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7 Ways that Spatial Reasoning is Important in Recruiting and Hiring

by Sarah Reyes

Cognitive aptitude is one of the most powerful, if not the best, predictors of job performance. Candidates can have an impressive resume with extensive work experience and reliable references. They can also ace the interview process. However, these things cannot compare to cognitive aptitude when predicting the candidate’s long-term job performance. 

One of the most crucial aspects of cognition is spatial reasoning. Appreciating the spatial reasoning definition can help HR professionals comprehend the seven ways that spatial reasoning is important in recruiting and hiring.

What is Spatial Reasoning?

Understanding the spatial reasoning definition is a must for everyone involved in the recruitment and hiring process. Spatial reasoning (also called spatial awareness or spatial visualization ability) describes a person’s ability to perceive objects in space in two and three dimensions. It also allows the person to visualize the movements of objects in space and recognize patterns between them. 

People use spatial awareness daily, focusing on rotating or disassembling images to create a more meaningful object. The 1980’s puzzle video game, Tetris, is an excellent example of how people employ their spatial reasoning to manipulate the blocks falling from the screen’s upper section and stack and fit them into the bricks at the bottom.

Solving jigsaw puzzles is another way to understand the spatial reasoning definition. People examine individual jigsaw pieces and determine how they fit in the puzzle. The person assesses the shape and relates that to the image he is trying to put together. Unsurprisingly, doing jigsaw puzzles has many health benefits, including improving one’s spatial reasoning.

Spatial reasoning is ever-present in everyday life, albeit people do not think about it. For example, navigating the route from the home to the office entails driving through straights and maneuvering around corners. Going on a holiday requires packing clothes and other essentials into a bag, requiring space. Interior decoration always involves spatial awareness, empowering the designer, decorator, or homeowner to visualize the best possible positioning of objects in the home to create a theme. 

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7 Ways that Spatial Reasoning is Important in Recruiting and Hiring

Human resource professionals can derive at least seven crucial implications of the spatial reasoning definition. These inferences facilitate understanding and appreciation of the need for using cognitive aptitude tests and spatial reasoning assessments to identify the best candidate for the job. The following are seven ways that spatial reasoning is crucial in recruiting and hiring.

Provides a more accurate picture into the candidate’s critical thinking skills.

Trying to figure out how objects in space relate to one another requires critical thinking. Unsurprisingly, 81% of businesses recognize the importance of this cognitive ability in the workplace. Many employers consider critical thinking as a crucial employability skill for new employees.

Critical thinking entails systems analysis or a person’s ability to identify relationships between and among variables in a system. It also allows employees to make inferences and draw logical conclusions from available data. 

More importantly, critical thinking empowers employees to devise a strategy, construct an argument, formulate a theory, and design a method using a synthesis of available information. Critical thinkers can also evaluate the quality of solutions and procedures, critiquing elements based on a pre-established framework or standard.

The spatial reasoning definition assumes that the person uses critical thinking to establish relationships between the objects in space, making it a crucial aspect for pre-employment testing.

As a spatial reasoning indicator, critical thinking can have significant implications in the workplace. Employees who think critically are more open to trying more novel things. For example, a marketing or sales brainstorming session might produce strategies that most people believe are unconventional and unworthy of pursuit. Instead of objecting to the idea, a critical thinker will want to explore the proposal. 

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals use critical thinking every time, especially when making quick decisions in high-risk situations. Although the actions might seem irrelevant at the time, the results prove it is the correct course of action to take, given the circumstances.

Critical thinking is also advantageous in professions with ethically challenging circumstances. A case in point is social work. Should the professional be more lenient in increasing the financial assistance to a struggling single parent of four by falsifying the report? Critical thinking allows the social worker to be aware of her emotions and assess all aspects objectively.


Allows HR professionals to assess the candidate’s problem-solving abilities.

Based on the spatial reasoning definition, its goal is to solve a problem. In this case, the issue is determining the relationship of objects in space, how they fit one another, or how dissimilar they are that combining them is next to impossible.

The World Economic Forum surveyed 350 top-level executives across 15 of the world’s largest economies to understand how 21st-century companies are preparing for the fourth industrial revolution. Interestingly, the report underscored problem-solving abilities as an employee core skill, with 36% of corporate leaders emphasizing the competency’s importance.  

