The NFL Combine took place a couple of weeks ago in Indianapolis. For the uninitiated, the combine is an event where the top college football athletes display their athletic prowess for NFL teams. Everything is measured. They are measured for height, weight, and wingspan. Their speed is measured in the 40-yard dash, their agility is measured in the 3-cone drill. Strength is measured by number of times the player can bench press 225 lbs (this year’s strongest participant did an astonishing 38 reps!). And buried in this process is something that you can use to help assess job candidates for your business.
No, I’m not suggesting you should stick applicants under a barbell stacked with a bunch of weight. The NFL also administers a cognitive ability test called the Wonderlic Personnel Test. The Wonderlic is administered to test the basic intelligence of players who want to be drafted in the NFL. And while it may seem dumb to test the smarts of gigantic men who intend to clobber each other every Sunday in the fall, it turns out that the research completely validates this aspect of the NFL hiring process.
Research shows that raw cognitive ability is one of the most valid predictors of job performance available (reference). Intelligence has been shown to predict job performance better than an interview and reference checks. And it’s way better than training and years of education, the last of which only ranks better than handwriting analysis and flipping a coin. After seeing the results of their study, one group of researchers concluded that cognitive ability testing should be used, “…as a basis for hiring for all jobs. Failure to do so leaves money on the table.” (reference) It’s even been shown that when hiring even from a pool of highly-intelligent candidates – think of doctors, rocket scientists, etc. – cognitive ability tests are still good predictors of relative success (reference).
The list below ranks hiring selection methods from best to worst based upon the scientific data.
- Work Sample – actual examples of the candidates ability to perform the job tasks in the real world. Think of an artist’s portfolio.
- Cognitive Ability Test
- Structured Interview – the key word here is structured. There are many resources online that give good guidance on how to structure an interview in order to identify the best candidates.
- Job Knowledge Test
- Assessment Center Evaluation – an assessment center is a a group of job-specific simulations, typically graded by trained professionals.
- Biographical Data – a candidate’s background, etc.
- Personality Assessments
- Reference Checks
- Training and Experience
- Years of Education
- Graphology (handwriting analysis)
- Flip of a Coin
Why do you think that so many hiring managers use ineffective selection methods? What methods do you use when selecting from a pool of candidates? Do you think your company will consider a cognitive ability test when hiring in the future?