Don’t Trust the Aptitude Test

Dear Recruiters and HR employees,
You are being lied to!

Aptitude tests are being marketed at you and they are making you miss valuable employees. Here’s why…

I’m currently, loosely browsing for jobs right now. I’m searching for something that I can work my best at and my future employer can get the best out of me. I came across a job posting that sounded (somewhat) up my street and I thought why not. I’ll apply. My boss might be awesome, which will make up for the lack of… well that will give the company away. I got pretty far in the looong interview process, which is to be fair pretty standard these days, until I got sent an ‘Aptitude Test’. I was born in the 80s and from the UK where Aptitude Tests did not exist, and therefore have never taken a test like this. So you can imagine my shock when the HR lady got back to me after they looked at the results of my test and said that my aptitude score was so low that they couldn’t consider me for the role.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “This is just a gigantic rant about how the HR lady treated you unfairly”. Well, the above is my rant and snippets of it will crop up in the post below. But I wanted to use this experience to warn HR departments that if they insist on giving potential employees these aptitude tests that they should choose the right ones!

What should you avoid in an aptitude test?

Lack or no evidence of testing

I’m going to go ahead and use the test I was given as a prime example. This test was literally designed to appeal to HR and recruitment departments, which immediately screams dodgy. They also, more importantly, skipped the testing part to see if the test actually worked and went right to the marketing part. How do I know this? Because there is no research on record to say how this test helps HR employees and recruiters (trust me I looked). In other words there is no evidence to show that this aptitude test works.

Normally, a new test is tested many times over before releasing it into the public and even then a very close eye is kept on it. This is why tests such as the famous Wechsler Test used to assess IQ has been continuously used for years because it has been tested for years and continues to get the stamp of approval. Yet there are aptitude tests, like the one I took, that have no such approval, but they have a small fan base thanks to some nifty marketing.

What to avoid? The tests that have not been previously tested. Do your research on the test. Check out not only their research, but research by others on the test. Some researchers appear to be marketing their aptitude tests through their reputation and past studies, which have very little to do with the test itself. But it is obviously working because they’re making a small profit on an unproven test.

Reason (or no reason) behind the test 

This is diamond valuable information for interviewees, like myself, and information that should be known by HR employees and recruiters. If interviewees don’t know why they’re doing the test then there is little reason to take it seriously.

I didn’t ask for the reason behind the test and in hindsight I wish I had. I was told to not worry about it because whatever the result I would get to the next interview, so I didn’t take the test that seriously. I did not get that next interview, but I did get a strange call from the HR lady literally asking, “What happened?” To which I replied honestly that I have never done such a test before, I found the user interface difficult to navigate and that I missed a few questions because the test seemed to malfunction at one point. I guess this didn’t matter because her response was that she had to, “relay this new information” and would, “hopefully be able to get back to me”. I’m still not sure what new information it was that she relayed, but my test results seemed to go from a formality to a gospel reading making my qualifications and work experience irrelevant.

Sorry that I ranted there, but I wanted to add clarity to the situation.

What to avoid? A false sense of security. Interviewees should always inquire what the reasons are behind these tests and HR and recruiters should have the answer. If there isn’t a good reason, then you should all ask yourselves if this is the type of company you want to work for.

Piss-poor user interface

This does unfortunately mean HR and recruiters that you do have to try out the grueling test yourself, but it will be worth it. If you think about it wouldn’t you want your future employees to do a test that you can verify yourselves? This was exactly the problem that I came across with this particular HR lady. When I got the strange phone call from her I asked her general questions about the test, like why wasn’t there a timer to show how long I had left for each question, or why the maths questions had this weird, unusable calculator interface to write down formulas and algorithms. She simply stated that she wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the test.

What to avoid? A badly designed user interface. Do not rely on the opinions of those who are selling you the test, test it yourself.

Honestly, these three tips sound ridiculously simple, but they’re overlooked. There are too many good potential employees being sent away and too many bad employees getting through because they know how to beat these badly running, yet well-marketed tests. But working life is not a test. It’s pretty much the opposite. Let’s not fall victim to dodgy aptitude creations made by out-of-touch, money making researchers. Be smart. Ask questions. Use your common sense. And good luck 🙂

Written by Alison Holland


Wechsler, D. (2008). Wechsler adult intelligence scale–Fourth Edition (WAIS–IV). San Antonio, TX: NCS Pearson22, 498.