Getting the perfect job: Here's how to find out if you (or someone else) is right for the job, and if it's is right for you

Catherine Neilan
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Getting the perfect job: The past is no guarantee of future performance (Source: Getty)

Whether you are the person hiring or the one in the somewhat more squirmy position on the other side of the desk, everyone wants to be able to predict future performance in a job.

Plenty of us worry that we don't have enough of the right experience, but a study drawing on data taken over 85 years suggests that actually the number of years we have clocked up is a relatively poor indicator of our ability in future roles.

The same can be said of our education – all that time sweating over the books – which actually is one of the least accurate ways to judge how good someone will be in the job.
Even a typical job interview - described in the study as "unstructured" - had a relatively low accuracy score.
So how can we tell if the person sitting in front of us is right for the job - or, if you are that person, whether the job is right for you?
A 1998 study by Frank Schmidt of the University of Iowa and John Hunter of Michigan State University claims that the best way to predict someone's future performance is through general mental ability (GMA) tests – a form of IQ tests – especially when coupled with an integrity test or structured interview.
They had the added benefit of recruitment teams being able to use them on all candidates regardless of age or experience, meaning they could be applied to people fresh out of university.
Here's why those tests are so good:
“[GMA] has been found to have high and essentially equal predictive validity for performance (amount learned) in job training programs for jobs at all job levels studied,” the authors wrote.
“When an employer uses GMA to select employees who will have a high level of performance on the job, that employer is also selecting those who will learn the most from job training programs and will acquire job knowledge faster from experience integrity tests, conscientiousness tests, and employment interviews.”
Work samples were slightly better than GMA tests alone, but these tend to be more expensive and so were dismissed by the report authors.
At the other end of the spectrum, graphology and age had the lowest overall correlation to success in the job – indeed, the authors said basing a decision on handwriting would be “equivalent to hiring randomly”.
The idea of using graphology in hiring practices might sound weird, but the study claims “many organisations in France, Israel and other countries” were doing exactly that.

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