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Aptitude Test   | 4 Min Read

Can Aptitude Tests be Used to Predict Employee Success at Work?

Written By Romila Kanchan

We see a lot of organizations using aptitude tests or cognitive assessments during the candidate screening process of hiring. Ever wondered why? Can aptitude tests be used to predict employee success at work?

The answer to this question depends on how effective an aptitude test is in identifying the right talent for any job role in any organization. An aptitude test is effective in predicting employee success if it is accurately customized, benchmarked and validated for the job role.

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But yes, an accurate aptitude test is the best predictor of an employee's potential to be a high performer and eventually a high potential.

Cognitive intelligence and work success

Connection Between IQ and Job Performance

High intelligence is an indicator of success on the job which is measured on the basis of:

  • Evaluation of performance on tasks similar to those encountered on the job
  • Performance ratings by supervisors
  • Position in the occupational hierarchy

Intelligence or IQ also predicts how high up you get in the job hierarchy – i.e., your occupational level. US Employment Service data shows a strong correlation (0.72) between IQ and occupational level and US military data shows that mean IQ scores are higher at higher occupational levels. 

Another study found that if people were in a job that was less complex than their IQ would predict, they moved up to a more complex job and vice versa.

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How Does Mental Aptitude or IQ Predict Success?

IQ mainly influences performance through the rate at which people learn knowledge relevant to the job – people with higher IQ learn faster. But IQ predicts success even when you take account of job knowledge. With high IQ, people are abler to go beyond existing job knowledge and make judgments in unfamiliar situations.

In an organizational setup, cognitive assessments/aptitude tests help in improving the ROI of three core HR processes;

  • Hiring: Identifying the top talent for any job role
  • Learning and development: Identifying training needs, identifying the employees who can be easily upskilled and cross-skilled.
  • Leadership development: identifying high potentials and in succession planning

Aptitude tests helps in increasing efficiency

Use of Aptitude Tests During Hiring

Aptitude tests help in identifying the right talent for any job role. Every job role requires the use of certain cognitive abilities that determine if a person possesses the right level of intelligence needed to perform and succeed at work. The best predictor of work success is cognitive intelligence and this fact has been proven time and again by numerous studies and real-life examples.

Cognitive assessment helps avoid bad hiring decisions, which can be extremely costly. The Harvard Business Review reports that as much as 80 percent of staff turnover is attributed to poor hiring decisions.

It not only accurately assesses if a candidate possesses the right acumen to succeed in a particular job role, but it can also be used to judge if the candidate will be able to learn and grow on the job to become a future high potential who can take up leadership positions. It is a measure of how learning agile an individual is.


Furthermore, using a cognitive assessment/aptitude test that is based upon competencies customized for every job role helps in creating a structured hiring process as it helps the HR in pre-deciding the assessments on the basis of which the candidates will be screened.

Click Here to Access Aptitude Tests for Hiring

Use of Aptitude Tests for Learning and Development

Cognitive assessments/aptitude tests can come in handy a lot for identifying skill gaps and training needs for employees. As cognitive tests measure if a person has strong analytical, reasoning, attention to detail, decision making and problem-solving skills, they can be used to decide if an employee will struggle to perform well at their job or not. It can be used to assess an employee’s ability to follow through with instructions (attention to detail), analyze data accurately (analytical reasoning), complete tasks on time (brain processing speed), tackle issues that they face while completing their task (problem-solving and decision making) and come up with insightful solutions (creativity/ abstract reasoning).

Cognitive assessments/aptitude tests also assess how easy/difficult it is for an employee to learn new things fast and develop expertise in them. Hence they can be used to identify employees who can be easily upskilled/cross-skilled to take on higher/different job responsibilities. They help in determining if an employee is learning agile and can keep up with changes that the job role will go through in the future (e.g. technological advancements, process changes etc.).

