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Why Intelligence (IQ) is Important in the Workplace

IQ tests, at their most basic level, are designed to measure human intelligence. While most people are familiar with the concept of IQ, you may be less familiar with how it plays a role in the pre-hire assessment process.

IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, was established in the early 1900s as a way to create a standardized measure of intelligence. Through IQ, researchers sought to assess innate intelligence, meaning that IQ test results would not vary substantially as a person ages, even from childhood to adulthood. In other words, the score you get at age 10 should not be very different from the score you get at age 30. For this reason, factors like education, background, or socioeconomic status should have less of an influence on the results.

However, true "IQ" tests are not often used as employment tests. Instead, most employers opt for cognitive aptitude tests designed and validated specifically for predicting employee success. Both IQ tests and employment aptitude tests measure critical thinking skills, learning ability, and problem solving. In this sense an employment aptitude test has much in common with a traditional IQ test.

But employment aptitude tests also measure some areas not traditionally considered part of "intelligence" or "IQ," such as attention to detail and communications skills. These are important job-related abilities for a whole host of jobs, but are not usually considered to be core to how psychologists measure intelligence. Both IQ tests and employment cognitive aptitude tests do have the benefit of producing consistent results each time you take the test in adulthood. In other words, the results are reliable and consistent.

It's obvious why the abilities measured by these tests are useful when evaluating potential job applicants, because they provide an indication of how well a new employee will pick up training and excel in just about any role. In fact, cognitive aptitude tests are significantly better at predicting job performance than some other common hiring criteria. For example, aptitude tests are twice as predictive as job interviews, three times as predictive as experience, and four times as predictive as education level.

Employers interested in testing for generalized intelligence often administer the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT), which assesses the major components of cognitive ability, or intelligence. The CCAT is best suited for testing mid to higher level positions that require a college degree because they help to find employees who are mentally agile, quick learners, and problem solvers.

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