Uncovering the Truth about Personality Test for Hiring
Personality test is put under the limelight following the airing of HBO’s documentary. Read our thoughts on personality test for hiring.
Drama, who does not love it? Especially in these COVID times when we are largely starved of it in our real lives. That is the feeling I was left with, having watched HBO’s recent airing on personality tests. This documentary, albeit heavily referencing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), casts aspersions around the use of personality tests in organizations globally. Emotions were running high. Anything that has the potential to alter the course of life is emotive – right? That was the tone and the message that I took away from this and I feel that the messages it imparted are worth digging into, to find a greater truth.
I will make no secret of it. I work for SHL, one of the world-leading providers of psychometric assessments, with our personality assessment the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ), being one of our flagship offerings. So, this documentary cut close to the bone for me and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on what is fact versus fiction.
How reliable are personality tests or assessments?
Assessments can be misused. That is a fact. Our market – the talent assessments market – is largely unregulated. That is also a fact. There are assessments and providers of assessment out there that are backed by years of science and rigor and those that look the part but are largely unsubstantiated – yet, another fact. The biggest issue, as I see it, is separating one from the other because, at face value, they can all look the same.
I believe there are legitimate and highly valuable uses of personality tests at work but, as with many things in this world, it is how you use them and what you do with the information that counts. Let’s explore this further.
There are assessments and providers of assessment out there that are backed by years of science and rigor and those that look the part but are largely unsubstantiated.
How to use personality tests for hiring decision
#1—Understand that not all personality tests are the same
Assessments of personality can be Type-based and Trait-based – a point worth clarifying here. Years of science and psychological literature will attest to the fact that type-based assessments have their place in understanding a person’s personality but that they should not be used to make selection or recruitment decisions. The MBTI is categorically a type-based assessment. Trait-based assessments, conversely, are proven to be reliable and valid predictors of behavior at work and so they can be used to aid selection decisions.
#2—Use a multi-method approach
To aid selection decisions – that’s the main purpose of an assessment and the next thing that I want to call out. Used correctly, personality tests, especially in recruitment, should form a multi-method assessment approach whereby they are used alongside other selection methodologies like competency-based interviews for example. Ideally, you begin by identifying the key competencies for success in the role, then you design a multi-method process for measuring these – which I believe is augmented by a trait-based personality assessment in most cases.
#3—Choose the right assessment and process
Science should drive and underpin assessments of personality. Often this is not the case and the personality assessments that win out, unfortunately, are those that have the most creative look and feel, with little beneath the hood. Some of the best organizations in talent assessment have amassed years of research proving the demonstrable impact of personality data in making better talent decisions. The best organizations also closely monitor adverse impact so that personality assessments are not allowed to unfairly disadvantage minority groups. If in doubt, ask to see this research. To conclude, choosing the right assessment and assessment partner matters a lot and will bring a big difference to your organization.
#4—Align your goals with the participants’ goals
Assessment of personality fit is a 2-way street. Using assessments of personality should not only help organizations to identify people who are best suited to a role or organizational context, but they should also help individuals to be placed in roles or functions that are naturally aligned to their areas of preference and strength. Generally speaking, if this alignment can be achieved, a person will be happier in their role, contribute more effectively, be more engaged and stay longer. Such outcomes are a win for all parties involved.
Using assessments of personality should not only help organizations to identify talent, but it should also help individuals to be placed in roles or functions that are naturally aligned to their areas of preference and strength.
#5—Give the appropriate feedback
Candidate experience is key. Completing an assessment of personality is an investment of a person’s time. It should be rewarded with feedback that is both meaningful and accurate and that helps that person build self-awareness of their natural behavioral preferences and tendencies in a work context. In some of the best personality assessments, this can be delivered via an engaging and personalized video feedback experience.
Final admission from me: I have never penned a blog before. However, the sense that this documentary was not telling the full story, compelled me to do so. What does that say about my personality? A lot actually.
SHL employs over 300 Occupational Psychologists and People Scientists to build world-leading talent assessments. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.