When hiring to fill corporate-level positions, you need to find people with the right personality for the role. Most candidates at that level have the skills, or they wouldn’t be applying (or in your sights as passive candidates) in the first place. Culture fit and a personality that works with your company are much more critical – and impossible to train.
Thus, while a traditional interview process that includes skills assessments may be part of your corporate interview strategy, personality tests are a potent tool in your arsenal. When you know what you’re looking for and how to test for it, you can find candidates who best align with your company culture and will hit the ground running, exactly as you need them to.
Are Personality Tests Legal?
If you’re familiar with laws relating to hiring, you may wonder if a personality assessment is legal. After all, many laws prevent you from using information not directly related to job performance in your hiring decisions.
Truthfully, personality assessments are related to the ability to perform in a job. If your candidate has all the skills but lacks the personal capability to work as a team, they won’t fit in and won’t be able to collaborate with your staff properly. Thus, personality is a crucial component of suitability for hiring.
There are, however, different kinds of personality tests, some of which are more valid than others. For example, IQ tests are widely discredited and often considered ineffective for making decisions and judging individuals.
For a more nuanced discussion of the different kinds of personality assessments (including IQ tests, emotional intelligence tests, aptitude tests, and more), check out this post on the subject.
Are Personality Tests Common?
Different studies indicate different levels of adoption of personality tests as part of hiring. Skills assessments are commonplace, but personality assessments are less common.
According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, only 13% of employers use personality tests as part of their hiring process. Though the same data says that 29% of employers use some form of psychological assessment in hiring; their definition of a personality test may differ from those used in other studies.
Conversely, Psychology Today indicates that, at least as far back as 2008, around 80% of Fortune 500 companies use personality tests as part of their hiring process.
This may indicate that the larger and more prominent a company is, the more they are concerned with personality assessments. Meanwhile, companies that don’t have the budget to administer those tests, or aren’t as concerned with personality over skills, aren’t using such assessments.
Either way, trends show an increase in the adoption of personality tests across the board. Awareness of personality, emotional intelligence, and leadership style has been growing and is more commonly used as part of a hiring process than ever before.
Are Personality Tests Valuable?
Just because everyone uses a process doesn’t mean it’s necessarily impactful. In fact, in many cases, processes are impactful when only a small handful of thought leaders use them, and when adoption grows wider, the value plummets. Is that the case with personality assessments?
Truthfully, personality tests are valuable in nearly every case. However, they’re better for candidates in collaborative and leadership roles than those who work on their own or in lower-level “grunt work” roles. Critically, there is no one “right answer” for personality assessments; many different people with many different personal qualities can work fine in the same role, just in different ways and with different sources of stress.
A disconnect between personalities is one of the largest signs of dissatisfaction in the workplace.
“Research from leading institutes shows that an employee placed in a role that does not fit his/her character traits could lead to lower engagement. Consequently, a low employee engagement results in over 20% lower productivity and roughly 40% higher turnover.” – Manatal.
We all know how expensive hiring and turnover can be, so anything that has the chance to reduce the need to replace employees is a benefit to a business.
What Are the Best Personality Assessments to Use?
There are quite a few personality tests available, and they all have pros and cons. Here’s a rundown of the most popular and effective assessments available for hiring corporate candidates.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
One of the most common personality tests, the MBTI, is well-known. The test is a 93-question assessment that takes around half an hour to complete. Through the assessment, individuals are sorted along four different axes:
- Introversion vs. Extroversion
- Sensing vs. Intuiting
- Thinking vs. Feeling
- Judging vs. Perceiving
Then, each individual is assigned a four-letter “type” that indicates their personality spectrum. Types are abbreviated by the letters in each spectrum, so individuals will have personality types such as INTJ and ESFP.
The MBTI is perhaps the most common and widely-known personality test used in hiring, but is it truly meant for hiring? Perhaps not. Sherrie Haynie, director of US Professional Services for the Myers-Briggs Company, wrote this for Forbes:
“My firm, The Myers-Briggs Company, has long held the position that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument shouldn’t be used in hiring, but rather for team-building, conflict management, leadership development, and other non-selective purposes.”
