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Recruiting for aptitude

13 January 2014

As the demands placed on businesses evolve, so must the profile of the ideal candidate. The latest Hays Journal asks whether learning aptitude will be the next battleground in the relentless war for talent.

The world is changing rapidly. Globalisation, the shift towards a knowledge economy and the sheer pace of technological changes are among the factors radically shifting how organisations operate. This places a premium on an employee’s ability to learn and respond to their employer’s and the market’s changing demands. As such, it could be argued that hiring for ‘learning aptitude’ – the ability to learn new skills – is a greater priority for businesses than hiring for current expertise and experience.

With this in mind, a traditional and rigid skills-based approach to assessment and recruitment is no longer good enough. And when it comes to candidates, educational and career background remain relevant but they are far from the only factors by which employers will measure suitability for a role.

Aptitude testing has a long history in HR and recruitment, but while tests have a part to play in many recruitment processes, recruiters will need to adapt their use when targeting an aptitude for learning. Current occupational tests typically assess candidates’ fit for existing roles and skills requirements, not future ones. They qualify aptitude as suitability for one or more of these roles through a range of tests, including verbal and abstract reasoning, numerical ability, accuracy and non-verbal logical thinking. This approach has been a successful strategy for many organisations.

Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources, comments, “Any assessment process will seek to explore how an individual has behaved and what they have achieved in the past, as these provide the strongest indictors of what they are likely to achieve in the future. But in a world of business where new roles and skills requirements emerge on a regular basis, prior experience can’t guarantee future success. Current aptitude tests and occupational personality questionnaires are evolving as businesses seek more accurate data.”

Even if a new generation of aptitude tests can clearly and reliably identify learning aptitude, recruiting for it demands a well managed commitment to learning and development, with systematic opportunities for employees to develop themselves. This is a tough requirement in less hierarchical organisations, and presents a challenge around attrition, as employees hired for their desire to grow and adapt expect continual growth opportunities, and become increasingly desirable to competitors.

Ely continues, “Recruitment strategies targeting learning aptitude will need to evolve incrementally for most businesses, and will likely begin with existing roles. As businesses adapt to the changing demands of the marketplace, it will become increasingly clear which parts of the organisation will need a greater affinity for acquiring new skills, and which will remain consistent. Throughout that fascinating process, HR will need to be on hand to guide the recruitment strategy.”

To access the Hays Journal please visit:


About Hays
Note to Editors
Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2013 the Group employed 7,840 staff operating from 239 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2013:

– the Group reported net fees of £719 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £125.5 million;
– the Group placed around 53,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 182,000 people into temporary assignments;
– 29% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific, 40% in Continental Europe & RoW (CERoW) and 31% in the United Kingdom & Ireland;
– the temporary placement business represented 59% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 41% of net fees;
– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA

For further press information please contact:
Sofia Ylen
T. 020 7200 3760