Quantifying Potential: Cognitive Testing in Pre-Employment Screening

Can employees’ potential performance be calculated before they even start the job? Since the introduction of standardized cognitive testing, companies have sought to use these tools to select employees best suited to the job, especially for demanding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. While many of these assessments have demonstrated practical predictive ability, questions remain about their fairness and broader applicability.1 Indeed, some assessments seem to disadvantage certain groups more than others, potentially engendering legal issues. As a result, industries have not widely adopted these tools. Furthermore, questions exist about what precisely these cognitive tests measure—that is, are employers testing general intelligence or more specific skills? As firms continue to modernize their hiring process in search of the best employees, cognitive testing will undoubtedly play a role, but its full impact remains to be seen.


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