Managers: Are You Testing Candidates for Practical Intelligence?


Your hiring process likely includes some type of personality test to determine whether your favorite candidate will fit into your department. But, do your tests go to the next level? Researchers Steven Stemler, Wesleyan University and Varun Aggarwal, co-​founder at Aspiring Minds, argue that you will have a better success rate if you also test candidates for practical intelligence.

In going beyond domain knowledge, aptitude and personality tests, Aggarwal explains that situational judgement tests help employers figure out how ‘an applicant handles critical and challenging situations at a workplace.’ Aggarwal’s LinkedIn column outlines an example of a question that can be used to measure a salesperson’s response to a specific situation when negotiating with a client who has announced she won’t budge on price. Your candidate has the ability to give a discount, but he may decide not to. He may also decide to stall, or he may give the client the discount on the spot. Designing a question that asks your candidate to choose one of these answers will allow you to understand how he thinks in a specific situation.

 Stemler, Van Aggarwal and Siddharth Nithyanand have just published another study, “Knowing What NOT To Do Is a Critical Job Skill,” in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment. In this study, the researchers tested candidates to determine whether they had the ability to recognize the worst possible choice in a bad situation. For example, if two employees are continuously arguing, managers have a number of choices they can use to deal with the situation. The worse possible choice might be to fire one of the disgruntled employees immediately, while the best choice might be to send both of them to HR for some coaching on their behavior. The researcher found that when assessment tests include questions that ask for a candidate's answers in this type of situation, managers can improve “their odds of hiring good performers by 10%.”

Do your assessment tests include questions that focus on situational judgment?

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.