How to predict job success

March 26, 2018
5 minute read
Last updated September 10, 2019

How to predict job success

By Sarah Mulvey March 26, 2018

Hiring new employees can sometimes feel like a high-stakes game of chance. Even if you use strong predictors of performance (like The PI Cognitive Assessment), you’re still rolling weighted dice. You have better odds of hiring a top performer, but there’s still no guarantee. Although cognitive ability can account for around 42% of performanceand an even higher percentage for more complex roles)—it’s still possible for even the smartest of employees to be a poor fit for a team or particular role. If you’re currently using (or thinking about using) a cognitive assessment, you may find yourself asking, “What about other measures?”

Here are some other measures commonly used in combination with a cognitive assessment to help take the guesswork out of hiring:

Personality assessments

Assessments like the PI Behavioral Assessment have been used to assess job candidates since early in the twentieth century, and they’ve been shown to predict performance time and again. The method behind such practices is simple: Figure out what personality is best for the job at hand and then hire someone with that personality. In fact, if you already use a cognitive assessment and add a behavioral or personality assessment, you gain about 8% validity in your prediction of the applicant’s performance.

Although personality and behavioral assessments are not quite as predictive of job performance as cognitive assessments, they also add value in many other areas of an organization. Because these assessments predict other important behaviorally-driven measures that affect culture, engagement, morale, and productivity at a company.

Steve hard at work

For example, knowing people’s behavioral drives can inform management strategies and team assignments, even if these behavioral measures have a lower relationship to any one person’s individual performance. The true value of these beloved personality assessments is seen post-hire, when they’re used for improving communication style, working relationships, or team structure.

Unlike cognitive assessments, personality and/or behavioral assessments also offer more interpretive value than cognitive assessments. While people may be hesitant to discuss cognitive ability, most people are more than happy to talk about their personality and behavioral drives. Additionally, such assessments are often multifaceted, which allows for much deeper discussion than a simple score. For instance, the PI Behavioral Assessment measures of four primary drivers of workplace behavior on three different domains (self, self-concept, and synthesis). When considering and interpreting such results, there’s a lot to discuss!

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If you’ve ever spent hours rifling (or clicking) through endless applicant resumes, take note: Not all parts of the resume will help you predict a candidate’s future job performance. For instance, you may look to someone’s education first, but there’s little to no relationship at all between years of education and job performance. Research has shown that when combined with cognitive ability, years of education only adds 1% gain in validity of predicting on-the-job performance. This is largely because many candidates for a given position will have similar levels of education.

Job experience is a little stronger of a predictor than education, but it’s really only a useful predictor for people who are early in their careers. According to Frank L. Schmidt, combining cognitive ability with years of job experience can account for about 5% gain in validity when predicting job performance, but Schmidt also explained that job experience is a useful predictor for people who have between 0-5 years of experience. After five years, the amount of job experience no longer serves as a useful predictor of job performance. Schmidt hypothesizes that this is because, after five years, a person’s job knowledge cannot increase at a high rate.

director analyzes people data at work

Don’t skip the resume screening process but do make sure you do it right. Focus on the areas that matter the most of the job at hand, which differs depending on the job and industry. Try these tips from the Society of Human Resource Management. They explore some great strategies you can use in the process.


There’s still debate over how useful interviews actually are. Although Schmidt found that three different types of interviews (structured, unstructured, and phone-based) account for 18%, 13%, and 9% in predicting job performance differences, other research—such as this study on Google—found no relationship between the two measures. It’s advisable to use multiple interviews in varying formats to really get a feel for the person you’re considering hiring. If you get stuck—or if you think your interviewing style could use some improvements—consider using one of PI’s Behavioral-Based Interview Guides to increase your ability to identify top candidates through interviews.

When it comes down to it, there’s no one predictor that can tell you who would be the best hire. As predictive as cognitive and behavioral assessments are, they don’t paint the whole picture of who someone is—and neither does a resume or an interview. Instead, focus on combining as many of these elements as you can. Other, more job-specific measures—such as skills assessments—can help as well. The more measures you use in the hiring process, the better your odds are of predicting performance and making your next great hire.

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