IQ score is a better predictor of job performance than a résumé, evaluation through a job interview, assessment centers, or work samples

Friday, March 6th, 2020

One of the most common assertions about IQ, Charles Murray reminds us (in Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class), is that it doesn’t predict performance in the real world of work:

The truth is the opposite. It’s not just that IQ predicts job performance for people with cognitively demanding jobs; IQ predicts job performance to some degree for people across the entire range of jobs. People who are responsible for new hires at a workplace should know that an IQ score is a better predictor of job performance than a résumé, evaluation through a job interview, assessment centers, or work samples.


  1. Kirk says:

    Y’know what’s a better predictor of future performance…? Past performance.

    This IQ testing crap is such utter BS–Self-fulfilling prophecy in action. Of course the higher the IQ test numbers, the better the performance–You keep using it to slot people into jobs where they’ll get more rewards than the guys and girls who don’t do so well on the tests!

    Meanwhile, nobody is looking at the actual, y’know, effects. Or, the second- and third-order effects on the organizations/production numbers, or any of that.

    I will contend to my dying day that a high IQ isn’t meaningful in any way, shape, or form whatsoever. There are things we don’t test for that are far more important, but since we don’t look for them, we don’t assess them, nor do we encourage their importance in the grand scheme of things organizational.

    Case in point–I ran an element in the Army that handled logistics for a 500-man organization that was spread over a rather wide area. In the course of things, I had resources like fuel tankers and forklifts assigned to me, along with the men to operate them.

    Now, you would think that assigning a high-IQ type to an organization like that would make things run better, wouldn’t you? I found quite the opposite–The high-Q types got bored with the work, and neglected keeping up with the boring routine, while constantly changing how they wanted to organize things in their little realms of responsibility. Many of them also proved to be deficient in terms of what I’d term “consequence recognition”, which is something that nobody seems to test for–Can you project out and see the consequences of your chosen courses of action, and how they’ll affect the outcome of what you’re doing?

    The really odd thing about what I observed running that element was that performance had nothing to do with how well people had done on the tests. Sure, the guys with super-high scores could comprehend stuff they read out of the manuals, but… When you balance that against the fact that you usually had to beat them over the head to get them to open that manual in the first damn place, due to their self-assured arrogance that they “…could figure it out…”, I often found that the high-Q types were overall, a net fucking loss, in terms of getting things done. Exponentially so, in some memorable cases. There’s nothing worse than assigning someone a dirt-simple job, leaving them to it, and coming back to find utter disaster has ensued, with the attendant “…it sure seemed like a better way to do it…” coming up in the after-action review.

    The idea that IQ is a meaningful predictor of any sort is highly questionable, other than to say that someone who does well on one written IQ test will likely prove equally successful on another similar test. The real world may actually be incomprehensible to these people, and you have to look at what the hell they actually do out in it.

    This is no joke–I had a guy working for me who’d managed to score in the 98th percentile on the Army ASVAB. He was a proud MENSA member, had a four-year college degree when he joined the Army, which meant that he’d gotten a headstart on promotion. When I got him, he was already a junior NCO, a Sergeant. Placing him accordingly, I rapidly found out that while he tested really well, the man was a disaster magnet whenever he tried to do anything.

    I eventually had to put a PFC who’d produced mediocre results on the ASVAB over him, informally. It was like “Yeah, run your ideas past PFC Micheals, first… If he doesn’t like them, don’t do it. Call me…”. That’s about the only thing that saved our careers, I’m here to tell you. That guy could come up with some truly inspired genius-grade “out-of-box” ideas, but when you tried to make them work…? Oh. My. Gawwwd…

    High-Q people are a positive menace to anything, mostly because they’ve been shuffled along in the system with such speed and approbation that they really have no idea at all about what their true capabilities are, and they self-assess that they’re far more capable than they really are. Generally, they’ve gone so far and so long on sheer “dazzle” that they’re completely out of their depth when the shit hits the fan.

    IQ tests necessarily only capture a thin slice of that thing we call human cognition. To use them as we’ve come to has been a huge mistake, and one that I think needs to be abandoned. Quit going on promise, on prediction–Instead, examine work-product and actual results.

