Does Job Applicant’s Education Predict Job-Related Intelligence?

Managers using my pre-employment tests sometimes call me with a question that sounds something like the following: “I gave your pre-employment tests to a job applicant, and the applicant’s five intelligence or mental ability tests’ scores are low. But, the applicant has a bachelor’s or master’s degree. How could their intelligence test scores be so low?”

This pre-employment intelligence tests and education question has two answers.

1st ANSWER = EDUCATIONAL DEGREE DOES NOT INDICATE JOB-REQUIRED INTELLIGENCE

Fact: Medical schools might have 100 students in each graduating class.

Question: What is the name given to the dumbest student graduating from a medical school?

Answer: Doctor.

This joke conveys an important point: The only thing a student needs to do to earn a degree is
a. get grade point average of “C” or higher
b. not commit a criminal act on campus – and, thereby, get expelled

So, when a hiring manager oohs and aahs and drools over an educational degree of an applicant, that manager needs to keep in mind that a degree does not mean the applicant has much brainpower or intelligence.

2ND ANSWER = GRADE INFLATION OFTEN MAKES GRADES SOMEWHAT WORTHLESS

Grade inflation runs rampant on campuses for two key reasons.

First, colleges found the higher the grades a professor gives students, the higher the students rate that professor. Students give high ratings to professors when they get high grades, and low ratings when they get low grades. Word gets around, so students enroll in courses by high grading profs, and avoid classes taught by tougher graders. College professors know this, and realize they need a lot of customers/students to justify their jobs.

Second, enrollment is based upon students wanting to attend a particular college. Education is a business and, like every business, needs customers known as students.

Example
For several years, I taught part-time in a big university’s M.B.A. Program. I created clear grading criteria, and make sure students understood exactly how to earn A, B, C, D, or F.

However, every time I gave a student a “C” or lower grade, the M.B.A. director (a) called me and (b) insisted I explain details resulting in student’s low grade. The calls always ended with the M.B.A. director telling me, “You made clearer grading criteria than any other professor.”

But, those phone calls felt like implicit pressure to grade easier, and avoid giving “C” or lower grades.

Finally, I asked the M.B.A. director why she called me to justify all “C” or lower grades. She explained, “Our students work full-time, and attend classes part-time. If they get good grades, they encourage co-workers and friends to attend our M.B.A. program. But, students getting bad grades, bad-mouth our M.B.A. Program, and tell colleagues not to attend our program.”

Upon hearing this, I commented, “Two points. First, I refuse to change my careful grading to pacify lousy students. Second, dumb students probably hang out with other dumb people – so the M.B.A. program should be happy to discourage dummies from enrolling.”

The M.B.A. director replied with words that felt simultaneously shocking yet understandable. She responded, “But we want all the tuition we can get.”

Note: I still did not change my grading criteria, nor cave in to pressure to inflate grades. However, other professors did cave in, and they contributed to grade inflation.

The point: Hiring managers cannot tell if grades truly reflect knowledge or skills the job applicant obtained in school.

SOLUTION: PRE-EMPLOYMENT INTELLIGENCE TESTS ACCURATELY PREDICT JOB-RELATED BRAINPOWER

Using pre-employment tests for intelligence or cognitive abilities – custom-tailored for specific jobs in your company – gives you an objective method to discover if an applicant might have brainpower needed to perform well on-the-job.

Importantly, the pre-employment tests should be custom-tailored for each specific job in your company.

This is readily do-able by
a. making a list of each job for which you want to hire the best
b. making a list of your best employees in each job
c. having your best employees take the pre-employment tests
d. calculating “benchmark” or typical test scores of your best employees in each job

Then, when intelligence pre-employment tests are taken by job applicants, you may prefer applicants who get test scores similar to “benchmark” scores set by your best employees. If a job applicant gets test scores
> similar to your best employees, then seriously consider that person
> different than your best employees, then you probably want to find a better applicant

WHEN YOU HIRE, REMEMBER INTELLIGENCE IS ON “BELL CURVE”

Intelligence test research puts intelligence on a bell curve: (a) Some jobs require lower levels of mental abilities, (b) some jobs average levels, and (c) some jobs high levels.

By doing benchmarking study of your best employees’ test scores, you discover exactly where on the bell curve each job is. Then, you can prefer to hire job applicants who are on the right location on the intelligence bell curve.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HIRE APPLICANT WHOSE INTELLIGENCE IS TOO LOW OR TOO HIGH?

Using pre-employment tests for cognitive abilities or intelligence quickly tells you if a job applicant has the right amount of intelligence for a job. Some applicants get test scores similar to your best employees, so they are smart enough to (1) learn the job and (2) correctly figure out situations encountered on-the-job. Applicants getting test scores lower than your best employees may not be smart enough to learn or handle the job. And applicants scoring higher than your best employees are too smart for the job, so they become bored.

PRE-EMPLOYMENT INTELLIGENCE TESTS PREDICT JOB SUCCESS BETTER THAN EDUCATIONAL DEGREES OR GRADES

Pre-employment tests measuring intelligence or mental abilities help tell you if a job applicant has enough brainpower to succeed on-the-job. You can tell this by having some of your best employees in each job take the tests to find “benchmark” or typical scores of successful employees.

Then, use pre-employment test results, and not only education, degrees or grades to make accurate predictions of the applicant’s possible job success. Education is wonderful. But do not get fooled into hiring applicants due to it. Instead, hire applicants who have the right intelligence levels for each job in your company.

Do this using pre-employment intelligence tests custom-tailored for each job in your company.

COPYRIGHT 2009 MICHAEL MERCER, Ph.D., www.MercerSystems.com

Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is a sought-after expert on (a) pre-employment tests and (b) hiring winners. His 5 books include Hire the Best – & Avoid the Rest™. Dr. Mercer created 3 pre-employment tests – tests to help companies hire outstanding employees: (1) Abilities Forecaster™ Test, (2) Behavior Forecaster™ Test, and (3) Dependability Forecaster™ Test. You can get – at no cost – 14-page recommendations on “How to Hire Winners” plus subscribe to his Management Newsletter at http://www.MercerSystems.com

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