As per Mettl’s Talent Assessment Study 2018, Cognitive assessments have seen a growth of 34% overall from 2016 to 2017. Though L&D use-case accounts for only 6% of total cognitive assessments used in 2017, it has grown almost 380% annually from 2016 to 2017. On the other hand, its use in Talent Acquisition has grown at a rate of 29% from 2016 to 2017.

Click Here to Download Mettl's Talent Assessment Study 2018

How cognitive tests help

Use of Aptitude Tests for Leadership Development

Traditional IQ tests measure skills such as numerical and verbal ability which may not be such an important deciding factor in deciding how much an employee will succeed at work, especially at executive positions. These type of tests work in favor of people who have cracked the code of scoring high on these tests as they have given many such tests before. The real test of intelligence requires the candidate to solve problems, the likes of which they have not come across before. By assessing a candidate’s ability to tackle novel problems is the only foolproof way of determining if he/she will succeed at work, especially in managerial/executive positions.

This is why, use of cognitive intelligence to identify high potentials and for the creation of the succession pipeline, the assessment should assess skills such as decision making, critical thinking, and logical reasoning. These are the cognitive competencies that are needed at executive positions.

"The business world’s reluctance to use intelligence testing of any kind (other than assessments of emotional intelligence, which is really about personality and style) has robbed companies of a powerful tool for evaluating candidates for employment or promotion"-HBR

To get the best results out of cognitive assessment usage in hiring, L&D and leadership development, the cognitive competencies that are needed at different job levels (entry, mid-management, executive) must be accurately identified.

Want to know how Aptitude tests measure IQ? Click Here to explore the science  behind Aptitude tests

Aptitude Tests Customized for Every Job Role and Job Level

Our expertise in the field of assessment for hiring, L&D and leadership development has provided us with expertise in identifying the cognitive competencies needed at each job level.

Cognitive competencies for entry-level positions: Entry level professionals are required to follow through with instructions and tasks that they have been handed. This requires high attention to detail. However, they are not required to carry out much decision making and problem-solving, so they don’t require high levels of these cognitive skills. Depending upon the job role, the employee may need to have strong data analysis, verbal or numerical abilities.

Cognitive competencies for mid-management level positions: At mid-management positions, employees are required to make decisions regarding how to solve a problem and come up with novel solutions. They need to juggle multiple tasks and have a logical reasoning behind the decisions that they make and the solutions that they provide.

Hence the cognitive abilities that they need to have include decision making, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and critical thinking.

Cognitive competencies for leadership level positions: Executive position holders need to be visionary people who need to tackle novel situations every day and come up with out of the box solutions that can help differentiate the organization from its peers in terms of the products and services they provide. Hence creativity is a very important skill to have at these positions. Also, these positions require dealing with unknown and new problems every day, hence high abstract reasoning ability is a must-have.


As you can see, different job roles and job levels require different cognitive competencies and hence require different aptitude tests. An aptitude test for a particular job role contains questions pertaining to the cognitive competencies required in that particular job role. We have clubbed all popular job roles into 5 levels, depending on the kind of cognitive competencies that are required to perform them. Each job level contains a group of job roles that require the same set of cognitive competencies to perform daily job responsibilities.

Below, we have created a hierarchy of cognitive competencies that are needed at different job levels.


Customized Aptitude tests

Mettl’s cognitive assessments are suited to meet organizational talent needs during hiring, L&D and leadership development across all job roles and levels.

Mettl’s winning 4 step process of creating cognitive assessments/ aptitude tests is tested to provide its clients with the talent that they want in a very efficient manner

Mettl’s 4 Step Process for Aptitude Tests Customization and Benchmarking

Mettl's 4 Step Process for aptitude test customization

Mettl’s cognitive assessments/aptitude tests have helped dozens of companies to hire for performance, train for skill-gaps and plan for growth.

how to use Mettl's Aptitude Test References



Topics: Aptitude Test

Originally published May 06 2019,updated October 12 2019

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