Don't enjoy your job? Then maybe you're too smart for your own good

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GENERATIONS OF job applicants have been turned down because they don't score enough on intelligence tests. But now people risk being rejected if they are too smart.

An increasing number of employers in Britain uses an interview test that not only pinpoints the not-so-bright, but weeds out those who are too clever for the job.

The idea behind the Wonderlic Personnel Test is that people can be too dumb or too bright for a job. If they are intellectually challenged they will require more training, but if they are over-qualified and too clever, they are likely to become bored and leave. In both cases, the employer faces additional costs to find replacements.

A prospective police officer, for example, who scored more than 50 per cent, would be considered less suitable for the job than one who gets a more modest 35 per cent. The test provides a minimum and maximum mark for a range of jobs based on answers given by thousands of previous applicants for those jobs. It also groups jobs by expected intelligence levels. Lawyers, who top the charts, go with editors, advertising managers and research analysts. Policemen go with typists and receptionists, chemists go with engineers, and debt collectors with computer operators.

A handbook accompanying with the test says: "People who score high on a cognitive ability test often become bored and frustrated if placed in jobs where all decisions about what to do and when and how to do it are built into the design of the job. This increases the odds that the person will become unproductive and possible quit.''

In America the test is used by many companies to filter out people who are not suitable for the job.

In many cases they don't even get interviews which, according to the Wonderlic handbook, are pretty useless anyway: "On average interviews are only 8 per cent more effective than flipping a coin,'' says the company.

Charles Wonderlic, who runs the operation from his headquarters in Illinois, claims that employers should be concerned with extreme scores at either end of the range for each job. "Staff turnover is an issue," he said. "Gravitational theory suggests that people apply for jobs they think they are qualified to get, but people apply for jobs outside their range too.

"People want jobs that will be physically and mentally challenging, but if they are over-qualified they are less likely to be challenged, and more likely to get bored and to leave.

"The further a secretary, for example, is from the average of 23 for that job, the less like the average person applying for the job they are. That should raise concerns about training costs, if they are the low end, and replacement costs if they are high.''

Those who are too clever will also, he suggests, socialise with people from a similar intellectual background and will become disenchanted with both the job and their salary.

The maximum possible score in the test is 50, but only a handful of people have ever achieved that.


Job Point score


high ave

Lawyer 24-36 30

Editor 25-34 29

Chemist 24-32 28

Auditor 23-31 27

Accountant 21-31 26

Teacher 20-31 26

Manager 20-29 25

Nurse 19-29 24

Secretary 18-28 23

Sales rep 17-26 22

Police 17-25 21

Clerk 16-25 20

Shop manager 14-24 19

Mechanic 13-21 17

Warehouseman 11-21 16

Packer 10-19 14