Assessing candidates via cognitive aptitude tests has greatly improved the efficiency of recruitment processes in recent years. 

Most modern-day recruiters are aware of the complementary alignment between training, professional experience, and someone’s personality traits. But, assessing someone’s cognitive aptitude can lead to doubts on this subject’s relevance. 

Read on to learn more about what cognitive functions are, and the importance of assessing them when recruiting new hires. 


Cognitive Functions: What are we talking about?

Cognitive functions, which a cognitive aptitude test evaluates, are the mental processes that enable humans to receive, process, and develop information.

They come into play when a person needs to perceive elements of their environment, be attentive, orient themselves, remember, produce movement, or reason:

  • Perception: also called “gnosis”. It encompasses an individual’s ability to recognise and identify things using their senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste);
  • Attention: corresponds to the process by which we select an external (image, smell, sound) or internal (thought) stimulus and attach it to our consciousness;
  • Orientation: the action by which someone determines their personal position in time and space;
  • Memory: someone’s ability to record and locate information at a given time;
  • Motor skills: also known as “praxis”. Motor skills include all the actions or movements that we coordinate for a specific purpose (using an object, walking, sketching a facial expression, etc.);
  • Reasoning: also referred to as “executive functions”, is a function humans use to adapt to changes in their environment.

How are cognitive functions relevant to recruitment? Well, humans consciously or unconsciously use these functions when they need to perform any task.

So, cognitive functions play an important role in humans’ way of integrating, perceiving, and understanding their environment.

Evaluating a candidate’s cognitive functions through a cognitive aptitude test is useful to better represent the different types of intelligence (emotional, logical, linguistic, bodily, spatial, naturalistic, inter and intra personal) that the candidate may exhibit.

These considerations help provide a good idea of the candidates’ ability to solve problems, align with the company’s environment, adapt to changes, show initiative, etc.

Cognitive Aptitude Test: What is it?

Modern companies are keen to use psychometric tests when recruiting talent. 

When doing so, they will combine cognitive tests, amongst others, with CV analysis to evaluate the aforementioned functions. 

But, what do these tests really consist of and how do they evaluate a candidate’s cognitive aptitude?

What is the principle of a cognitive ability test?

A cognitive test in recruitment assesses the ability of the applicant to perform a given task. It’s not just about judging their skills in carrying

out the activity but also evaluating their personal capabilities.

The candidate is required to answer multiple-choice questions where only one answer is correct. The results of the assessment are then compared to the average of a group. Depending on the score obtained, the recruiter decides whether or not the applicant can move to the next stage.

While we explore in depth the progress of this type of behavioural test, let’s find out on what basis the questions are formulated. What does the cognitive aptitude test concretely measure?

What does the test measure in a candidate?

Globally, the cognitive test measures a candidate’s way of thinking. The questions are formulated so that the answer allows the recruiter to understand to what extent the applicant pays attention to details, uses available information to make decisions, is adept at working with numbers, and interprets numerical data.

With a cognitive aptitude test, it is possible to measure critical thinking, that is, solving problems logically and the ability to be analytical when faced with a subject.

It is also possible to determine to what extent candidates can understand the main ideas contained in a text.

How is cognitive aptitude evaluated?

To evaluate cognitive aptitude, recruiters use short tests consisting of a few multiple-choice questions. These can include puzzles, mathematical problems, or situations to assess text comprehension.

It is possible to use a cognitive aptitude test that targets a specific skill or to query all areas of intelligence. In either case, the questions are not complicated.

However, they must be resolved within a set time, thus forcing the respondent to think quickly.

The total duration of cognitive tests is between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the provider you choose. Generally, companies are seeking increasingly shorter assessments like the BRAIN cognitive test which can evaluate – in less than 10 minutes – how candidates can adapt to the future world, saving time in recruitment.

