Trainability: Why it matters and how to look for it in candidates

Why trainability matters and to look for it in job applicants
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With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, organizations need employees who can quickly adapt to new tools and processes, learn skills, and stay up to date with the latest industry trends. 

That’s why it’s critical to find candidates who possess trainability traits.

Trainability refers to a set of abilities that candidates should possess to master new skills and gain knowledge. It’s directly linked to a person’s cognitive abilities, like problem-solving and critical thinking

If an employee can quickly learn new things, even if they don’t have prior job experience, they can prove a valuable asset to your company since they can be molded to your needs. 

Hiring for trainability can increase your organization’s productivity and efficiency, and it’s something every hiring manager should have in mind when recruiting new employees. 

In this article, we’ll go over what trainability is and why it’s important, how to identify it in candidates, and how to measure someone’s trainability progress.

What is trainability, and why is it important? 

In today’s business world, the skills that employees need to succeed are constantly changing. 

A job that required one set of skills yesterday might require a completely different set of skills tomorrow. Since 2015, skill sets for jobs have changed by around 25%, a figure that is expected to double by 2027.

This is why trainability has become so important – employees who are willing and able to learn new skills can quickly adapt to changing job requirements, making them valuable assets to their organizations.

So, what does trainability mean?

Trainability refers to someone’s ability to learn new things quickly and efficiently. As mentioned, it’s linked to a person’s cognitive abilities. Moreover, it’s cognitive flexibility that enables an individual to be trainable. 

According to the World Economic Forum, cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch between concepts or modify your behavior in a way that helps you achieve goals in a changing environment. In short, it’s about “learning to learn” and the capacity to be flexible in the way you learn new things. 

You want to find candidates who possess cognitive flexibility since it enables them to be more trainable. Trainable employees can take on more difficult tasks and are more efficient than those who are unwilling to change or learn something new. 

Trainability is also important for career growth. 

Employees who are eager to learn and grow are more likely to be given opportunities for advancement because they are willing to take on new challenges and responsibilities. Employers who invest in their employees’ learning and development also benefit since they can build a workforce with the skills they need to succeed in the long term.

Employee training can take many forms. Some employee training examples include: 

  • Onboarding

  • Continuous learning and skills development

  • Technical skills training

  • Participation in conferences and other learning events

Different training initiatives will help you achieve different goals, but they are almost always beneficial for both individual employees and the entire organization. 

How do you identify trainability in job candidates?

Finding the right candidate is always a challenge.

What do you do when two or more candidates have the same experience on paper, and even their pre-employment screening test results are similar? 

The solution is to identify which candidate possesses more trainability traits. So, what are the key trainability factors that you should look out for? 

During the hiring process, look for the traits listed below to pinpoint the most suitable candidate. 

Top trainability traits to look for to find the most suitable candidate

Cognitive abilities 

As mentioned, trainability is linked to cognitive flexibility. 

Candidates with strong cognitive skills are better able to analyze information and adapt to their surroundings. They are quick learners and can identify patterns and trends, making them more predisposed to acquiring new skills.

When assessing a candidate’s cognitive abilities, consider their ability to solve problems, think creatively, and make decisions based on logical reasoning.

Positive attitude

A positive attitude is another key indicator of trainability. 

Candidates who are enthusiastic and optimistic about learning new things are more likely to take the initiative, seek out challenges, and embrace novel ideas. They are typically more resilient and adaptable to changes in their work environment and are less likely to become discouraged by setbacks or obstacles. 

On the other hand, people with a negative attitude will prove difficult to train, and you’ll have a harder time motivating them to do something that’s out of their comfort zone. 

When assessing a candidate’s attitude, look for signs of motivation, a willingness to take risks, and a genuine interest in the position and the company.


Employees who are skilled problem-solvers are more likely to be adaptable and learn new skills quickly. 

They can identify issues that need to be addressed, evaluate potential solutions, and take the necessary steps to implement them. Problem-solvers are skilled at creating and adjusting their schedules and prioritizing tasks based on importance. 

When assessing a candidate’s problem-solving skills, consider their ability to analyze complex issues, develop creative solutions, and implement those solutions effectively.


Candidates who are naturally curious tend to be more open-minded and inquisitive. They are more likely to seek out new information and opportunities to learn. 

They aren’t satisfied with the status quo and are always looking for ways to improve their skills and knowledge. Such candidates are also more passionate about their position and constantly aim to achieve the best results whenever possible. 

When assessing a candidate’s curiosity, look for signs of a desire to learn, knowledge of your company and its products or services, and a willingness to explore new ideas.


Flexibility is another trait to look for when assessing trainability. 

Candidates who are able to adapt to unfamiliar situations and work effectively in different environments are more likely to succeed in roles that require frequent change or a variety of tasks. 

When assessing a candidate’s flexibility, consider their ability to work well in a team, their willingness to take on new responsibilities, and their ability to adapt to new technologies or processes.

Desire to learn

Finally, candidates who have a strong desire to learn are more likely to be successful in roles that require continuous improvement and skill development. 

They are motivated to take on new challenges and are committed to growing their skills and knowledge over time. 

When assessing a candidate’s desire to learn, look for evidence of self-motivation, a willingness to ask questions, and a commitment to ongoing professional development.

How do you measure trainability?

Measuring trainability is a complex process that involves assessing a candidate’s potential to learn and adapt to unfamiliar situations. 

The value of skills decreases by half every four years, so it’s important to have employees who are able and willing to train and learn new skills on an ongoing basis.

Below you’ll find some common methods you can use to measure someone’s trainability.

The most common methods to measure trainability in candidates

Behavioral interview questions

Asking candidates behavioral interview questions can help identify their past behaviors and ability to learn from their experiences. 

For example, asking candidates to describe a challenging project they worked on and how they overcame obstacles can provide insight into their problem-solving skills and ability to adapt to new situations.

When conducting interviews, ask as many questions as you can, and find out how your candidates think and act in certain situations. This will give you more information about their trainability prowess. 

Cognitive ability tests

Cognitive ability tests can help you assess a candidate’s ability to learn and solve problems.

These tests typically include tasks related to math, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning. They can provide insight into a candidate’s potential for success in roles that require cognitive skills.

TestGorilla has an array of such tests. You can use its test library to quickly find evaluations that suit your needs. 

Role-playing exercises

Role-playing exercises can help you find out more about a candidate’s ability to adapt to new situations and think on their feet. 

For example, presenting a hypothetical scenario and asking candidates to come up with a solution can provide insight into their problem-solving skills and ability to handle unfamiliar situations.

In addition, you can use role-playing scenarios to create job simulations and get a real sense of how that candidate will perform on the job. 

Learning agility assessments

Learning agility assessments are designed to measure a candidate’s ability to learn from new experiences and adapt their behavior accordingly. 

These assessments typically include tasks such as analyzing new information, learning skills, and applying knowledge to solve problems.

Skills tests are your best bet to identify someone’s learning agility and discern how trainable they are. 

Reference checks

Contacting a candidate’s references can reveal more about their work ethic, willingness to learn, and ability to adapt to new situations. 

You can ask references specific questions about the candidate’s learning and adaptability to better understand their trainability.

Hire trainable candidates with TestGorilla 

With constantly advancing breakthroughs in technology and changes in the market, finding and recruiting trainable candidates is the key to securing your staffing needs in the long run. 

An employee who is trainable is more willing to adapt to changes and learn skills that can drive your company to new heights. 

TestGorilla can help you identify trainability qualities in candidates with our pre-employment skills tests. 

Are you ready to find the best candidates for your business? Let’s work together. You can sign up for a free plan or request a live 30-minute demo with one of our specialists.

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