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How to Use Aptitude Tests for Hiring: A Complete Guide for Recruiters

Talent Assessment | 10 Min Read

How to Use Aptitude Tests for Hiring: A Complete Guide for Recruiters


Aptitude tests for hiring are an unbiased and fundamental measure for shortlisting suitable professionals across industries. These tests assess candidates’ problem-solving abilities, numerical reasoning, logical and critical thinking, verbal comprehension, visual and spatial cognition, and more. This guide details some data-backed insights explaining the nuances, efficacies, applications and importance of aptitude tests in recruitment.


Chapter 1: Why Aptitude Tests are Key to an Efficient Pre-Employment Assessment

Statistics about the importance of aptitude tests


It is interesting to note that pre-employment assessment tests for measuring aptitude benefit the employer and the candidate equally. Taking these tests offers the candidate a glimpse into the workings of the organization and the most in-demand traits on which they need to work. This information can be extremely useful in future job searches.


Understanding the Importance of Aptitude Tests for Hiring


Aptitude tests for hiring are an accurate method of predicting candidates’ potential contributions and their likelihood of success within the organization based on their core mental abilities. On the one hand, these tests identify sharp candidates. Conversely, they weed out unsuitable applicants. Since these tests are customizable and cover several reasoning areas, their content can vary depending on recruiters’ preferences. For example, hiring for positions that need stronger number-based reasoning can have a greater focus on numerical aptitude assessments. Similarly, when testing decision-making abilities, abstract reasoning questions and logical ability tests would assume foremost significance.

Employers must assess candidates’ mental abilities during the recruitment process because these often reflect their ability to do the job. An appropriate pre-employment aptitude test can help highlight exemplary individuals capable of contributing meaningfully to the business’s prospects.



What Makes Aptitude Testing a Great Screening Tool


Using aptitude tests for hiring ensures that recruiters have the means to stay focused on suitable candidates. Aptitude tests offer an efficient, data-backed evaluation method when screening thousands of students in campus drives. They help narrow down the search to the right talent pool from bulk applicants. Therefore, filtering out unsuitable candidates enables them to proceed with further stages of the recruitment process.

A Streamlined Filter for Efficient Bulk Hiring

A pre-employment aptitude test helps streamline the recruitment and selection process during mass hiring drives and campus hiring programs. These tests are structured and focused on relevant aptitudes and help recruiters with an intense assessment. Such an assessment helps shortlist only those possessing the elementary abilities to match a specific job requirement. This initial screening is a highly efficient way to propel the most deserving candidates to the next stages for further assessments and interviews, etc.

A Cost-Saving Tool to Lay the Groundwork for the Larger Picture

The results of career aptitude tests and aptitude tests for campus recruitment help recruiters avoid costly miss-hires and weed out subconscious bias during the hiring process. These also add to process efficiency when you choose automated and virtual aptitude tests for hiring.

A Measure of Basic Mental Ability

The Society for Human Resource Management enlists four key elements that help determine the assessment type a recruiter should use. Abbreviated as ‘KSAOs,’ these elements are Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other characteristics/Other job requirements. Out of these KSAOs, an aptitude test for recruitment and selection can effectively measure the element of ‘Ability.’ However, experts recommend using aptitude tests in combination with other assessments to gain a more holistic understanding of a candidate’s job-fitment.


Factors Addressed by Aptitude Tests during the Recruitment Process


Every job function demands learning, adapting and understanding. However, theoretical exams’ results or resumes cannot accurately analyze these qualities in applicants.

This is where job aptitude tests play a vital role:

  • Looking Beyond Professional Journeys: Work aptitude tests help recruiters assess candidates’ real characteristics and prowess, analyze their ability to solve a problem, retain information and apply logic to find a solution.
  • A True Measure of Potential: They contribute toward a holistic HR (Human Resources) strategy by offering a clearer glimpse into a candidate’s mental potential and cognitive intelligence.
  • Saving Time: Using aptitude tests for hiring reduces lead-time for recruiters significantly as they offer a practical basis for selecting candidates with the relevant aptitude for a particular role.
  • Accurate Assessment: Aptitude tests for hiring ensure that candidates are evaluated granularly, in a data-backed and objective way, and possess the necessary qualities to match the role for which they are applying.
  • Objective Assessment of Mental Competencies: Employment aptitude tests support different competency frameworks defined by organizations.


Chapter 2: The Importance of Measuring Aptitude for Any Job Role

Several basic aptitudes are essential for performance and job-fitment in any industry. Hence, measuring aptitudes using a targeted set of questions enables employers to make hiring decisions easily. Research published by the University of Iowa states,




Using Aptitude Tests as Predictors of Performance


Aptitude assessments are excellent predictors of job-related learning and future success. A study published by the Midlands State University Institutional Repository states that an individual’s verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and abstract reasoning abilities correlate with his/her on-job performance. Besides, the Association for Psychological Science’s findings iterates that people with high aptitude test scores invariably perform better.

