Chinese outsourcer seeks U.S. workers with IQ of 125 and up

Bleum Inc. sets IQ threshold at 140 for its hires in China, however

A Chinese IT outsourcing company that has started hiring new U.S. computer science graduates to work in Shanghai requires prospective job candidates to demonstrate an IQ of 125 or above on a test it administers to sort out job applicants.

In doing so, Bleum Inc. is following a hiring practice it applies to college recruits in China. But a new Chinese college graduate must score an IQ of 140 on the company's test.

An IQ test is the first screen for any U.S. or Chinese applicant.

The lower IQ threshold for new U.S. graduates reflects the fact that the pool of U.S. talent available to the company is smaller than the pool of Chinese talent, Bleum said.

In China, Bleum receives thousands of applications weekly, said CEO Eric Rongley. Rongley is a U.S. citizen who founded Bleum in 2001; his career prior to that included stints working in offshore development in India and later in China.

The company employs about 1,000 and hires about 1% or less of the people who apply for jobs there. "It is much harder to get into Bleum than it is to Harvard," Rongly said.

Shanghai-based Bleum has been recruiting new computer engineering graduates in the Atlanta, Chicago and Denver areas. If a student meets the minimum requirement on an IQ test, he then take a skills test, similar to the hiring process Bleum follows in China.

Bleum has already hired its first U.S. recruits -- a group of five people who left for Shanghai this month, said Rongley. They will work in China for year and then return to the U.S. to work.

Many employers do measure intelligence to cull candidates from pools of applicants, but they typically call the exams aptitude tests, said Dennis Garlick, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of an upcoming book called Intelligence and the Brain.

An IQ of 140 is extremely high, representing about the top 1% of the population, said Garlick. But he said that even though some studies have shown a correlation between IQ and job performance, IQ is a "crude assessment tool" when it comes to sorting out job applicants.

IQ tests tend be inaccurate at the upper end of the scale as the questions become more complex and it becomes "debatable what is a correct answer," he said.

IQ is also an indirect measure of job performance; a high IQ doesn't necessarily mean a worker will achieve a certain level in job performance, "because an IQ test measures abstract reasoning in a general context, and on-the-job performance requires abstract reasoning in a specific context," said Garlick.

But for a person who does score high on an IQ test, "you can reasonably say that the person is likely to be able to understand typical abstract concepts as they are applied in business, understand instructions, follow them, and then generalize them in a new situation," said Garlick.

Mark Finocchario, national director for recruiting at the Eliassen Group, said that his IT staffing and recruiting firm in Wakefield, Mass., administers technical skill tests, but not IQ tests, for some clients. The importance of the skill tests varies depending on the client. Most clients view the skill tests as academic and rely mostly his firm's assessment of a candidate's experience. "Experience is huge," he said.

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