"Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, and I look forward to hearing back from you on this opportunity." As the candidate hands you an extra copy of his flawless resume and releases you from a strong, confident handshake, you take one last glance over his meticulous attire, and think "This is our guy." However, you can not help but wonder, "Is this all just a façade?" How can you dig slowly deeper to know if he is really the best match for your position?
It is this very scenario that is the catalyst behind the growing popularity of personality testing during the hiring process. Hiring managers are craving more incisive methods of character evaluation than scrutinizing dress and handshakes. Personality tests seem to be the answer to their prayers. These tests often include multiple choice questions designed to identify key indicators of success and longevity for a position. Used in conjunction with other methods of fitness assessment, these tests can be very useful. However, some employers are placing too much weight on such tests, or even using them exclusively in the early stages of the hiring process, and are thus condemning themselves opportunities with several potentially fitting mandates that were prematurely "weeded out" by an exam. Before employing the use of personality tests and discarding your previous methods, read the advice below on how to maximize the use of this tool as a complimentary addition to your hiring process arsenal.
The Resurge of the Personality Test
As the economic downturn reduced the number of "workers" and sky-rocketed the number of "job seekers" on a national level, it became an increasingly daunting task for hiring managers to weed through the influx in applications and resumes flooding their desks. Although personality tests have been around for quite a while, there seems to be an increased popularity in using these employment tools to efficiently locate fitting talent for open positions. According to an article on BestCompaniesAZ.com, personality tests have been designed to "determine the probability that the particular applicant will be a) successful and b) long-term;" it does this by "defining personality or behavioral tendencies that are in line with the duties of the position." Such tests are effective in offering an objective opinion, something that is often times difficult for us, as humans, to deliver. We are frequently walked if it is revealed a person has similar interests or experiences as us, even when we are consciously trying to stifle our subjectivity. Personality tests are also an effective method to differentiate between applicants. It can be rather difficult to make hiring decisions when looking at two very similar resumes where the qualifications and experience look identical on paper. In these ways, personality tests can be very effective; when their effectiveness is diluted correlates with instances where they are used as the sole discretion in early firing stages, and when the users do not fully understand the shortcomings. Acknowledging these shortcomings is the only way to truly maximize the use of personality tests.
Understanding the Drawbacks
One key drawback to personality tests is the prevalence of "response distortion." Response Distortion, as outlined in the essay "The Impact of Response Distortion on Pre-employment Personality Testing and Hiring Decisions," is "faking" among job applicants completing personality inventories. For many of the questions, there can be a clear indicator of what answers would be more favorable in the eyes of an employer. For example, when asked to pick trains to describe them, candidates can often tell what descriptors ("energetic," "ambitious," "organized," etc.) are most favorable with employers, and then align themselves with those answers. In this way, it is simply simple for a candidate to create their own desired perception to get a favorable outlet in the hiring process. This utilization of response distortion can cast skepticism on "what effect this distortion has on the validity, utility, and fairness of pre-employment personality assessments." (Rosse, Stecher, Miller, and Levin).
On the other hand, personality tests can also produce erroneously negative results, depending on the circumstances in which the candidate is taking the test. Their answers may be contingent upon their moods; thus, an individual taking a test while in low spirits may be characterized as the wrong personality type, simply based on their mood at the time. Another area that might negatively affect personality test results is confusion. If the candidate misunderstands the question or context, it can distort the results. One particular issue that tends to resonate through the real of personality tests is confusion whether the questions are directed towards the candidates' behavior at work or at home. People often times are vastly divergent when they are sitting at their desk versus sitting on their couch. Perhaps they are extremely laid back at home, but intensely professional at work. Employing personality tests that are clear and unambiguous both in the wording of their questions and the context in which they are to be answered is key to achieving the most accurate results.
Another issue with personality tests is that they can not accurately capture all of a person's hits. People are dynamic characters with many facets. Frequently, multiple choice tests pigeonhole candidates into selecting only one character versus another (example: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?) When, the candidate possesses the characteristics of both. A person who is both reserved in their interactions with other people but extremely aggressive when tackling their own initiatives and progressing projects may find it difficult to convey this on such a test, and the results may dub them as a shy individual who always takes a back seat, a description far from reality. It is important when choosing which test to implement to make sure it is a quality one that can capture many different facets, and even then, it is important to remember that there are simply certain things about a personality that can not be reflected in a test.
In conclusion, personality tests are an excellent tool to supplement your traditional candidate evaluation methodologies. They allow you to delve into into a candidate and discern not only if they will fit the position, but if they will be happy and successful in the placement long-term. However, personality tests should not be used exclusively, as they internally possess some flaws, and capture just a snap shot of an individual's personality, instead of the big picture. As Mike Shraga outlined in his article on personality tests, they are best utilized as a management tool to unearth characteristics of interest or disadvantage, provoke discussions, and even be used as a tool to train and develop a person in one or two key areas, instead of used as a means of automatic dismal. When used in this manner, personality tests will be an invaluable resource for both understanding and cultivating your work.
Rosse, Stecher, Miller and Levin. "The Impact of Response Distortion on Pre-employment Personality Testing and Hiring Decisions." Journal of Applied Psychology.
Shraga, Mike. "Using personality tests to make your hiring decisions-what you should know." Ecademy.com.
BestCompaniesAZ.com. "Pre-employment Testing: Personality Assessments as a value-added part of the process."