When paired with an interview, aptitude tests for recruitment help accurately represent a candidate’s potential. These tests:

  • Provide valuable information to employers that they may not be able to get from an interview alone.
  • Objectively measure the mental abilities needed in a job.
  • Are customizable to measure different professional qualities relevant to open positions.

Pre-employment aptitude tests blend practical abilities with general aptitude. Therefore, they are highly successful at identifying people most likely to perform well in their positions.


Aptitude Tests for High-Potential Identification


An individual’s potential sets the upper limit for his/her range of development. In other words, the more potential he/she has, the smoother it is to develop him/her.

High-potential employees can:

  • Deal with adversity constructively.
  • Handle increased pressure tactfully.
  • Establish and maintain cooperative working relationships.
  • Be influential and persuasive with a range of stakeholders.

Hence, it makes more sense for companies to invest in high-potential candidates’ training and development rather than their average and below-average counterparts. A well-structured employment aptitude test proves to be highly effective in this regard.

  • During an aptitude test for hiring, the principal factors analyzed are how individuals think, solve problems, pay attention to detail, reasoning and solution-generation abilities. All these factors indicate potential.
  • Along with verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning, aptitude tests are often aimed at assessing candidates’ cognitive capabilities such as memory, attention span, auditory processing and visual processing.
  • Using standard aptitude assessments as a measure of basic intelligence allows organizations to determine whether they can develop their skills.

Despite the above-mentioned highlights of aptitude test results, intelligence and mental abilities cannot be the sole parameters to judge a candidate’s potential. You must consider several other attributes to get a more precise overview. Examples of such attributes are job-centric competencies, personality traits and domain-specific abilities/technical skills. The next chapters cover these attributes in detail.


Chapter 3: Competency: What Recruiters should know about Aptitude Assessments

The University of Nebraska -Lincoln Human Resources defines competency as the combination of four observable and measurable components, i.e., knowledge, skills, personal attributes and abilities/aptitude. Competency is a combination of all the skills and attributes you need to be able to perform in a professional role. By that definition, aptitude plays a critical role and is a significant part of competency. Hence, measuring aptitude while assessing competencies is crucial when searching for individuals who perfectly match the various job requirements.


Key Indicators of Professional Competence


Competence is usually measured with aptitude tests, which consist of questions or problems (with objectively correct answers) designed to assess raw reasoning power.

Tomas Chamorro
Premuzic, Harvard Business Review

While industry-specific indicators of professional competence can differ, the George Washington University recognizes eight key indicators of general competence at the workplace. These eight indicators, listed below, are generally most desired by employers irrespective of profession/area of specialization.


Aptitude tests help measure key indicators for general competence at the workplace


Using Competency-Based Assessments


Recruiters can use mixed aptitude tests that target the key indicators relevant to the job role to evaluate a candidate on specific professional competencies. Competency-based assessments provide more detailed information about a candidate’s potential. Hence, dedicated assessments can measure:

  • Core Competencies
  • Common Competencies
  • Technical Competencies
  • Leadership Competencies
  • Meta Competencies

And more!

Once the premise of competency-based assessment is clearly established, it is easier to improve other HR processes’ efficiency. It is vital to develop a framework that makes employees and candidates aware of the following to establish the desired premise.

a. Competencies required for different levels.

b. Desired behaviors to be showcased in their specific job roles.


A job aptitude test score can also represent a person’s competency levels to perform certain tasks.


Why You Should Use Competency Framework


A competency framework is a standardized structure that defines each competency required in individuals working for an organization. It outlines the desired competencies for aptitude, personality, behavior and technical skills, etc. All of them cumulatively make a holistic framework on which recruiters can rely.

There are various ways to develop these frameworks. Organizations can always develop their competency frameworks through an internal research program that builds in business relevance. Alternatively, drawing on external models that have been known to succeed could be a safer bet. Either way, the aim is to have a clearly defined set of standards for identifying the right professionals whenever required.

Competency Frameworks:

  • Can support talent strategy and guide practice in recruitment, talent development and performance management.
  • Ensure that employees’ skills and abilities are in tune with organizational priorities.
  • Create a highly productive working environment as employees and recruits are aware of their KRAs (Key Responsibility Areas).
  • Help elaborate clear expectations from employees on their job performance and organizational behavior, enabling the company to accomplish its vision and goals.
  • Provide a performance benchmark for employees and insights into identifying training needs.
  • Help in succession planning and identifying areas in need of development.

