Job Interview Tips

How to showcase your cognitive aptitude in job interviews

Written by Guest Contributor

When it comes to hiring, companies are beginning to focus less on resumes and work experience alone to evaluate candidates. Instead, many employers are looking at more data-driven hiring factors, like cognitive aptitude.  Cognitive aptitude is the ability to think, process, and react nimbly to solve problems or learn new information, and it is fast becoming a key metric for many hiring managers. This shift stems from the fact that while resumes can lay out a person’s history in a role or industry, they rarely provide insight into a person’s full potential.

Cognitive aptitude delivers this broad perspective, allowing companies to evaluate the long-term potential of an applicant by assessing their ability to learn quickly, adapt, and grow within a role. Some companies achieve this with cognitive aptitude assessments administered before the interview stage. These tests gauge abilities that are relevant to job performance, focusing on the main aspects of cognitive aptitude, like creative thinking, problem solving, attention to detail and learning ability. But how can you prove that you have these skills if the company didn’t give you an aptitude test? By demonstrating these key components in your interview:

Showcasing Your Intellectual Curiosity

Why it Matters: Having the desire to know more about the world around you and how things work creates ever-evolving employees, workers who are always striving to improve both themselves and the business. The intellectually curious will grow with a company and be able to think outside the box to solve any issues that arise in the workplace.

How to Show it: Demonstrate a thirst for knowledge in your interview by first researching the company and the role as much as possible. Then, during the interview, ask insightful questions based on your digging.

You can also mention a time when you independently learned a new skill. For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of work experience, this can be a great opportunity to bring up hobbies or extracurriculars that aren’t directly related to the job. Maybe you play a musical instrument or enjoy woodworking. Your hobbies provide insight into unique ways that you flex your creativity in everyday life, with the added bonus of making you more memorable to your interviewers.

Putting Your Problem-Solving Skills on Display

Why it Matters: Being able to think critically and provide unique solutions drives business innovation, which is why problem solving is an invaluable resource for employers. A problem-solver, especially a proactive one, combines creativity, efficiency, and pragmatism to find the best solution for the situation at hand. A great creative thinker can identify the opportunity that lies within the dilemma.

How to Show it: Advertise your talent for finding solutions by talking about a previous experience where you overcame an obstacle. Make sure to detail the problem you identified, the way that you worked to improve the situation, and how your fix made an impact.  Bonus points if you’re able to quantify your accomplishments in a tangible way.

Highlighting Your Attention to Detail

Why it Matters: Identifying the small but vital details that might otherwise be overlooked is a game-changer. It’s a skill that employers look for across all industries because it can make the difference between success and failure of a business. A problem can’t be effectively tackled if you can’t get down to the nitty-gritty; the devil is in the details, but if you hone in on the fine points that others miss, you’ll be highly regarded as a fastidious and dependable coworker.

How to Show it: Being detail-oriented coincides with many other traits hiring managers look for: focus, discipline, and work ethic. To demonstrate these traits in an interview, research the company ahead of time and ask detailed questions that show that you took the time and care to familiarize yourself with the company. Call attention to your meticulous nature by taking care in how you present yourself during the interview. Being neatly dressed, on time, and attentive will go a long way in making a lasting impression. During the interview, make sure you engage in active listening. Make sure you understand your interviewer’s questions and respond with relevant answers.

Touting Your Learning Ability

Why it Matters: Whenever a company brings in a new employee, they invest an incredible amount of money and time in training the new hire and getting them up to speed. Hiring a fast learner means that businesses can hedge their bets when bringing a new employee into the fold, taking comfort in the knowledge that their new hire will swiftly become a productive member of the workforce. Those who learn and apply new information quickly are more able to pick up new skills than others. These are the employees who will be able to grow within a company and adapt to changes and challenges that all businesses invariably face.

How to Show it: Demonstrating your learning ability is especially important for job seekers who are new to the workforce or entering a new career field, especially if your resume is light. Sometimes you may be interviewing for a job for which you don’t fulfill all of the job requirements. One way to convince your interviewer that you’re up to the challenge is to talk about what you consider to be learning targets for this role if you were to be hired. What skills would you be most interested in acquiring, and how would you go about learning them? Try to think of examples in your past roles or even in your extracurricular activities where you had to learn something new and were able to wield your new skill to reach a certain goal. Highlighting this ability will give your interviewer a vision of how you will fit in and grow within the company landscape, both in the short and long term.

Whether you focus on showing off one of these crucial elements of cognitive ability or weaving them all together, doing so will demonstrate your full potential as an amazing hire, far beyond the experience listed on your resume. The best way to get your point across, however, is through preparation. Come up with examples and stories ahead of time that reflect these cognitive abilities.  It may take time and effort, but it’s a sure-fire way to impress hiring managers and get you that much closer to landing that sought-after new job.

About the author:


Josh Millet is the Founder & CEO of Criteria Corp., a pre-employment testing company backed by a Scientific Advisory Board from Harvard and Stanford. He is also the Founder of the recently launched JobFlare, brain games app a brain games app that connects entry-level job seekers to jobs via ZipRecruiter based on their cognitive abilities.

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Guest Contributor