Nowadays, I am seeing more and more organizations utilizing personality assessments in their hiring and employee development practices. In fact, about 80% of Fortune 500 companies use personality tests to assess potential and current employees in order to make hiring, team building, and developmental decisions.
Some of the most common and widely used personality tests that we usually see today include Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Caliper Profile, Hogan Assessments, and DiSC. Personally the most common one to me is MBTI, so I went on to do a background check on it. Interestingly, MBTI was designed for women! It was originally developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers in the 1940s. They noticed that most women took war-related jobs out of patriotism, yet hating the tasks given. Isabel also observed that many are not using their gifts or talents. Hence she was inspired to create an avenue that allows women to discover what they are good at and using this to guide them into choosing a suitable career path. In sum, it aims to measure the preference in how people actually see the world, see themselves, and make decisions subsequently.
In recent years, psychologists and human resources practitioners have suggested the use of personality testing as a tool to assist in making better and more informed hiring and developmental decisions. Undoubtedly, using personality tests can be really great and helpful. They are easy to use and allow employers to compare a big pool of candidates, they also allow employers to know whether candidates fit the roles, environment and working culture in the company, they are even used to predict the “future leaders” of the company. Personality tests began to grow tremendously, it became the first must-go-through process during a hiring journey.
However, solely using personality test to completely screen out candidates without giving even an interview chance, seem a bit overboard for me personally. Although I do understand that at times it is really difficult to screen and interview 200 candidates. Perhaps group interview and telephonic interview and be put in place to provide more opinions rather than solely dependent on a test.
Personality tests may not produce a true representation of a candidate. Potential employees may simply respond how and what they think the employers wants. For example, an insurance agent is more likely to seek an aggressive salesperson and candidate will try to match up their personality by choosing answer that lead to extroversion or resilience. With detailed job descriptions provided nowadays, it can be easy to identify what specific characteristics the company is actually looking for. In addition to this, it is way too easy to “practise” personality tests using internet. Too many websites are offering proper and reliable personality with very minimum cost or even free. Also, according to a research by Cornell University ILR School, job candidates who fail a personality test the first time often “change their response dramatically on the second test”, despite the fact that personality is known to be generally stable and unlikely to change in short interval. This again signifies how easy for one to change according to what a company wants instead of providing a true characteristics for himself.
In general, personality tests are not the final answer. Although they can help to provide a deeper insight into a candidate’s motives, values, and work styles, they do not give the final verdict on which candidate is the right one for the job. Indeed, the right personality fit is critical for good performance. The type of personality tests used also matters a lot. Some tests are better predictors than others, so it is important to do prior research to secure a suitable test for a particular role. If possible in terms of financing and company support, perhaps a multi-measure tests will be better compared to solely dependent on personality or emotional intelligence tests. As shown by Schmidt, with multi-measure test scoring the highest correlation between test scores and predicted job performance.
However, it is important to keep in mind that personality assessments are not a stand-alone tool. They should be used only in conjunction with other employee screening techniques such as behavioural interviews and references to reflect all of a candidate’s characteristics.