Aptitude assessments for hiring help recruiters match candidates’ skills with different competencies defined in the framework. A competency-based assessment offers clarity to the recruiter to focus on the specific skills related to different roles and positions. Besides, competency frameworks can help decide a candidate’s expected behavior and performance in a particular job role. Recruiters can decide how to proceed with the aptitude assessment based on this information.


Chapter 4: How to Choose the Right Aptitude Tests for Your Organizational Recruitment

Companies can assess candidates’ aptitudes in several ways. There are endless possibilities – from a conventional online aptitude test for recruitment to career-specific test combinations. Besides, your choice of the test type depends on factors such as:


Factors to consider when choosing an aptitude test for hiring


This chapter simplifies your choices by categorizing them into three major sections:

1. The most popular types of aptitude tests used in hiring

Familiarity with these fundamental aptitude assessments will help you create your test structure with sections focused on the aptitudes you want to measure.

2. A combination of domain-specific aptitude tests and personality assessments

When you want to identify best-fit candidates for a profession, analyzing their personality along with their domain-specific aptitude offers a more holistic approach.

3. Tests to measure aptitude at different professional levels

This section introduces you to Mercer | Mettl’s framework of aptitude levels and competency assessments that you can choose when hiring for specific job roles.


The Most Popular Types of Aptitude Tests used in Hiring


An aptitude test intends to measure the core brain functions, such as attention, speed, memory and visualization, providing a holistic assessment of fluid and crystallized intelligence. Hence, the most popular aptitude tests used for hiring feature a wide range of question types:


Creating an Ideal Assessment by Combining Domain-Specific Aptitude Tests and Personality Analysis


Companies can combine and create a custom battery of tests for testing domain-specific aptitudes and personality traits. For example, an online aptitude test for engineers, combined with a personality assessment, can serve as the perfect tool to identify qualified engineers with agreeable personality traits.

Using these tests cumulatively allows you to strengthen your hiring decisions further and identify the top talent from the available pool.

Examples of domain-specific aptitude tests include:

And so on.

Our Definitive Guide to Personality Assessment Tests offers detailed insights that will help you curate custom tests in a more informed way.


Mercer | Mettl’s Job Categorization Framework


Different types of aptitude assessments can help measure the core competencies essential for efficiently completing tasks at the workplace. The best career aptitude test is one that focuses on the nature of the job and industry. However, before exploring it, let’s check the three core competencies that form the basis for aptitude tests for hiring.


Different types of aptitude tests help measure core competencies


1. Information Processing: It involves the ability to use available information using numerical and analytical reasoning.

2. Solution Generation: It involves finding creative solutions to the existing problems using abstract reasoning.

3. Decision-Making: It involves solving problems using rational and logical thinking. It also involves the ability to devise ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions.

Each of these core competencies also has two main factors that determine the type of test you should choose:

1. Frequency: It means how often an individual uses these competencies in a day-to-day job.

2. Difficulty Level: It refers to the tasks’ difficulty level related to these competencies.

Depending on the factors above, a particular competency defines the individual’s overall performance. And Mercer | Mettl’s job categorization framework offers a transparent picture to help you choose the right aptitude assessment for different job roles.


Determining Job-Fitment with the Right Aptitude Test Level


As stated earlier, it is crucial to choose tests that assess abilities relevant to a specific job role because employees across different industries have varying levels of job match. Simply put, specific career profiles require specific aptitude levels. And there can be several curated assessments to assess each level.

Test Level 1

It can be undertaken to measure aptitude for performing routine tasks that don’t involve decision-making or analytics.

Competencies measured: Abstract reasoning, numerical reasoning, verbal ability, and attention to detail.

Best suited for administrative and clerical roles.

Test Level 2

It can be given to gauge learning and analytical abilities.

Competencies measured: Numerical reasoning, verbal ability, decision-making, attention to detail.

Best suited for executive roles.

Test Level 3

It can be offered to analyze problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Competencies measured: Abstract reasoning, numerical reasoning, verbal ability, critical reasoning, decision-making and problem-solving.

Best suited for functional and supervisory roles.

Test Level 4

This level can help measure advanced problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Competencies measured: Abstract reasoning, creativity, numerical reasoning, verbal ability, critical reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving.

Best suited for senior managerial and business head roles.

Test Level 5

This can be offered to test leadership potential, intelligence, learning agility and data interpretation skills.

Competencies measured: Abstract reasoning, creativity, numerical reasoning, verbal ability, critical reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving.

Best suited for leadership and strategic roles.

The five aptitude test levels listed above correspond to the general professional hierarchy in an organization. Hence, they are an ideal set of assessments for lateral hiring. Experts recommend using a battery of campus hiring aptitude tests when recruiting graduates and assessing entry-level candidates that primarily measure:


How Aptitude Tests Are Administered for Recruitment


Modern aptitude tests for hiring are easier to administer than before, with almost every aspect of the professional and academic world taking the digital route. Instead of undergoing the hassles of hosting these tests at a brick-and-mortar venue, employers can easily opt for their virtual version.