    I’d wager a lot of money that the fantastic proposition that IQ predicts performance would evaporate under the sunlight of unbiased examination, and that the co-workers for all of these purported “genius” people that have been shoved down their throats would have far different stories to relate about all that supposed “high performance”.

    The bias is real–I’ve seen it happen in front of me, when supervisors overlook rank stupidity and poor performance because “Oh, he just had a bad day… He’s really so much smarter than that!”.

    Yeah. Based on what? That test he took? The aristocracy of the mind is a real thing, and it exists mostly in the mindsets of those who aren’t smart enough themselves to see through the bullshit.

  2. Roger Andrews says:

    I agree with Kirk. There are tasks that high IQ folks just can’t do. My factory owner friend won’t even consider smart people for the assembly line. Says the mindless, repetitive slog makes them quit after a day.

    The same idiotic, counter-intelligent, rote tasks define the military. The so called “strong backs and weak minds” brigade. Dimwits can’t be bothered to question authority and therefore go far in the armed forces.

  3. Mike says:

    I also concur with Kirk. I don’t necessarily agree that high IQ is utterly meaningless; it does indicate that a person’s mind is well suited to tasks tested by IQ test, and that can be useful. Those tasks, though, are almost entirely pattern recognition and spatial reasoning. Depending on the test, I’ve generally tested around 130, only because my brain is good at that stuff. But it’s not great at a lot of other things critical to determining intelligence and performance aptitude.

    However, while IQ can be useful, it is not good, and least not in its current use. If we recognize across the board that IQ tests are meaningful for very specific tasks and aptitudes, it could be great. But far too often, as this author seems to think, it’s taken as an absolute authority in determining what is truly a nebulous and totally unquantifiable concept. It places far too great a reward on a small subset of skills and fails to recognize or reward the larger swath of essential skills. It creates a division where a select group or hailed as superior to the “layperson” while they’re actually outperformed by those they’ve been told are inferior. Terrible for morale and good business operation. Totally counterproductive. Stupidly misused metric.

  4. Dave says:

    Candidates need to be scored in two dimensions: Are they smart, and do they get shit done. Layabouts are relatively harmless; the most dangerous people are in the “stupid but not lazy” quadrant. They’re like Curious George without the humor or happy endings.

  5. Kirk says:

    In response to Roger Andrews at 8:32pm…

    Rarely in the history of human discourse has someone managed to so completely miss the mark in terms of understanding what someone else is saying.

    My point isn’t that certain jobs are only suited for the lower intellect, but that the “intellectual” are shitty at everything they turn their hands to, most particularly those tasks that more plebeian types somehow manage to pull off with aplomb.

    I question the intellectual not because they’re only fit for the rarefied atmosphere of their self-appointed ivory-tower taskings, but because they can’t even manage to stack wood unsupervised. It’s not that they’re too good for basic tasks, it is that they can’t manage them, precisely the same as they can’t manage much else in life. If you can’t stack wood so it won’t fall over, odds are pretty good that you can’t reason your way out of a paper bag, either.

    The entire point of what I am trying to get across here is that we’ve gone down a decision-branch with all this crap that’s closing off around us, and all the sequels to the original idea of taking a poorly-conceived “intelligence test” and applying the results to general society have produced results that can only be described (charitably…) as “disastrous”. The people that these tests are winnowing out for selection and advancement are not actually smart–They’re exhibiting what amounts to an autism-spectrum disorder that prevents them from grasping their own limitations and recognizing their own failures.

    They’re not actually all that smart. The IQ tests have selected for a brittle and narrowly defined idea of what actually constitutes intelligence in a human being, and the system has taken that out to its illogical extreme–Which is why everything we put into the hands of this mob of technocratic autists has produced failure on a scale unimaginable to anyone before our own era. I’d love to see the results of bringing some 19th Century city fathers of San Francisco forward to see what their descendants have wrought for their city–I imagine there’d be some changes made, were we to allow those men and women to go back to their own time, enlightened.

