Personality Assessments

Personality Tests

Job performance is often dependent on personal qualities such as a candidate’s drive and ambition, on how they fit into your team or organization, or on how inspiring they are as leaders. Personality assessments measure characteristics that predict performance and future potential in a specific job.

Now available in more than 30 languages, SHL Personality assessments show how a candidate will fit into the work environment, work with other people and cope with role-specific job requirements.

SHL has the largest database of assessment records in the world – more than 24 terabytes of historical data from more than 86 million candidates and 400 validated job profiles. Our personality assessments provide an unparalleled resource for truly understanding talent at an individual or organizational level.

Personality tests assess personal behavioral preferences, that is, how you like to work. They are not concerned with your abilities, but how you see yourself in the way you relate to others, your approach to problems, and how you deal with feelings and emotions. With this type of assessment, there are no right or wrong answers.

One of the most well-accepted personality tests for use in the workplace is the OPQ. This SHL’s industry-leading personality test has amassed decades of scientific evidence and can be used across all levels, as a pre-hire or post-hire assessment.

What are the different types of personality assessments?

There are two common formats to personality questionnaires:

  1. In one format, you are asked to rate yourself (using a Linkert responses scale).
  2. In the other, you are asked to choose between different statements that look at different aspects of personality.

Rating Statements
Many common personality assessments utilize a Likert response scale. In these types of tests, a person is often asked to rate the level to which they agree with a statement, e.g., strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree or disagree, agree, or strongly agree. Likert response scales do not always have to specify agreement and can also span ratings of likelihood (very likely to not very likely, importance (very important to not very important) or frequency (rarely to never). Although Likert-based assessments are typically less resource-intensive to create and score, they are also more easily faked such that respondents may attempt to answer in a manner they presume to be most socially desirable rather than reflective of their true self.

Making Choices
A forced-choice approach to personality assessment requires a person to select which of a set of statements or adjectives are most or least like them. These types of assessments tend to be faked less easily than Likert tests as the statements or adjectives presented are interpreted as equally desirable or positive. For this reason, forced-choice test types are the most favored personality assessments for employment. Ranking style questionnaires, those in which a person is asked to rank statements or attributes in some way, would also be considered forced-choice test types.


Personality Assessments

What is personality testing in the workplace?

People often get interested in understanding personality tests when they have to take one when applying for a job. Many think that a personality test for employment is the only application an assessment can be used for in the workplace. However, personality tests can be utilized in a multitude of ways within an organization. Selection, recruitment, training and development, assessment centers, team building, performance management, research, and organizational change are some of the areas where personality tests can be used to identify, understand, predict, place, and/or develop the performance of candidates and employees. Appropriate use of these tests can lead to a more effective and successful organization. Linking the results of the personality tests to effective performance in a validation study allows for them to be used to their full potential. Validation and job analysis also reduce legal risks of inappropriate use of the assessments in the workplace.

When evaluating a specific personality test and its advantages and disadvantages, consideration must be made to its application. Personality tests have a wide variety of utility (e.g., research, job employment, clinical diagnoses for disorders, therapeutic measures) for administrators across diverse industries. For example, a test that is suitable for use in a clinical or counseling setting in evaluating personality disorders may not be appropriate for use in a workplace setting to screen job applicants given legal and ethical concerns.

Personality assessments are relevant across the whole employee life cycle:

  • In recruitment, as part of a job solution, to sift thousands of candidates
  • In selection, to identify candidates most likely to succeed in a role
  • In team building, to improve team performance
  • In development, to identify strengths and development needs
  • In succession, to identify and develop future leaders
  • During transitions, as an input into redeployment and restructuring

How do I pass an employment personality test?

When examining the results of a pre-employment test that measures personality traits, a candidate will not “pass” or “fail” in the traditional test perspective. Instead, a personality test will evaluate if a candidate’s traits are the best fit for the specific position being filled by the organization. For example:

  • A sales role will likely place emphasis on selecting those candidates that are considered more persuasive, resilient, and less socially reserved. These are traits associated with higher performance in sales-based positions.
  • On the other hand, companies may look for people who tend to pay attention to details for a record-keeping position.

The best way a candidate can “pass” a personality test in a pre-employment setting is by applying to those jobs in which they have the characteristics that are associated with high performance. In addition to applying to those jobs in which the individual is a good fit, a candidate should answer any self-reported items in an open, honest, and accurate manner.

Many tests have methodologies to identify careless responding, inconsistencies, and faking. Faking occurs when a candidate attempts to show that they have the traits that are good for the job rather than answering in an honest manner about his or her traits. Other elements can also help a candidate during the test administration including being patient during the testing process, staying focused throughout the entirety of the test, and establishing and maintaining a comfortable test environment (e.g., quiet space, dedicated time).

What is personality?

A person’s unique combination of attitudes, thoughts, motivations, interactions styles, feelings, and behaviors make up their personality. In day-to-day life when we think about what a person is like, we often think in terms of traits. We think of someone as outgoing or as reserved. The trait theory of personality builds on this perspective and refers to the consistent patterns of thoughts, emotions, and feelings that differ across individuals and are relatively stable in adults. If a person’s traits change, it is usually slowly over time. For example, a person may become more friendly or approachable from early adulthood to retirement. In the short-term, people may vary in the extent to which they display behaviors associated with a trait. For example, someone generally described as outgoing may be a bit more reserved in a certain situation such as visiting an elderly relative in the hospital. This degree of expression of a characteristic in a behavior at a particular time is a personality state. Personality traits can be thought of as the average of a person’s personality states. Some personality traits tend to show up together in people. Someone who has a high average level of persuasion may be more likely to also have a high level of a drive for achievement.

Over the past 100 years, different detailed personality models have been developed by applying observation, measurement, and statistical analysis to the trait theory. These different models attempt to establish a comprehensive structure of personality. In addition to traits, the models often include facets, which are subcategories of a trait. For example, a model might include talkativeness and assertiveness as two facets of being outgoing. While many trait-based models (e.g., Cattell’s 16 Personality Factors) were prevalent in the scientific community in the latter half of the 20th century, the most well-known model outside the science community is the Five-Factor Model by Costa and McCrae, which established the high-level traits of Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience. These are sometimes called the “Big Five”.