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The power of science: How cognitive and behavioral assessments changed how we hire

Polysciences uses the PI Behavioral and Cognitive Assessment to hire and evaluate the strongest candidates

As the director of human resources at  Polysciences, Inc., a small, privately-owned family business with 220 employees, finding the right fit for open positions is crucial. A scientific company, Polysciences has a lot of chemical engineers and scientists who are outstanding at analyzing data. However, we needed an assessment platform to ensure that we are filling roles with people who have the interpersonal skills to excel within our unique culture. Meaning, we can hire people who have the skillset for a particular job, but that does not necessarily mean that the individual would be the right fit for the team or the organization as a whole. This is the reason we started using PI about a year and a half ago.

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Candidates are asked to complete the Behavioral Assessment (BA) and Cognitive Assessment (CA) once we invite them in for an interview. We then take those results to our senior leaders to assist with the hiring process. These results also allow my HR team to examine an applicant’s core drives, needs and behaviors in addition to their cognitive strengths.

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Specifically, the CA can determine how quickly a new team member will learn and adapt to their role within the company. For instance, will this candidate need more time to adapt to the job or is this someone who will spread their wings a bit sooner than others? Also, the CA helps us get a better idea of the right role for a candidate. With the results of the CA in-hand, my team and I can decide if an applicant is a better fit as a manufacturing chemist as opposed to a research and development chemist.

Evaluating Young Talent

When interviewing an entry-level chemist straight out of college, typically what you see is an introverted individual who is not great at selling themselves during the interview process. You can look at their limited lab exposure, but many times that really does not help you understand the candidate’s personality, behavioral traits or learning abilities. Luckily, using the tools from the CA my team can ascertain if the applicant is going to be a fast learner.

For example, the CA demonstrates if someone is going to meet greater challenges. One particular candidate from Pennsylvania State University specifically stuck out to us because his CA results were higher than we thought possible. We knew hiring this candidate would mean he would rise to the occasion, happily take on challenging assignments and exceed expectations when completed. It’s been exciting to watch this young man flourish. His professional growth has directly aligned with the data from his CA.

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Essentially, combining the data from both the BA and CA gives a human resources professional a much stronger, more accurate perspective on an individual. You are not only assessing their four core drives, but you are assessing their ability to learn quickly. It gives you one more data point to use in making a better hiring decision.

Since my team started using BA and CA from PI, we continue to see success after success with our new hires. One of our greatest success stories is that we interviewed a candidate for a quality role. However, when we reviewed the results of her BA and CA, we felt she would be better suited for a sales position. She was hired as an accountant manager rather than the position she initially applied for and is doing phenomenal. Had it not been for PI, we never would have made the connection.

Polysciences’ Growth Plan for Success

Not only has PI improved Polysciences’ hiring practices, our employee development initiatives are far better informed than they were previously. Being a small company, we do not have a huge development center where our staff can receive internal training and participate in leadership development programs. Our company has a different perspective on career development. We realize not everyone wants to move up the ladder as a manager; however, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to develop.

Our approach is focused on developing skills and experience, as opposed to a more antiquated career development method, such as waiting for a new title or job before developing your skillset. We believe the best way to develop yourself is to grow while you are in your current role and get yourself ready for your next role.

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That is why I developed the Growth Plan for Success (GPS), which is a tool I created with data from PI and custom tailored to meet our unique environment and needs. The GPS is an action plan an employee develops to focus on their specific career goals. An employee identifies their current strengths, weaknesses, and gets insight for areas where he or she can develop. The employee can note actions needed to accomplish their development goals and track their progress and success.

Part of the employee’s GPS is using the assessments from PI to work with their manager or leader to develop a growth plan for themselves. We use a scorecard approach that allows employees to develop outcomes for the year. Those are then tied in with the company’s overall potential business results and their own unique plan. Regardless of their areas of interest, we can try to give them the exposure and experience they need to grow in their positions and hopefully, take advantage of promotion opportunities within Polyscience.

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After more than twenty years as a human resources professional, I can safely assert to peers in this field that PI is an absolute must for successful recruitment, hiring, and employee development. Time and time again, the BA and CA prove to be accurate barometers for the intangible qualities of an applicant or staff member. The assessments are a powerful tool and I would recommend this software to any human resource professional.

This piece was first published by Upshot. Check out the full client testimonial here


Thad is a senior marketing director at PI.

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