Cognisess-User-Emotion-TestFinding the right person for a job can be a nightmare. While job websites and social platforms such as LinkedIn may have widened the net for employers, they have also made the issue of fishing through all those applications in search of the ideal candidate more time-consuming.

Surely there’s a better way to test individuals and unlock their true potential?

Frustrated by the subjective nature of job applications, Bath-based Cognisess set about building a platform that could do just that. Combining the latest cloud-based technology with cutting-edge cognitive research, its software assessment tools enable businesses to monitor and analyse applicants’ cognitive behaviour.

To learn more about the pioneering work being carried out by Cognisess, we spoke to founder and CEO Chris Butt about the roots of his business and where he sees the ‘next generation of people analytics software’ taking us.

Grounded in science

As Chris makes clear from the get-go, “everything we do is grounded in science”.

Prior to Cognisess, he and co-founder Dr Lenny Kristal (a specialist in neuroscience) carried out a number of studies analysing the links between cognitive behaviour and performance. Along with their initial research back in the late nineties, these included trials with the England rugby team in 2003 and later work within financial service companies.

“If there’s an endgame in sight, I would say that it’s to replace LinkedIn”


Following a hiatus from the project, in which time technology had a chance to catch up with their ground-breaking work, the idea for Cognisess began to take shape. As Chris explains: “The impetus came out of an interest in how people are badly assessed for prospective jobs. For example, an employer might take a view on the way someone looks, their age, gender, surname, or a whole other bunch of subjective criteria. This is combined with more recent research on how interrelated the brain is, shown by countless studies that weren’t around when we started ten years ago.”

Cognisess sought to end the problems associated with flawed applicant testing. In 2012, Chris and his team began to develop their platform and since December last year have been building a strong customer base – or, as he refers to them, “datasets” – from their headquarters in Bath.

Chris directly links the development of Cognisess to the South West’s “strong research institutions.” With Bath Spa, Bath University, and Bristol University all within a ten mile radius, Chris believes his team would “be crazy not to tap into such resources.”

Made to measure

The team’s platform is clearly grounded in a strong research background, but how does it all work in practice?

The primary difference between Cognisess and what Chris refers to as “the old pen-and-paper questionnaires,” is the way in which people interact with the platform. Through a series of timed interactive exercises, the user is tested on a variety of attributes including short-term memory, concentration, emotional intelligence, spatial orientation, and their multi-tasking abilities.

For Chris, embracing gaming methods not only makes Cognisess more intuitive than static exams, but crucially broadens the measures used to assess individuals. As he comments: “In the past people have been categorised by their IQ score, which is probably one of the worst predictors of career success. So, what we’ve done is introduce game mechanics – level and points systems – to understand how people make decisions.”

“The idea for Cognisess came out of an interest in how people are badly assessed for prospective jobs”


The data from these tests is then projected into analytics-based modelling, providing the employer with an overview of the candidate’s performance in each area. Using this “big data”, Chris argues that Cognisess will not only be able to improve its service, but also provide research that could have wider applications: “We’re collecting a lot of data and people analytics across different age groups, genders, and demographics, which is helping us to build up profiles that can be very useful not only for companies, but also researchers within public institutions.”

Best for businesses, however, is that the platform is entirely cloud-based. This eliminates the need for downloading and installing software and having to maintain another IT service. Instead, users simply log on and go.

Thinking ahead

Though Cognisess are by no means the only company using cognitive research, Chris and his team are confident about their future. Chris’ aim is clear: “If there’s an endgame in sight, I would say that it is to replace LinkedIn with a service that better matches people with businesses and institutions.”

With partners in Australia and the US, the company’s sights are also set on international expansion in order to “become a leader in the area of people analytics within the next five years”. Despite all this talk of overseas markets and funding rounds, at the heart of the business remains a deep commitment to furthering research in the neurological and cognitive sciences and a desire “to broaden into areas such as education and healthcare to demonstrate what Cognisess can really do”.

Has all this talk of people analytics got your little grey cells working? Pay a visit to the Cognisess website or follow them on Twitter at @cognisess.