Top Predictors of Job Performance - Atomic Hire Blog
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Top Predictors of Job Performance3 min read

January 24, 2019 3 min read


Top Predictors of Job Performance3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Searching for the perfect candidate can lead you down a variety of paths before you get the best applicant shortlist but it is the ability to predict good job performance which can help to avoid a bad egg. By combining a detailed role specification with a well-structured recruitment process (i.e. using an ATS), we can produce a quality, diverse and time-saving process. However, to utilise this effectively, we first need to understand the most important job performance predictors.

Job Performance

General Cognitive Ability

Also known as the g factor, General Cognitive Ability (GCA) represents a combination of cognitive ability and mental intelligence. Using cognitive ability tests, varying from mathematical to verbal fluency, it is possible to form a single value or unit known as the g factor. This single unit shows correlations that performance on one type of cognitive task can be compared to a similar performance on other types of cognitive tasks. Therefore GCA can be used as a valuable predictor of cognitive ability dependent on a roles specifications.

Originally proposed by the English psychologist Charles Spearman in 1904, his research suggests that general cognitive ability predicted job performance better than personality. The main benefit of the g factor is the ability to compare a selection of individuals, cognitively speaking that is. Google’s recruitment team uses General Cognitive Ability as a cornerstone of their candidate assessment. And by applying this value to recruitment strategies, the promise of delivering the perfect candidate shortlist becomes attainable.


A personality trait that in terms of job performance is compared to organisation, planning, and responsibility. As a predictor of job performance, conscientiousness is more of a behavioral trait and can be best tested through asking questions that analyse how consciously a candidate has performed in the past.

J. Shaffer & B. Postlethwaite (2013) produced research to test the validity of conscientiousness predicting job performance. Their results show that conscientiousness may be more useful in more routine-driven roles, which are more likely to be hourly and/or entry level. On the other hand, conscientiousness may not be as useful for roles that require more thought and mental ability. This type of conclusion is extremely worthwhile advice for specific role budgeting and successful hiring decisions.

Past Behaviour

This predictor of job performance is actually one of the best options to indicate a candidate’s future behavior. Rather than relying on first impressions, gut feelings, and friend-of-a-friend hires, track records of past performance can be a useful indicator (e.g. volunteering for responsibilities, involved in challenging tasks, and past rewards/promotions).

Lou Adler (CEO of The Adler Group) makes an interesting point that “past performance doing similar work in a similar situation does predict future performance”, but otherwise behavior is not the same as performance, and is driven largely by external circumstances. However, by asking detailed past behavior questions and encouraging candidates to be specific provides the best insight into their thought processes and general persona towards certain situations (Paul Glatzhofer).


A combination of these future job performance predictors can provide effective assessment criteria that span from cognitive ability to behavioral characteristics. Furthermore, by carefully assessing for these three future job performance predictors, it’s possible to produce a (sometimes unexpected) top quality candidate shortlist.

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