Many human resource professionals have used personality tests when screening candidates. They are used to assess an individual's personality traits. For example behavior patterns, and personality characteristics. While it may give hiring professionals a bit of insight into understanding a person's preferences, values, motivations, and emotional makeup, they may or may not be useful in understanding how an employee may perform in a position.
There has been a lot of research to try and connect personality and work. However, work behavior on the job is slightly different from tests. These tests are designed to anticipate a worker’s reactions to different situations.
“Personality trait differences are associated with job performance, coping with work-related stress, motivation to pursue different styles of work, and career path decisions… Previous studies linking work and personality have produced inconsistent findings in terms of the magnitude and, in some cases, the direction of effects. ”Job characteristics and personality change in young adulthood: A 12‐year longitudinal study and replication - Zheng - Journal of Personality - Wiley Online Library
The million-dollar question of the day is “Should businesses use personality tests as part of their hiring process? We explore the answer here.
Personality tests can be insightful to a candidate's potential fit. However, these tests are not always as accurate as one might think. Candidates may answer questions based on what they think you want their answer to be and not what they would accurately pick without the pressure of the interview process. There are entire coaching systems designed to help candidates achieve the results that they THINK the employer wants to see. The practice of trying to skew the results of a personality test is often referred to as “gaming.”
At the end of the day, what good is the test, if the person taking it did so to please the hiring manager? Are the answers really accurate?
In fact, a study from the University of Toronto, published in the Journal of Personality found that people don’t know themselves as well as they think they do. In the study, they found that employees themselves are the worst judge of their own personalities. The study instead concluded that co-workers’ friends and family members were better judges of an employee’s personality than the employee themselves.
This is another great reason personality tests can fail hiring managers. It is, however, another great reason to call on references provided by the applicant.
Psychologists and employers often use personality tests to gain insight into an individual's traits, strengths, and weaknesses. However, there are several alternative uses for personality tests (especially to increase engagement among your current employees) [If we have a blog article on employee engagement, provide hyperlink to it], including:
At ClarityHR we believe that personality is not permanent. There is a really good book from Dr. Ben Harvey with the same title “Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story.” In it, Dr. Harvey discusses the pervasive myths about personality that prevent all of us from learning and offers people an alternative angle for personal transformation. In his philosophy, people are not stuck in one state for their entire life. Instead, he believes in intentional self-transformation. You can get his book HERE.