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Your Guide to Personality Tests in Hiring

personality traits in a word cloud

When hiring today, employers take great care to make sure they find the right person for their open role. They review endless resumes, conduct phone screens and interviews, and may even have candidates take skills assessments. One of the most important things to evaluate in a new hire is their personality fit both with the team and with the role for which they are interviewing.

According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 13% of employers use personality assessments to glean extra insight into a candidate. A hiring manager may have a candidate take an assessment to learn more about their motivations or how they approach a problem. Assessments can be used to determine what role a new hire may take on the team, or for which types of roles they may have an aptitude. Comparing the assessments of team members may shed light on potential challenges or synergies. 

Of course, these assessments do have their limits. For example, a personality assessment cannot tell a hiring manager if their new hire will or will not hit their first quarter goals. They cannot give a measure of a person’s growth potential. They do not pass judgement on someone’s character or dictate if a personality type is good or bad.

When used correctly, however, these types of assessments are useful, especially when hiring for certain roles. For example, those interviewing for sales roles will typically be asked to take a personality assessment. The hiring manager can use these to understand how extroverted or introverted a candidate is, how they communicate, what motivates them, or even how resilient they are in the face of challenges – all key aspects of a sales role. Candidates for high-level executive positions are also likely to take a personality assessment as part of their hiring process. In roles such as these that have a high degree of human interaction, it can be beneficial to understand how the candidate communicates, how they interact with others, or whether they focus on details or see the big picture.

As the use of personality assessments in hiring rises, it is important to consider the benefits and challenges of such tests and how they factor into your hiring goals.  

Pros

As mentioned earlier, there are an endless number of tests available that can measure any number of characteristics. If you know a certain role requires a very specific personality type, giving a personality assessment can help point you in the right direction and narrow the applicant pool to those most likely to be the best fit. When taken in conjunction with technical skills assessments and information gathered in the interview, personality assessments can provide a deeper, holistic view of the candidate and often lend themselves to more informed decision making.

The information gathered in assessments can also be used after the candidate starts for professional development purposes. For example, if a manager knows that their employee is motivated by competition and recognition, they may create a game out of monthly goal numbers to engage the employee. A manager with an employee who values efficient, straight-forward communication may send information in a short email rather than holding a longer meeting with the employee. Strengths uncovered in assessments can be capitalized on while weaknesses can be built upon.

Cons

While many companies find personality assessments useful, they are not without their drawbacks. The most prominent challenge is test accuracy. Even with the most in-depth assessment, it can be difficult to truly measure the nuances of human behavior and distil it into a certain category or type. Applicants may answer the assessment questions with what they think the manager wants to hear instead of their true feelings or tendencies, leading to biased results. Similarly, assessment questions may reflect more of a snapshot of the candidate at that moment in time, rather than how they think and act long term across multiple situations.

Even when test results do accurately reflect a candidate’s personality, they are not necessarily predictive of success. Simply because most salespeople tend to be extroverted does not mean that a person scoring as an introvert on an assessment won’t succeed in sales. Hiring managers should be cautious to not limit their search to a strict type of person.

For these reasons, if an organization does choose to administer a personality assessment, it is critical that they do so purposefully. When choosing an assessment, look for one that uncovers steady traits that are unlikely to change over time, and are job related. Make sure the test is “tried and true” and has been shown to produce accurate results. Most importantly, understand what information you truly need to know about a candidate and administer a test that is designed to measure that specific information.

Below are some common tests used in hiring processes.

Common Tests

MBTI

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is arguably one of the most well-known and common personality assessments used today. 89% of Fortune 100 companies use the Myers-Briggs assessment in their hiring process or in a professional development capacity. This measures candidate’s preference across 4 different traits – Introversion/Extraversion, Intuitive/Observant, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Prospecting. The MBTI test is ideal for understanding someone’s natural tendencies.

Predictive Index

The Predictive Index test is another popular one. Instead of candidates being constrained by multiple choice questions, they are asked to choose the words that best describe them. First, they choose how they think others see them; then they choose how they see themselves. The results of the test, their Reference Profile, can provide insights into workplace behavior by measuring four factors – dominance, extraversion, patience, and formality.

CTS Sales Profile

The CTS (Can They Sell) Profile is a commonly used test for sales roles across industries. This test measures potential salespeople across the “Basic 9” – 9 personality traits that can predict sales behavior. The candidate is categorized into one of 4 primary styles – a Dynamo, a Performer, a Thinker, or a Diplomat. Based on the candidate profile, the assessment gives a compatibility score on how well the candidate aligns with the job for which they are being considered. This test can be especially useful for managers to understand how to best coach their potential new hires based on their interaction preferences and drives.

Personality assessments alone cannot guarantee that a candidate will be a perfect fit in your open role. However, when used constructively as one tool in the process, they can help you make better informed decisions and guide you towards better hires. As Frederick Morgeson, an organizational psychology expert at Michigan State University, explains, “what we’re trying to do in the hiring context is to make the best guess as to how someone will behave in that job. We’re improving the odds.

If you’re interested in improving your hiring odds, send us a message to learn how we can help!

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