You might wonder if such a short assessment penalises the candidate, but experts have confirmed that it mimics real-life circumstances: in most decisive situations, a person has only a few minutes to make a good decision/a logical evaluation/to weigh the pros and cons, etc. Assuming someone performs such exercises several times a day, it is perfectly acceptable to, during an interview process, adopt a very short behavioural test that is intended to predict their performance at work whilst maintaining a positive and efficient candidate experience.


Why use a cognitive aptitude test during recruitment?

Today, it is undeniable that companies wish to find the perfect candidate to fill vacant positions. However, recruitment calls on many factors that do not always allow finding the perfect profile every time.

However, if recruiters know how to fully utilise the potential of a cognitive aptitude test, they can more easily achieve their goal. Here are 7 benefits they can obtain from it:

To predict professional performances

A cognitive aptitude test is an excellent indicator of professional performance. The results of a study conducted by Schmidt, focusing on employee selection techniques, have shown that the cognitive aptitude test is highly reliable.

Schmidt’s study consisted of a statistical analysis of data collected from several companies. It concluded that there is a moderate positive correlation between cognitive tests and professional performance, which is not the case with other selection techniques.

Beyond this study, this advantage makes sense when one considers that an individual’s professional life is undeniably impacted by their personality and their relationship with their environment – much more so than professional experience or educational level.

Obviously, it is recommended to combine the standard steps of a recruitment interview with the cognitive aptitude test to better predict the personal performances of the candidate.

To assess the ability to learn and solve problems

A cognitive aptitude test gives an idea of the candidate’s behaviour once in their work


The assessment results can predict whether, for example, a candidate will be able to quickly learn from their surroundings and find solutions to problems. 

Ultimately, the more a candidate demonstrates significant cognitive abilities, the more capable they will be of learning on the job, adapting to changes, and solving problems.

To bring out hidden potential

Most traditional recruitment methods reflect the candidate’s background without really revealing what they are capable of. A cognitive test allows you to identify who they truly are in spite of their CV, which might not do them justice.

The capability of the cognitive aptitude test to reveal an individual’s hidden potential is all the more valid if the recruitment centralises around junior candidates who have not yet accumulated much experience.

To save time and money

Using cognitive tests is also a good way to reduce the expenses of time and resources related to recruitment.

First, we have seen that the duration of a cognitive aptitude test does not exceed 30 minutes. Next, since it can act as a sifting tool, the recruiter will have a smaller number of higher quality candidates to interview, saving time and resources.

Additionally, by involving AI in recruitment, it is possible to administer cognitive tests more quickly without investing a lot of money.

To avoid bias in recruitment

The notion of bias in recruitment is not a new concept. Consciously or unconsciously, recruiters make distinctions between candidates based on gender, background, societal stereotypes, and university degrees.

By encouraging the use of behavioural tests based on the real intelligence of candidates, it is possible to reduce biases in recruitment, thereby establishing a certain equality in the processing of applications.

To advance the candidate experience 

Both candidates and companies are in search of a sustainable, long-term collaboration.

Consequently, during recruitment, applicants seek organisations that evaluate and care about their natural, personal abilities, particularly the eight MBTI cognitive functions which are the basis of several recognised cognitive tests.

This approach strengthens the company’s brand image with current and future applicants.

To increase retention rates

‘Bad hires’ are often categorised by their low retention rates, often linked to hiring via traditional approaches such as CV and skills-based analysis.

In contrast, taking into account criteria such as adaptability, personal and social attributes, etc., improves the retention rate of hires, due to hiring (or not hiring) based on a candidate’s natural fit with an organisation. 

What are the different types of cognitive aptitude tests?

There are several different tests to evaluate cognitive functions. Since these are not mathematical assessments, they vary according to the specific elements desired to analyse.

For example, there are cognitive tests focused on general intelligence and others based on specific skills. Here are some of them:

Numerical Reasoning Test

This test measures a candidate’s ability to solve a problem using numerical data. It therefore involves simple arithmetic (addition, subtraction, etc.) and the interpretation of data in the form of tables or graphs.

