A Small Cog In A Bigger Machine

A Small Cog In A Bigger Machine

Intelligence Assessments: Are They Really Worth It?

What does intellect have to do with talent anyway?

Here at Chemistry, we know that intellect is important, but we’re redefining how it’s used. It goes without saying that businesses want intelligent employees, and so they should. Many studies, like this one in the 'Current Directions in Psychological Science' journal, have found that intelligence is the best predictor of job performance. So, the question isn’t whether intellect matters. It’s how you measure it.

Many recruiters will use grades to assess intelligence, but are academic credentials the only things that matter? Higher education may well correlate to intelligence, yet there are entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and so many others who became successful without a college degree. It also goes without saying that intelligent people may not have certain academic achievements for more nuanced reasons. For example, according to the Department of Education, children from low-income households are less likely to go to university.

What we’re saying is that it’s fine to look at grades, but these certainly aren’t the be-all and end-all if you want to find intelligent candidates with underlying cognitive abilities. When it comes to talent, context is everything. That’s why it’s important to look at the bigger picture to find those most likely to succeed in a particular role. This means using more sophisticated intellect assessments and looking at other relevant factors in the context of a specific enterprise.

What intellect assessments show you (and what they don’t)

Intellect assessments are incredibly useful — that’s why they’re a key part of our Five Box Model for matching talent to the context of an organisation. However, instead of looking at intelligence in isolation, we examine it in conjunction with other areas to get the clearest idea of how a candidate is likely to perform.
The Five Box Model

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Standardised intellect assessment results are easy to read and understand, and will give some insights into the strengths and limitations of potential employees, such as:

- How accurately they can think on their feet
- How quickly they can absorb, process and retain information
- Whether they can work autonomously on complex tasks
- How quickly they can adapt to new situations
- Whether they’re a problem solver
- How likely they are to identify errors
- Whether they can separate important and unimportant information

These abilities couldn’t possibly be uncovered based on a candidate’s academic credentials alone. What’s more, intellect is impossible to change. Therefore, it’s important to assess this effectively as such abilities won’t improve with experience.
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If intellect assessments are the only thing being looked at, this ignores the bigger picture and helps feed misguided assumptions about how talent is defined.

Intellect is one of five criteria that we look at in our uniquely science-led approach to assessing a candidate. Alongside intellect, we look at:

- Personality: Beliefs, principles and cultural ethos
- Motivations: What drives people in the workplace
- Behaviours: What people will do rather than what they can do
- Experience: Previous performance

All these areas must be examined together in order to predict how an individual will fare in the context of a specific business. Intellect assessments provide no information regarding these other factors, so relying on them exclusively means unsuitable candidates are more likely to be hired.

Intellect assessments don’t guarantee success

Intelligence is the main predictor of performance so it’s really important to identify candidates with a certain intellect. They will be able to absorb, process and retain information in order to solve problems. That said, an intellect assessment is only one piece of the puzzle. For example, this study in the 'Journal of Applied Psychology' notes that while intellect is the strongest performance predictor, the combination of intelligence and personality is even stronger. It may also depend on the nature of the role. A study in the 'Journal of Personality' found that both intellect and ‘openness to experience’ predict creative achievement in the arts and sciences.

While intellect assessments may point you in the direction of a candidate who seems equipped to fulfill your role on paper, it won’t tell you whether that person will thrive at your organisation specifically. What if they’re very intelligent but simply won’t mesh with your company culture? Context really matters here, and it’s why someone who performed well for a competitor might not necessarily have the same impact on your business.

Most importantly, every hire should be assessed on their potential to help you reach your business goals. At Chemistry we call that understanding What Great Looks Like™.  It’s the context you need to create an environment for your talent to thrive.

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