According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers are implementing personality testing more frequently in the hiring process. The goal is to understand job candidates better by gaining a sense of their feelings, attitudes, perceptions, motivations, emotional intelligence, interests, preferences and communication styles. Some employers believe personality tests can help them predict whether a candidate will be successful on the job.
Personality Testing Types
The most common types of workplace personality tests are:
- The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which creates a personality type based on extroversion vs. introversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving.
- The DiSC model, which evaluates interpersonal behavior.
- The Big Five model, which measures openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Some employers use honesty/integrity tests to gauge applicants’ inclination toward such attributes as lying, stealing or substance abuse. In these assessments, explicit questions are asked to determine the candidate’s behavior in ethics-related situations.
Accuracy of Personality Testing
Personality tests have garnered a controversial reputation, so reactions are mixed when it comes to whether they actually work.
Per SHRM, research by Professor Frank L. Schmidt found that “personality assessments are among the least effective in predicting job performance” when compared with other selection methods. Schmidt states that personality tests are more dependable when combined with other practices “that have a higher predictive validity,” such as cognitive ability tests.
Critics also say that to avoid incriminating themselves, candidates may provide politically correct answers. Or, they will simply perform a Google search to find a website that will tell them the “best” way to answer the questions. (The “best” way may be the complete opposite of what the candidate truly thinks or feels.)
Furthermore, some personality assessments don’t provide the information needed to measure success in the role. For instance, although the DiSC model is simple and affordable to use, the DiSC website says that it’s “not recommended for preemployment screening because it does not measure a specific skill, aptitude or factor specific to any position.”
Supporters, however, believe that as long as personality tests are well constructed and properly utilized, they can be a helpful and precise tool for determining whether a candidate is the right fit. According to SHRM’s Professor Deniz S. Ones, “A good [personality] test, just like a good car, would have withstood strenuous technical tests, just like a dummy crash.”
Legal Implications of Personality Testing
The one thing experts agree on is that personality testing poses serious legal risks, including the potential for invasion of privacy. The Nolo website states that employers can perform personality assessments, but the questions should not encroach too far upon workers’ privacy rights.
There’s also the risk of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Employers should not use personality testing results in a way that violates a protected class, such as gender, age or race. There may be state laws to consider as well, so employers should obtain legal advice before adopting this preemployment screening practice.