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Public Administrators: Efficacy of Multiple Intelligences Theory for Hiring and Promotion Decisions

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Janet Thompson
June 22, 2018

In the hiring context of public administration, human resource professionals and organization administrators typically focus on aligning individuals’ experience, knowledge and skills with the established rubric standards of job title requirements. Interview dynamics are focused on further evaluations of candidates’ discursive representations of job qualifications. Relatedly, employee promotions may involve evaluations of performance reviews, professional development endeavors and interview dialogues. The inclusion of multiple intelligence evaluations as part of these procedural steps may present an opportunity to substantively enhance employment and promotion results through assessing alignments of specific intelligence factors in relation to critical job functions.

Multiple Intelligences – What and Why?

Intelligence has been traditionally designated as a cognitive ability comprised of four facets: verbal/linguistic and mathematical/logical. The measurement of these four dimensions has been quantified as a single human intelligence number quotient or IQ. Contrastingly, Howard Gardner asserted that, “… while IQ tests may persist for certain purposes, the monopoly of those who believe in a single general intelligence has come to an end.” Brain scientists and geneticists are documenting the incredible differentiation of human capacities Howard Gardner. Gardner’s theory segments and defines intelligences into nine typologies 9 Types of Intelligence. He has posited multiple intelligences as a spectrum of human capacities. Accordingly, individuals possess varied types of intelligences, as defined by the typologies, that they may apply based upon contextual needs. The concept of multiple intelligences has implications for potential application in the public-sector employment sphere. Adapting a practice of multiple intelligences assessment may provide human resource professionals and other organization administrators greater indications of individual capacities for hiring and promotion.

The Typologies: Definitions and Related Job Competencies

Stakeholders in the public sector employment milieu may define and associate multiple intelligences in relation to corresponding job competencies. Of the nine conceptual intelligences the following seven may be particularly relevant for their applications in the sector:

  1. Linguistic Intelligence – facility with verbal and written words (word smart).

The linguistically intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Adaptive verbal language use to address a broad range of individuals in the organization from support staff to executive management.
  • Writing skills to produce and edit reports, memos, emails that incorporate varied elements of structure and word choice to suit the applicable reading audience.
  1. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence – is the ability to: calculate, quantify, consider hypotheses and carry out numerical operations. Individuals with these facilities perceive relationships and connections and use abstract thought, sequential reasoning, as well as inductive and deductive thinking methods.

The logically-mathematically intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Understanding and developing financial and budget data and reports
  • Logical assessment and resolution approaches to challenges and issues
  • Technical acumen with hardware and software
  • Efficient allocation of time and resources
  1. Interpersonal Intelligence – is the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. It involves verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions in other individuals, alertness to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to engage multiple perspectives.

The interpersonally intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Relating and responding to the needs of others at different organizational levels
  • Leading by example
  • Successful teamwork
  • Providing constructive feedback
  1. Intra-personal Intelligence – is the capacity to be cognizant of one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use this knowledge to plan and direct one’s professional life.

The intra-personally intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Ways to foster personal strengths for professional growth
  • Understanding individual limitations and balancing or adjust these to maintain effectiveness
    • Logistically plan and enact professional goals
  1. Spatial Intelligence – is the ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation and graphic and artistic skills, as well as creativity.

The intra-personally intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Develop visual representations of information and systems.
  • Decipher and interpret diagram information.
  • Create and assimilate visual renderings that represent written and numeric data.
  1. Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence – is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union.

The bodily kinesthetic intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Applying motor skills for accurate, timely keyboarding
  • Complex mechanical operations
  • Handling technical or scientific equipment
  1. Ethical Intelligence – is the capacity to consider and address complex ethical questions and challenges by applying methodical reasoning skills.

The ethically intelligent individual has enhanced job competencies for:

  • Aligning goals and objectives with equitable considerations for others
  • Evaluating work methods and procedures by organizational ethical considerations
  • Consideration of all interactions from applicable ethical stances

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligence: Tools and Approaches for Evaluation

The assessment of multiple intelligences may be enacted by human resource professionals and other organization administrators through brief quizzes, questionnaire inventories, interview questions, or a combination of these means. Multiple intelligence quizzes and questionnaires may be researched and adapted from open-access, online sources that provide indications for their uses as well as evaluating and applying results Personality Max Multiple Intelligences. Additionally, practitioners may apply behavioral and situational interview questions to ascertain specific multiple intelligences in relation to requisite job title competencies.


Author: Janet Thompson, MPA, is an Education Program Development Specialist in the Center for Learning and Improving Performance (CLIP), of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. She develops and edits professional training programs and varied publications for delivery to state employees. Janet has over 20 years of combined higher education teaching and administration experience. She is currently an adjunct professor for SUNY Empire State College and Rockland Community College where she teaches undergraduate students in International and Humanities programs, respectively. [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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