On the other hand, the Internet Collaborative Information Management Systems (iCIMS) said that 62% of hiring managers and recruiters focus on getting candidates who can find solutions to diverse problems.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) said that 21st-century employers seek problem-solving skills from job candidates because it allows them to understand the potential hire’s other competencies. These attributes include logical reasoning, creativity, imaginative thinking, determination, lateral thinking, and resilience.

Unsurprisingly, testing a candidate’s visual reasoning abilities provides a clear idea of the job applicant’s problem-solving skills. Schools do not teach students how to interpret objects in space, let alone manipulate them to produce a more meaningful outcome. Students rely on their problem-solving abilities to find the solution.

Problem-solving skills are crucial in today’s work environment. It allows companies to pick the right candidate who can handle anything that can occur with the job, including innovations and surprises.

Problem solvers observe, assess, and determine the best possible course of action to take. They have alternative solutions to everything they do. People with exceptional problem-solving skills are never fearful of or anxious about the unknown.

Employers can see problem-solving skills in daily operations, such as intelligent time management, calculated prioritization, strategic planning and execution, and thinking outside the box. Working effectively under pressure and efficiently addressing risks are also indicators of excellent problem-solving abilities.

Offers a glimpse of the candidate’s innate abilities.

Parents do not teach children how to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Likewise, kids and teens do not show their peers how they should manipulate the Tetris bricks to get a high score. One cannot find a school that offers a degree in finding solutions to these games. Hence, a person’s spatial reasoning showcases his innate abilities.

The American Psychological Association says innate qualities are attributes or characteristics a person has since birth. It is ‘natural,’ free of influences from maturational control, developmental processes, education, and experiences. Because innate abilities are qualities a person is born with, it is permanent and un-extinguishable. 

Although some experts have disputed the importance of natural giftedness or innate talents in becoming an expert, one cannot deny that some people are more capable than others. Sans conclusive, irrefutable scientific evidence, it is safe to assume that the ability to find meaning in seemingly meaningless objects in space is an innate gift. 

Studies show that innate qualities play a role in developing expertise alongside deliberate practice and experience. However, it is worth pointing out talent alone does not automatically translate to expertise. One must also apply effort to become effective at anything.

Cognitive aptitude and personality are innate qualities that modern organizations expect from job candidates. Research shows that mental aptitude has a high predictive value relative to work performance. A job candidate who performs well in cognitive aptitude tests has better work performance than someone with low scores.

Today’s workplaces require employees with the right personality traits and cognitive aptitude to navigate the intricacies of the corporate world. People need agreeableness, stress tolerance, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and extroversion. These personality traits empower employees to function optimally and contribute to the company’s growth.


Provides an understanding of the candidate’s organizational abilities.

Referring to the spatial reasoning definition, putting two seemingly dissimilar objects in space requires exceptional organizational skills. These abilities enable a person to create structure from various components and order out of chaos. Experts say employers value organizational skills to improve productivity, eliminate errors, and facilitate work efficiency.

It is understandable why companies want people with high-level organizational skills. Studies show an empirical connection between organizational skills and work performance among webmasters and similar professions. It makes sense for technology professionals to display organizational abilities and systematicity. After all, they need order in creating strategic algorithms.

A study published in the Journal of Business Studies also describes the causal relationship between professional competencies and organizational skill and multitasking behavior and performance. 

Multitasking can be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on the person and the nature of the tasks. For most people, multitasking saves them time, trains their minds, improves mental flexibility and resilience, and sharpens the senses. 

Organizational skills in the workplace can come in different forms. The most obvious is physical organization, which can include keeping a clutter-free and tidy workspace and instituting measures for improving work efficiency. 

Digital organization is another aspect of work-related organizational skills. Making use of productivity tools and other technologies can improve systematicity, minimize errors, eliminate wastes, and boost effective and efficient work flows.

Organizational skills also extend into planning, empowering people to organize activities and tasks relative to the inherent objectives. Becoming systematic and orderly ensures better work performance and facilitates productivity.

Hiring managers must understand the spatial reasoning definition and its relationship with organizational skills. Choosing a candidate with high-level organizational skills can help the organization ensure orderliness, efficiency, effectiveness, and systematicity in its operations.


Provides an overview of the candidate’s abstract reasoning skills.

The spatial reasoning definition assumes that people with spatial visualization abilities can comprehend intangible concepts, ideas, and qualities that some people might not appreciate. For example, the terms ‘grace,’ ‘kindness,’ ‘truth,’ and ‘honor’ might seem vague to most people. However, persons with exceptional abstract reasoning skills can find meaning in these otherwise general concepts.