    Mr. Andrews seems to think it self-evident that he’s one of the “intelligent enlightened”. I’d like to suggest he might want to re-appraise his own position in things, and perhaps seek out psychiatric help in order to find where along the autism spectrum he actually is, because from just those two paragraphs, I’m pretty sure he’s one of the people I’d characterize as “intellectual yet idiot”.

    Second paragraph there is particularly telling. Man knows nothing of the military, yet preens himself while denigrating it, as though he would never deign to soil himself at those tasks, completely oblivious to the reality of it all. And, if he did serve, he did so in a state of utter disconnection, never trying to understand the nature of the institution he was engaged in. Which is typical of the “intellectual yet idiot”, who may have heard of Chesterton’s Fence, but who never actually internalize the meaning of that essay.

  6. CVLR says:

    Dave: “Candidates need to be scored in two dimensions: Are they smart, and do they get shit done. Layabouts are relatively harmless; the most dangerous people are in the “stupid but not lazy” quadrant. They’re like Curious George without the humor or happy endings.”

    1. No one actually cares about either of those things.

    2. People are evaluated almost entirely on their social status, i.e., the brands they’ve received from their previous owners employers. If your forehead isn’t stamped with trendy “brands”, no one will return your calls.

    3. The remaining criterion is a flex space occupied by your sex appeal.

    4. “Candidate” is in the same league as “influencer”, “thought leader”, and “human capital”.

    But that’s just the 4HL, isn’t it?

  7. CVLR says:

    Kirk: “I’d love to see the results of bringing some 19th Century city fathers of San Francisco forward to see what their descendants have wrought for their city”

    Uh huh.

    Allow me to introduce you to the power structure of San Francisco:

    Boudin was born in New York City to Jewish parents.[1] His parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, were Weather Underground members.[2]

    When Boudin was 14 months old, his parents were arrested for murder in their role as getaway car drivers in the Brink’s robbery of 1981 in Rockland County, New York.[1][3] His mother was sentenced to 20 years to life[4] and his father to 75 years to life for the felony murders of two police officers and a security guard.[5] After his parents were incarcerated, Boudin was raised in Chicago by adoptive parents Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who, like his parents, had been members of the Weather Underground.[6] Boudin did not learn to read until age 9, a phenomenon common to children of incarcerated parents.[7] Kathy Boudin was released under parole supervision in 2003.[3][8]

    Boudin descends from a long left-wing lineage. His great-great-uncle, Louis B. Boudin,[9] was a Marxist theoretician and author of a two-volume history of the Supreme Court’s influence on American government, and his grandfather Leonard Boudin was an attorney who represented controversial clients such as Fidel Castro and Paul Robeson.[10] Boudin is also related to Michael Boudin,[9] a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Isidor Feinstein Stone, an independent journalist.[9][11]

    Boudin entered St Antony’s College, Oxford, on a Rhodes Scholarship in 2003.[2] At Oxford, he earned two master’s degrees, one in forced migration and the other in public policy in Latin America. He earned his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 2011[12] and began work for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office as a post-doctoral fellow in 2012.[3]

    Let me assure you that none of these people are descended from Englishmen.

  8. Sam J. says:

    I must disagree with all those that say IQ are of no use. They are of great use “for the cost”. There’s no other simple way to take someone you know nothing about and tell what they may be capable of but an IQ test “for the cost”. An hour or two and thirty minutes to grade can tell you a great deal about the capabilities of a person. We use not because they are perfect but because they are cost effective.

    All the criticisms of IQ test are correct but no knows any other way to grade peoples capabilities for the same cost.

  9. A Texan says:

    I think IQ is one component of the job. People also must have the aptitude to do the work. For me personally, I have an engineering background but enjoy hands on lab work or servicing lab instrumentation than I do pushing paper around. Sure, I can push paper and look for the errors and such, but it’s not something I enjoy doing.

    I’ve worked under Phd’s and some have a talent for management and rest do not. Most of them have allegedly high IQ’s and a doctorate level of education by are beneath mediocrity when it comes to management or anything resembling common sense.

