Skip to main content
Join Now

< Back to All

Can your sat scores get you (or lose you) a job?

March 6, 2014

By Eric Brown, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Imagine you are about to graduate college, looking for employment, and you land an interview with a respected company.  The interviewer reaches out to you to pin down a date and time for the interview, but also informs you to be prepared to discuss your SAT scores. How do you feel?

Very likely surprised and somewhat taken aback—after all, you sat for the SATs (or maybe the ACT) back in high school. That was 5-6 years ago. On the other hand, maybe 5-6 years wasn’t so long ago. So you shrug your shoulders and start thinking about how you’ll answer the questions they’re likely to ask about your scores.

But what if the scenario changes a little bit?  Now suppose you’re not a recent graduate, but you have been in the workplace for ten plus years post-college.  Now how do you feel now about discussing your SAT scores?

Believe it or not, some employers will still want to look at your Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.  Typically, job candidates would have taken their SATs in their junior or senior year of high school.   The SAT measures a person’s critical reading, math and writing ability, giving each section equal weight with a potential of 800 points per section.  Out of a possible 2,400 points, the average score last year was 1,498 points.  For those who took the test pre 2005, the test had only two sections (critical reading and math), with a maximum of 1,600 points possible.

Organizations that use SAT scores in the hiring process use them much like any other hiring tool; they apply the information as a means to assess an individual’s capability of fulfilling the duties of the job.  The rationale is that the test measures developed reasoning as opposed to innate ability.  Developed reasoning happens to be one of the basic building blocks to higher learning and knowledge, knowledge that, theoretically, provides a distinction between qualified and unqualified candidates.

Like many simple metrics, however, hiring managers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls.  First and foremost, while the SAT can predict cognitive ability, it cannot predict employee success.  Work is multifaceted and work knowledge is always applied, not theoretical;  all the book knowledge in the world will not prepare you for everything you encounter while working.  Secondly, and potentially more important as it pertains to Human Resources, some metrics may put minority job candidates at an unfair disadvantage.  In 2013, SAT takers in the “Black or African-American” category scored 100 points lower per SAT section than white test-takers, on average. There is a fine line between what is really a requirement of the job and indirect, illegal discrimination.

To complicate the debate over the validity of SAT scores as a hiring tool, Google has turned its back on even grade point averages, which it used to fixate on. Now it uses interview questions that probe candidates on how they have solved complex problems in the past. The company’s internal studies found “very little correlation between SAT scores and job performance,” said Kyle Ewing, head of global staffing programs at Google.

And then there is the question about a type of student that all educators are familiar with—the skilled test-taker. As one former employee of a large consulting firm that routinely asks its applicants for their SAT scores said, “For me it was great. I test much better than I am intelligent.”

Share On: