in the hiring process is one of the most important factors for recruiters. Since aptitude tests for jobs are administered on computers and graded automatically, you don’t need a workforce to execute them. Thus, you can conduct the aptitude tests for various job roles irrespective of the applicant count.


Job aptitude tests offer reliable insights to ensure the quality of the finally selected candidates. Recruiters must know that the quality of candidates doesn’t only depend on their knowledge but also on their application to solve problems or deal with issues.

Competency: What should Recruiters Know

Competency is a combination of abilities and skills that enable recruiters to measure candidates’ intelligence. So, it is about possessing qualities that make a candidate competent for a specific job role. These competencies are observable, measurable and can be evaluated. Based on these measurable metrics, it is easy for an organization to define job requirements, recruit staff and retain the existing ones. 

Why Use Competency Framework

Robin Kessler, the author of several books on competency-based selection, describes the most common interview style among the Fortune 500 companies today.

Competencies allow companies to have a clear understanding of employees’ expected performance levels. Competency frameworks set indications for the employees on behavior and performance that will be valued by a company. Additionally, using the competency framework can enable a company to:

  • Ensure that its employees’ skills and abilities are aligned with the organizational priorities.
  • Have clear expectations from the employees on their job performance and organizational behavior, enabling it to accomplish its vision and goals.
  • Create a highly productive working environment as employees and recruits are aware of their KRAs (Key Responsibility Areas)
  • Provide a benchmark of performance for employees and insights into identifying training needs.
  • Help in succession planning and identifying areas in need of organizational changes.

Did You Know?

Competency-based selection is renowned in Canada, where it has been used in government hiring for decades. “As a result, we have a lot of really good competency frameworks for whole parts of our economy,” says Suzanne Simpson, President and CEO of Human Resource Systems Group in Ottawa, Ontario.

Using Competency-Based Assessment

It is not easy to create a competency framework for every existing job. However, certain competencies can be clubbed for different job roles as these job roles need similar cognitive abilities. For example, custom support executives and sales executives require similar skills in their day-to-day tasks – both need to have good communication skills and the ability to negotiate or compile and use the data.

Let’s take an example: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has defined core competencies for various roles. There are primarily four of them. They are:

core competencies

IAEA has defined it for the role of managers for the ‘communication’ competency as:

Encourages open communication and builds consensus, uses tact and discretion in dealing with sensitive information, and keeps staff informed of decisions and directives as appropriate.

They have also defined the indicators for the competency mentioned-above:

  • In consultation with the supervisor, keeps staff informed of decisions, presenting them in a manner that generates understanding and acceptance.
  • Actively shares information and ideas, and encourages others to share their views and concerns.
  • Uses tact and discretion in dealing with sensitive information, or resolving delicate issues, paying attention to non-verbal cues.
  • Uses professional judgment, consistent with the Agency’s applicable regulations, rules and policies on confidentiality requirements, to determine the information to be disclosed on the activities to be implemented.
  • Provides constructive and positive feedback to the team.
  • Identifies and presents conflicting points of view to others fairly and constructively and works toward achieving consensus.

Recruiters can zero in on several keywords in the above-mentioned text when hiring a manager. The underlined words offer several cues, based on which a recruiter can make a candidate undergo a specific aptitude test for the manager’s role.

We can see that a manager is expected to generate understanding, actively share information, encourage others, use discretion, pay attention to non-verbal cues, use professional judgment, provide feedback and present conflicting points of view.

To evaluate a candidate on these traits, a recruiter can use particular aptitude tests that will cover the expected indicators for the manager’s role.

Verbal Ability Test- As mentioned in the document, a person in the managerial role must have open communication and build consensus. The verbal ability test is a must, as it focuses on how an individual expresses and comprehends through words.

Abstract Reasoning Test- A manager must be able to use tact and discretion. Abstract reasoning skills can tell about the candidates who can conclude by connecting the dots.

Decision-making and Judgment Tests– A manager should be able to use professional judgment. It ensures that the selected candidate can define various alternatives to a problem and find a solution.

Based on these test results, recruiters can easily find the best candidate for the manager’s role. These tests cover almost all competency indicators for communication. Competency-based assessments with aptitude tests make a robust combination for a successful hiring process. There are several benefits of conducting a competency-based assessment:

Focused Hiring Process

Depending on the job functionality, candidates’ assessment boils down to their cognitive intelligence. A recruiter should be interested in the selected candidate’s current job-related skills and equally focus on their abilities to upskill, cross-skill and lead.

Learning Agility

It’s the ability to learn and unlearn things continuously from varied resources and apply that knowledge in different contexts to achieve results. It is highly recommended for recruiters to focus on competencies as it helps find suitable candidates, interested in the job function and the learning processes behind it.

High-Potential Identification

It also helps recruiters to objectively identify potential candidates who are assets for the company. Backed by insightful data, the competency-based assessment clearly identifies employees who must be retained by a company.


A company’s growth is directly related to the employees’ productivity. And it can only happen through a talent pool engaged in the job profiles related to their job interests. A work profile based on competencies is highly likely to enhance candidates’ productivity.


A company’s performance is the total of the individual performances of all the employees. With cognitive assessments, recruiters get insightful data to validate the selections. The cognitive assessment helps align employees’ strengths with their job profiles.


By using aptitude tests for the competency-based assessment, it is easier to bring diversity to the workforce. People can show their prowess irrespective of their educational backgrounds, work experiences, or other factors. Everyone hired for the same profile should not have similar thinking.

How Mercer | Mettl Can Help

At Mercer | Mettl, we design competency-specific assessment solutions that are driven by statistical data insights. A variety of tests are available to evaluate candidates’ aptitude, but not all tests provide reliable results. Only a well-crafted aptitude test that includes all the essential elements of human intelligence can deliver the intended results. 