Companies value people with abstract reasoning skills because they can understand, appreciate, and think complex concepts. Although the concept is real, it is impossible to link these ideas to concrete situations, people, objects, or experiences. It requires thinking about hypothetical or symbolic ideas and principles to explain a phenomenon.

Recruitment specialists and HR experts recognize the importance of abstract reasoning in the workplace. They say that this innate quality is a powerful indicator of job performance. Job candidates with high abstract reasoning scores understand novel ideas and concepts faster and more effectively than others. They are more receptive to new and continuous training.

Abstract thinkers are exceptional in identifying relationships, patterns, and possibilities. Companies value them because abstract thinkers bring a different perspective to long-established processes and systems, allowing the organization to thrive amidst growing competition.

Spatial reasoning allows recruiters and hiring managers to assess a job candidate’s abstract reasoning abilities. They can determine if a potential hire is a perfect suit for the job. 

Will the candidate learn as quickly as the company expects when given new ideas, concepts, systems, and processes to work with, or will the job applicant take a longer time than average to assimilate new information and skills? How will the candidate respond to challenges at work? 

These concerns are valid, and evaluating the candidate’s spatial reasoning can provide clues to the answers.

Empowers HR professionals to evaluate international candidates’ cognitive aptitude when language is a barrier.

More and more First World economies are looking for high-quality talents overseas. For example, the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies says more than 60% of employees in architectural, mathematical, computing, and engineering positions are foreigners.

Unfortunately, landing the best talents from overseas can have substantial challenges. The language barrier remains one of the most crucial hurdles applicants must pass. Although hiring managers can fine-tune their job posts to people with verifiable language capabilities, it does not present a holistic picture of the candidate’s job suitability.

For example, a candidate might have a near-perfect score on IELTS or other English language proficiency tests but does not have the cognitive aptitude to commit to the organization in the long term. Screening applicants based on their language proficiency alone closes the door to highly-qualified applicants with poor command of the English language.

Hence, evaluating the candidate’s cognitive aptitude makes perfect sense. After all, studies show that a person’s innate mental abilities are powerful indicators of long-term work performance. It is 400% more effective in predicting work performance and job fit than educational attainment, 300% better than work experience, and 200% more efficient at predicting work performance than job interviews.

Candidates with high cognitive aptitude test scores are more successful during training and produce more accurate and valid work results. It translates to cost efficiency for businesses, maximizing their returns on investment on training new hires. Organizations spend between $581 and $1,678 per employee training them. One can imagine the cost of training programs if the firm intends to employ ten new hires.

Understanding the implications of the spatial reasoning definition on cognitive aptitude can empower recruiters and hiring managers to devise their pre-employment tools to measure this attribute. 


Minimizes unconscious bias.

Hiring a candidate unfit for the job can encourage employee turnover, costing organizations up to twice the employee’s salary. That is why HR professionals must recognize and address unconscious biases during recruitment and hiring.

Implicit or unconscious bias is a mental process whereby people make decisions intuitively, relying on stereotypes, preconceived notions, and experiences to shape opinions. Unfortunately, unconscious bias is pervasive in everyday life. 

Recruiters and hiring professionals tend to form an opinion about job applicants based on initial impressions or stereotypes. For example, a recruiter might dismiss one candidate because she did not like the picture on the resume, the name sounds odd, or he came from a place the recruiter loathes.

Unconscious bias stems from a subjective assessment of another person’s characteristics. Unfortunately, the evaluation is faulty because it relies on the recruiter’s feelings and perceptions and not factual, verifiable data. It robs highly-qualified candidates of the opportunity to work for a company solely because the recruiter ‘deemed’ them unfit for the job based on subjective evaluation.

Assessing the candidate’s spatial reasoning helps provide a more objective evaluation of the candidate’s job suitability. It gives recruiters and hiring managers a verifiable yardstick for gauging the job applicant’s problem-solving, organizational, critical thinking, and abstract reasoning abilities. Hiring managers can integrate these values with other objective assessment parameters to make an intelligent hiring decision.

Final Thoughts

Although spatial reasoning is a crucial metric for evaluating a candidate’s suitability for a job position, it is not an end-all-be-all component. Recruiters and hiring managers must recognize that assessing spatial visualization abilities is only a part of cognitive aptitude testing. Hence, HR professionals should evaluate different pre-employment test results to determine whether they support each other’s findings. Doing so can help hiring managers make the best possible hiring decision.

Photos @PEXELS

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