The three questions that will show how clever (or not) you really are

JOB interview staples such as "what makes you think you're the best candidate?" could be a thing of the past thanks to a simple but fiendish three-question quiz.

The cognitive reflection test (CRT) measures the patience of job applicants and how good they are at trying to solve a problem logically rather than following their gut instinct. It also evaluates their intelligence.

Professor Shane Frederick, from the MIT Sloan school of management, in the United States, tried out the three questions on 3,000 students from eight universities, but fewer than half of them got the first question correct.

When told that a bat and ball cost a total of $1.10, and that the bat costs $1 more than the ball, they were then asked to work out the cost of the ball. Most said 10 cents - which is incorrect. Although Prof Frederick admitted to thinking the answer was 10 cents when he first saw the question, he said he was amazed by how many people kept it as their final answer.

In the original study group, men were found to be better at the test because they were more reflective about their answers. Women tended to go with their gut instinct, giving their first, impulsive answer.

Researchers found that candidates who did well in the CRT tended to be more patient when making decisions between smaller, sooner rewards and larger, later ones - a skill that could be useful in management. They were also more willing to gamble in financial situations.

While he does not claim the CRT will replace more established IQ tests, Prof Frederick says it could help employers when they are interviewing potential staff.

He added: "Do you want someone running your company who doesn't think beyond their first impulse, or do you want someone who is willing to ask: 'Does this response really make any sense?'

"Decision making is a cognitive activity, yet few study how cognitive ability affects it. We now have a test that takes a minute to complete and is as predictive as other tests that take more than three hours."

Commenting on the new test, Alan Sinclair, director of Skills and Learning at Scottish Enterprise, said: "It's a quirky approach and it certainly makes you think.

"Exam results usually tell employers if people can add up or wield a pen. However, employers tell us they want more help in being able to judge candidates' softer skills - like how well they work with others or what their attitude is like on a bad day. A test that encourages a jobseeker to demonstrate their cognitive skills could be a benefit to prospective employers."

Marcia Roberts, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents 6,000 recruiters in the UK, was sceptical about using three questions on their own.

She said: "IQ testing can form a valuable part of the recruitment process but should never be used in isolation. A professional recruiter looks at a number of factors when analysing a candidate's suitability including skills, experience and their achievement record.

"However, there is also a lot to be said for the face to face interview which gives a recruiter an insight into the character and drive behind an individual and whether that person will suit the role and organisation."

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