It doesn’t matter how old you are: Next time you interview for a job, be prepared to share your SAT scores.
In the timeless quest to predict future success in employees, a number of employers are turning to candidates’ SAT results. Big-name consulting firms such as McKinsey and Bain, as well as banks like Goldman Sachs, are among the companies that ask newly minted college grads for their scores in job applications, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Some other companies request scores even from candidates in their 40s and 50s.
For all these job seekers, the SATs are a distant memory. Even the newest Bachelor’s recipients tend to be at least four years removed from the test. So why is it that even after people go to college, mature, and gain work experience, employers still care about a standardized test taken in high school?
Jonathan Wai, an intelligence expert and researcher in Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), says the SATs are considered to be a measure of “general intelligence and general ability.” That’s important because research has shown that general ability “actually predicts occupational success across a range of occupations,” he explains.
The SATs also appeal to many hiring managers because they’re standardized. In theory, these test scores serve as an equaliser and mediate some of the well-documented biases that normally influence the hiring process. For example, it’s been found that managers generally prefer hiring people who are similar to them — be it in education, background, interests, or personality. This is called a “similarity bias.”
The beauty of the SATs is that everyone takes them at the same time, with roughly the same level (if not quality) of education. In the broadest sense, someone’s score on the SAT offers a glimpse of how they compare to other candidates in terms of general knowledge and ability. “It’s standardized, and it’s objective in that sense,” Wai says.
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most famous proponents of using SAT scores in hiring decisions. Bezos scored highly on a standardized IQ test when he was only 8 years old, and in his early days as a manager, he liked to ask candidates for their SAT results in interviews he conducted. He has said that “hiring only the best and brightest was key to Amazon’s success.”
Despite the benefits of using SATs in hiring, Wai admits the test is “not a perfect measure by any means” and questions how widespread its use as a hiring tool really is. He’s also not sure for how long the scores should be considered valid. After all, he points out, scores on the GRE — the graduate school entrance exam — are good for only five years. That raises an obvious question for companies like Cvent Inc., which asks for SAT or equivalent ACT scores from job applicants of all ages, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Wai hopes the emphasis employers like Cvent Inc. put on standardized tests won’t encourage recent college graduates and experienced workers to start retaking the SATs. For one, people’s scores probably wouldn’t change much, he says. Additionally, the SAT would no longer offer the benefit of standardization if people were reporting scores from all different points in their lives instead of the score they got in high school.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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