  • An employer can set up an aptitude exam for recruitment based on relevant question formats on a cloud-based, secure platform.
  • The said online platforms can be secured with a range of anti-cheating features, automated grading and remote proctoring to maintain the test’s integrity and results.
  • Once satisfied with any additionally needed features, employers can finalize the test and share the test link with the applicants.


Interpreting the Test Results


Generally, no minimum score is required to clear an aptitude test. It depends on the number of applicants taking the test concurrently and the cutoff you set. Usually, candidates who manage to score in the top 5 percent tend to get a higher preference, while those scoring in the top 20 percent can also be considered.

Below are three key points to remember if you want to understand aptitude scoring patterns and their interpretation:

  • The number of right answers given by a candidate is compared to a benchmark and then represented as a percentile.
  • You can compare the scores to identify those with the best reasoning skills or specific abilities you seek.
  • Negative marking can be included for incorrect answers if you wish.

With advanced assessments, their difficulty level and types of questions may affect the overall score. Hence, it is best to set a benchmark for the comparison of all test results.


Tips for Candidates to Ace Aptitude Tests for Hiring

This bonus chapter outlines ten simple yet effective suggestions that will help candidates score better on their aptitude tests for hiring.

1. Efforts to strengthen fluid intelligence:

Candidates should actively incorporate methods to train their working memory, boost their attention span, challenge themselves to solve complex problems and develop routines that help them stay focused for long periods.

2. Practicing sample questions:

Practicing is key for any aptitude test preparation. Hence, candidates must solve as many sample questions as possible. These questions must be relevant to the job for which they are applying.

3. Studying on a schedule:

Study schedules ensure that candidates stay organized and cover key areas before taking a test. It is highly desired to devote more time to areas that need improvement.

4. Research:

Talking to former test-takers, researching the organization that is giving the test, and asking the recruiter for basic tips, can help a candidate.

5. Reading:

Reading is critical to prepare for any verbal ability/reasoning/comprehension assessment for hiring. Besides, regular reading is also a proven way to expand an individual’s critical thinking abilities, knowledge and overall intelligence.

6. Solving mock problems for data interpretation:

Data interpretation questions are very common in numerical reasoning tests. There are also extensively used in general aptitude assessments and vocational ability tests for several domains. Hence, enhanced focus on it can help improve test scores.

7. Structuring the time spent on every section:

Candidates should consciously avoid wasting much time on the questions they are unable to solve. It is wiser to move on to other sections and return to more difficult questions toward the end of the test.

8. Memorizing formulas for exchange rates and currency conversions:

Aptitude tests for hiring often include questions that require candidates to read exchange rates or convert currencies to arrive at an accurate answer. It is a good idea to cover these during the preparation.

9. Refreshing theoretical knowledge:

Grammatical rules, universal laws, mathematical formulae, science theories, etc., almost always come in handy during an aptitude test for hiring. Memorizing them all over again is a great way to stay on top of things.

10. Self-care:

Candidates should avoid being overworked physically and mentally before appearing for a job aptitude test. It is crucial to get good sleep, nourishment and staying hydrated before and during the assessment to maintain the desired attention span and alertness.



Most job scenarios involve multiple candidates applying for the same position. Things complicate when most of them have similar experiences, credentials and academic backgrounds. Measuring aptitude can serve as the ideal tiebreaker at the fundamental level in such situations, acting as a filter between the average and the exemplary. HR managers, employers and organizations exploring aptitude tests for recruitment can use this guide as a resourceful directive to make better hiring decisions.



What is an aptitude test for employment?


An employment aptitude test or an aptitude test for hiring is a type of candidate assessment that recruiters use to measure basic mental aptitude and reasoning abilities required for functioning in a professional role.


What are the most common aptitude tests?


The most used aptitude tests in hiring include:

  • Logical and abstract reasoning analysis
  • Numerical ability tests
  • Critical thinking assessments
  • Verbal comprehension tests
  • Spatial reasoning tests, etc.


What is a basic aptitude test?


A basic aptitude test is a way to measure an individual’s fundamental mental and cognitive abilities. It is a holistic cognitive evaluation comprising simple mathematical problems, logical reasoning questions, verbal comprehension sections, and questions to test decision-making skills.

Originally published August 27 2020, Updated October 4 2021

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About This Topic

Aptitude tests, also known as cognitive tests, are assessments to measure the cognitive acumen of a person. Aptitude tests measure skills such as abstract reasoning, visual reasoning, logical reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, numerical ability, verbal ability, etc.

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