October 23rd, 2019 | Aptitude Tests — What Went Wrong?
Almost every recruitment process for a large company these days requires going through a battery of aptitude tests – especially in the IT industry. IQ tests, emotional intelligence tests, personality tests, and social skill tests. You will get tested inside and out. But there are at least two crucial yet chronically overlooked factors of productivity which are typically not tested in recruitment: attention span and curiosity.
THE ATTENTION SPAN
As a matter of fact, everyone can drink five coffees, get focused for a while, and intelligently answer questions for ten minutes at the job interview. With a whip over your head, you will focus and perform. Well, most people can do this at least. But, when you get a job when you are left alone at your desk for the whole day, will you stay the same focus? Or rather, will you start looking around, lurking at the window, chatting with other employees, and compulsively visiting social media every five minutes? Distractibility is a big problem in our times, as Cal Newport wonderfully described in his famous book “Deep Work.“ A person who is a bit less intelligent but does not use social media, will probably eventually become more productive and successful than a person who is smart but cannot focus for half an hour. I am struggling with this process of slowly losing the attention span myself – but I still think that, compared to some people around me, I keep myself on the safe side.
According to a study from Microsoft, in 2015, human attention span dropped by a factor of two within a decade and is now worse than in goldfish (8 seconds compared to 9 seconds). Social media addiction is a disease like any other, as using local media evokes the same dopamine loop in the brain as pathological gambling. Given how many people suffer from chronic distractibility with social media, I can predict that in a few years, the bare ability to reach a deep work state of mind will be so rare that professionals will list it as separate competency on their resumes.
Because of these addictive properties of social media, it requires certain self-discipline not to fall into the spiral of addiction. One technique for keeping self-discipline at work which I can recommend is Pomodoro – the most classic way of managing time, in which you predefine slots of time for work and rest, and stick to the schedule throughout the day. And in Pomodoro, working slots are supposed to be genuine sprints of focused, non-interrupted work. Classic Pomodoro involves 25-minute working slots interleaved with 5-minute breaks but it was found that in fact, the perfect rhythm is 52-minute working slots versus 17-minute breaks.
Another possible strategy to prevent addiction to social media can be switching off the internet completely. My best texts and best research concepts were developed on the days when for some reason there was a shortage of internet in my neighbourhood – yet, I do not dare to switch off from social media completely (just yet). I would also be happy to hear what are other, smart ways of keeping social media usage ad limited, and actively working on improving your attention span. Any ideas?
The second very important aspect of productivity that current aptitude tests don’t give a grasp on, is curiosity. All people are naturally curious to learn — just to varying degrees. Or rather, we are all curious about other things. Even if you focus on the tests during the recruitment process, how can the good results help you in being productive at work if the subject matter is not exciting to you? Curiosity is probably even harder to measure than attention span, yet, as it is such a strong factor, I feel that it should be measured, or assessed, in one way or another.
Disclaimer: My company, Welcome Solutions, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. The link to Cal Newport’s book in this blog post is an associate link.
Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (2019, October 23rd). Aptitude Tests — What Went Wrong? Retrieved from https://nataliabielczyk.com/aptitude-tests-what-went-wrong
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If you would like to read more about careers (for PhDs and other white-collar professionals) and effective strategies to self-navigate in the job market, please also take a look at the blog of my company, Ontology of Value where I write posts dedicated to these topics.