This cognitive aptitude test is often used to assess specific skills related to the position or simply to ensure that the candidate has digital literacy.

Verbal Reasoning Test

This assessment establishes to what extent the candidate is capable of understanding passages from a written text. The recruiter presents the applicant with a series of statements, one of which is true and the others false.

The candidate’s choice provides insight into their abilities to interpret information. You will also determine the speed in which the candidate answers the question: do they take time to weigh the pros and cons, or jump to a hasty conclusion?

Logic Test

As its name suggests, this cognitive aptitude test relates to logic. It measures the candidate’s abilities in terms of reasoning and problem-solving.

A logic test is based on thought patterns, sequences, or the thought process followed by the individual to arrive at a correct answer.

Situational Judgement Test

This involves scenarios that clearly predict the candidate’s behaviour in their future workplace. This cognitive aptitude test is composed of various scenarios related to the job or company requirements.

The candidate’s responses anticipate their reaction to a proposed circumstance, and the recruiter can then establish whether this response is desired for the role in question. 

Inductive Reasoning Test

This cognitive aptitude test is similar to logical reasoning. It assesses the candidates’ problem-solving abilities. 

The questions are designed so that a recruiter can judge whether the applicant can handle new information and find solutions.

Cognitive Test

The cognitive test is more general because it touches on the entirety of intelligence. The recruiter incorporates elements related to all the tests presented previously.

In general, the results are presented in the form of scores that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Mechanical Reasoning Test

The use of this cognitive aptitude test is reserved for applications related to scientific, engineering, or emergency services positions. The questions deal with mechanical concepts such as gravity, electrical circuits, friction, energy, etc.

Watson Glaser Test

This test is used in the legal sector. It measures the critical thinking of candidates. The responses of these are useful to assess their ability to draw conclusions and recognize assumptions.

Because of this cognitive test’s field of application, the questions are phrased in the form of legal arguments and propositions.

Abstract Reasoning Test

This cognitive aptitude test groups the tests on inductive reasoning and schematic reasoning. Candidates are evaluated on their ability to solve problems, but also to recognise patterns and thought sequences.

Spatial Perception Test

Thanks to this cognitive aptitude test, a company can assess how an applicant perceives objects in three dimensions from a limited amount of information.

It generally involves maps, addresses, or itineraries. The candidate must exploit these data and interpret them. Of course, this is a cognitive test specific to certain types of positions.

Error Verification Test

This is relevant for administrative or research positions. Candidates

applying for this type of position must be able to detect errors in a database containing a large volume of information.

It must be recognised that this ability is just as important as technical skills in this area.

E-tray or In-tray Exercises

The exercises performed as part of this cognitive aptitude test measure how the individual prioritises tasks to manage similar demands and information overload.

Companies use this type of test for recent graduates who have not yet acquired enough experience.

Why are there so many cognitive aptitude tests?

We are aware that the number of existing tests is extensive. Moreover, we have only addressed the most used ones.

This variety is justified by the wide field of application of the concept of intelligence. Scientists have not yet managed to clearly define the facets of intelligence.

Therefore, it is unrealistic to set up a single test to evaluate all personal aptitudes. However, to optimise recruitment, it is important to define in advance the cognitive functions to be analysed in order to select the appropriate test or tests.

It is also necessary to avoid installing a bias in the selection. It would not be appropriate, for example, to choose the Watson Glaser Test for recruiting for an engineering position.

Cognitive Aptitude Tests: Why are they important in recruitment?

In summary, although they are still subject to many controversies, cognitive tests offer high value in recruitment. They measure an individual’s ability to understand their professional environment and adapt to changes.

They assess the cross-functional skills of a candidate and their ability to become a true part of the organisation.

Therefore, providing recruiters make a fair selection of the cognitive aptitude test and combine it with other interview stages, cognitive aptitude tests offer great benefits to the recruitment process.