  10. Dan Kurt says:

    I saw the title of this section and immediately thought to myself: “What delightful level of BS will Kirk come up with on this.” Well, Kirk exceeded my hopes. Kirk produced two entries. The first a 928 word long exercise is sophistry about IQ and the second a 531 word excarnation of Mr. Andrews who began his comment by stating:”I agree with Kirk.” Can one imagine what Kirk’s word count would have been had Mr. Andrews said: “Kirk is not only wrong about IQ but shows invincible ignorance about it”–the actual reality of Kirk’s relationship with IQ.

    Kirk, keep it up. I need a good laugh from time to time.

  11. Kirk says:

    Sophistry, Dan?

    All I point out is that the Emperor ain’t wearing any clothes. You and your IQ test-worshipping ilk have been running things for the last century and a half. Take a look around–Do you like the world that’s brought us?

    The funny thing is, I do really well on these tests, myself. As in, “94th percentile” well, and “qualify for MENSA” well. The difference is that I know this crapfest from the inside, and I know what I’m looking at. Tests don’t reflect real-world performance, not when the tests themselves are used to select and advance people. The whole thing has turned into a self-licking ice cream cone, and the majority of us are too blind or invested into the system to look at it and go “Wait a minute…”.

    So, go on with your bad self. You’re so smart, it hurts–Just like the actual results the anointed ones have produced in running the world around us. It’s like the massive numbers of MBA-induced bankruptcies that have occurred, as soon as someone introduces that contagion to a successful company. What drove GM into the state it’s in? The bean-counters, all of whom did really, really well on the tests.

    Gonna be fun to watch the whole thing implode, when it inevitably does. And people like you will be wandering around in the wreckage going “What happened? What went wrong…? The tests said these guys were the best and brightest…”.

    Intelligence is as intelligence does. If your results are shit, then what you based your decisions on were shit, as well. Look around you–Is this country better-run by these people who “did well on the test”? Or, did you and everyone else really fuck up by buying into the entire proposition that those tests were truly meaningful?

    The amazing thing is how blind most of you are to the sheer circularity of it all, and how little attention you pay to the actual results of the things you defend. Only an “intellectual yet idiot” could come with half the bullshit you people come up with, and then try to put into effect, oblivious to the actual outcomes. It’s like you have no real idea of how the world works–And, don’t care to find out, particularly if it doesn’t align with your linear paper-based progressions. Better to teach to the test, than to actually impart knowledge or scholarship… That’s the ticket; if everyone lives in the dream world, then nobody can contradict us.

  12. Lucklucky says:

    Over-education, over-civilization.

  13. Kirk says:

    Perfect four-word summary, Lucklucky.

    I have nothing but respect for true scholarship and actual intelligence, but what we’ve been churning out of our universities and putting in charge of everything exhibits neither quality. I grew up in an educated family; my grandmother was a Phi Beta Kappa back when that meant something beyond politically correct BS. What I’ve seen since entering adulthood myself is that the standards have fallen so low as to be nearly unrecognizable as standards, across the board–Whether it’s academia, politics, or whatever else you care to examine. The latest deal with the anointed thinking that Bloomberg’s half-billion could have given every American a million dollars is completely in consonance with what the “intellectual yet idiot” class has wrought wherever their reverse Midas touch has alighted. How the hell do you graduate from high school, let alone college, and then get a job with a major media outlet, and then demonstrate such total inability to do basic math? And, what’s worse? NOBODY HAS BEEN FIRED.

    The rest of us just keep nodding along with the fools, thinking that because they did so well on their tests, and passed through all the gates on the cursus honorum, they must be smart…

    We’re actually doomed, I’m afraid. The Marching Morons aren’t going to come in from underneath, but from the top, in a silent conquest nobody notices or calls out.

  14. CVLR says:

    Kirk, you’re pretty smart, but you don’t seem to understand that things are the way that they are not by incompetence but by design. Consider the structure of HR, for instance: why promote marginally intelligent persons into roles of (minor) nominal power?


    This is a gimme.

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