Measuring Cognitive Intelligence

While measuring intelligence, we firstly define the cluster of abilities and skills directly related to the job role. These skills and abilities are cumulatively known as competency. A good competency test considers all the essential competencies. 

We understand the importance of identifying the key competencies to evaluate fluid and crystallized intelligence, which is why we have well-crafted aptitude tests that ensure a thorough evaluation with insightful results. Aptitude tests from Mercer | Mettl measure core brain skills, such as attention, memory and speed. 

Mercer | Mettl’s Job Categorization Framework

Every job comes with particular tasks and completing them need certain competencies. We can easily derive the core competencies using different types of aptitude tests, depending on the nature of the job. Mercer | Mettl job categorization has defined three core competencies that work everywhere irrespective of the job. These three competencies are defined as:

Information Processing- Defined as the ability to use available information using numerical and analytical reasoning.

Solution Generation- Finding creative solutions to the existing problems using abstract reasoning.

Decision-making- Solving problems using rational and logical thinking. It also involves the ability to think ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions.

After defining these core competencies, two main factors are related to each competency, and they are:

Frequency- How often an individual uses these competencies in a day-to-day job.

Difficulty Level- What is the difficulty level of the tasks related to these competencies.

Depending on the difficulty level and frequency of the need, a particular competency defines the individual’s overall performance. For example, a business analyst’s job role involves information processing and decision-making on a daily basis. In the absence of these two factors, it’s not easy for a person to take up a job irrespective of its difficulty level. Mercer | Mettl’s job categorization framework offers a transparent picture of the different job roles. The scores from the aptitude tests help evaluate according to the essential competencies.

There are different types of aptitude tests from Mercer | Mettl that cover all the essential competencies in the spectrum of jobs:

  • Abstract Reasoning Tests
  • Spatial Reasoning Tests
  • Visual Reasoning Tests
  • Verbal Ability Tests
  • Logical & Critical Reasoning Tests
  • Problem-Solving Tests
  • Decision-Making & Judgment Test

It is equally necessary for the recruiters to know the type of aptitude tests and the respective job roles for evaluating candidates.

Verbal Ability- Apt for managerial role, corporate communication, PR related jobs. It is a type of test that can be used for all kinds of recruitments. Verbal ability ensures that individuals can easily convey and communicate their thoughts. 

Visual ReasoningSince it is related to strategic thinking and visualization, it is extremely effective in recruiting graphic designers, computer programmers, advertising professionals, system designers and system analysts.  

Logical Ability- It is related to quick decision-making and concluding with the help of facts and available information. It can be used to recruit HR professionals, managerial roles, computer programmers, etc. -precisely any job that involves a logical approach to a problem.

Decision-making- It is apt to recruit for roles such as management professionals, HR professionals, senior-level executives, project managers, business analysts, etc. It is an effective way to evaluate candidates for the jobs that have decision-making as a part of the daily work. 

Abstract Reasoning- It involves identifying patterns and analyzing complex problems. It is suitable to recruit mechanical engineers, design engineers, product designers, architects, system designers and others.

Spatial Reasoning- It is about visualizing two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes and objects. Such tests are suitable for recruiting designers, engineers and architects who deal with shapes, patterns and objects.

As mentioned above, different kinds of aptitude tests have distinct purposes. Mercer | Mettl aptitude tests are primarily used in:

Mercer | Mettl aptitude tests are primarily used in

At Mercer | Mettl, we understand that only employees who possess the necessary skills can further their organizational objectives. We have designed our cognitive assessments to ensure that the hired individuals possess the necessary skills, and can apply the acquired knowledge. The talent pool of the company depends on the accuracy of the assessment. Identifying the right talent for your company is one of the essential steps toward making your organization successful. Once you identify the right candidates, it is equally necessary to deploy them according to their abilities in the appropriate job roles. Effective and well-designed aptitude tests from Mercer | Mettl fulfill such needs of the hiring process and are equipped to empower recruiters in every possible way.


How do I pass an aptitude test for employment?

To excel in an aptitude test for employment, it is necessary to write mock aptitude tests in a testing environment and evaluate your progress. There are various practice tests available online that can help in getting a hang of aptitude tests used by employers to assess candidates.

How do I prepare for an aptitude test?

You should write a practice aptitude test on a daily basis to gauge your abilities for different aptitudes. Try writing practice aptitude tests in the specified time. Evaluate the scores and  check if you are making progress in various sections such as quantitative, logical and verbal ability.

What is a good score in aptitude tests?

A good score in the aptitude test is defined after looking at the scores of all the candidates. The highest score is set as a benchmark and rest of the candidates are assessed on the basis of the same. However, for evaluating an individual candidate, aptitude test define different brackets of score that suggests the aptitude level of the candidates.  

What types of questions are asked in the aptitude test?

These are few sample questions that are asked in the aptitude tests,

Question 1. The daily income of two persons are in the ratio of 4:7. If each receives an increment of $10 ibn the daily income, the ratio is altered to 3:5, find theri daily salaries.

  • $120 & $210
  • $180 & $315
  • $80 and $ 140
  • $200 & $350

Question 2. In a certain coding system ‘APRIL’ is written as ‘CSVNR’. How will you code ‘AUGUST’?


Originally published August 27 2020, Updated September 25 2020

Vipul Srivastav

Written by

Vipul Srivastav is a seasoned marketing professional with expertise in branding and communication. He writes on numerous web platforms to share his views and experiences on various topics. In his free time, he does photography, reads fiction, listens to U2, and stays curious about the outer space.

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