Chinese Outsourcer Seeks U.S. Workers With IQ Of 125 and Up

Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworld, July 7, 2010

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.

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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 [Eric Rongley, the CEO] 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.

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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.

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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.

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Rongley believes that higher-IQ IT workers are more productive. “The point is not that they are typing faster, but they are finding a faster solution to the technical problem,” said Rongley.

Moreover, unlike many of the larger IT offshore development companies, Bleum is focused on long-term engagements with its clients, not on one-time projects. Over time, it hopes to hire 100 to 500 U.S. workers to help support North American customers.

China’s technology labor force is largely young; the massive government ramp-up in science and engineering education is a recent development, and the labor force doesn’t yet have a broad pool of people with deep experience in technical disciplines. By seeking high-IQ employees, “we’re compensating for the experience gap,” said Rongley.

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The impact of China’s larger talent pool may be evident in an international coding contest conducted annually by TopCoder Inc., a Glastonbury, Conn.-based software development service.

Last year, about 4,200 people took part in this coding competition, which includes events such as algorithm-writing contests. Of the 70 finalists, 20 were from China, 10 from Russia and two from the U.S. The top winner was Chinese. The contest is sponsored in part by the National Security Agency.

Bleum has a policy of requiring its employees to speak English, and many of its hires have already been through English-language programs widely taught in the schools. {snip}

“In China, for a long time now, anyone from eighth grade and above is being taught English,” said Rongley. {snip}

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