However, she goes on to say:
“Does this mean we should stop using all personality assessments in hiring? In short, no. Personality assessments can play a helpful, objective role in the hiring process, provided that 1) the proper assessment is used, 2) insights are applied correctly, and 3) it’s not the only way you’re determining who to hire.”
She, and her company, do not recommend using the MBTI for hiring. However, personality assessments, in general, are still acceptable when used appropriately. If you implement the MBTI as part of your hiring process, and you’re sure to remove unethical elements of judgment from it, it can be an effective way to indicate a candidate’s potential for success within your organization. However, it cannot be a primary deciding factor; it must be one element among many.
“The MBTI instrument, for instance, has been psychometrically validated for its intended use — but not for hiring and selection. The assessment tells you many things and can help you identify existing employees’ strengths and blind spots, but it wasn’t designed to predict job performance.”
Second only to the MBTI in terms of popularity, the DiSC is a popular tool in business and team-building environments. It is a 24-question assessment that takes around 20 minutes to complete. The assessment asks a series of questions aimed at judging different aspects of a candidate’s personality and assigns them one of the four letters of D, i, S, or C. These correspond to the four personality types of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.
The assessment is more precise and nuanced than it sounds. Rather than providing candidates with a single-letter assessment, it maps out how they fit on a spectrum amongst all four with an iconic circular chart.
Should the DiSC be used for hiring? Again, perhaps not. According to the official DiSC site:
“Although DiSC profiles are often used as part of the hiring and onboarding process, they’re not recommended for pre-employment screening. DiSC does not measure specific skills, aptitudes, or other factors critical for a position; it describes one’s natural work behavior patterns or styles to help improve productivity, teamwork, and communication.”
Instead, the company that provides the DiSC assessment recommends using a DiSC-derived series of assessments called the PXT Select instead. The two are relatively similar, coming from the same theoretical basis, but the PXT is aimed specifically at hiring.
A lesser-known but still commonly used assessment, the CliftonStrenghts (formerly known as the Clifton StrengthsFinder), is an assessment developed by Gallup. As a leading agency responsible for global data analysis, Gallup is in a unique position to develop a comprehensive and valuable assessment, so they did.
The CliftonStrengths is a longer and more detailed assessment, with 177 questions and a 45-minute expected time. Like other assessments, it groups candidates into four archetypes: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.
It may come as no surprise, but Gallup also cautions against using their personality assessment to make hiring decisions. They have this to say:
“Tempting as it is, we must remember that CliftonStrengths is a developmental tool; it gives a broad picture of someone’s talents, and only they can develop them into real strengths. This happens through dialogue with others and over time. We can never pick up someone’s CliftonStrengths profile and claim that we know that they have a talent for X and, therefore, it means Y. Now, clearly, common sense tells us that certain themes do make people more likely to be good in certain areas, but each person must have the right to describe what their own talents look like — uniquely — and how they would react in a certain role. Never assume, never presume.”
Again, this is not to say that you can’t use information obtained through a personality assessment as part of your hiring decision. It simply means that personality, skills, potential success, and the ability to work as a team are all parts of a much larger set of data that forms the likelihood of corporate success. These assessments are always more valuable as tools for collaboration and team-building than as part of hiring.
The OCEAN, also known as the Big Five Factors model, uses five personality traits as goalposts to measure. They are Openness, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism. It’s a 60-question assessment that takes around 10 minutes to complete.
The OCEAN is commonly used in hiring, both because it’s fast and easy to take and because there are a variety of free, open-source versions of the assessment. That is both good and bad, as the frequency with which people may take it when applying to jobs means they may cease responding in appropriate ways out of repetition or boredom.
Unlike others on this list, the OCEAN is relatively accurate at predicting how individuals handle stress and thus can help predict job satisfaction in stressful positions, making it an easy tool to use for high-pressure corporate hiring.
Why Does Every Assessment Caution Against Using it in Hiring?
As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, official sources related to every popular assessment caution against using them as part of the hiring process. Why is that?
While personality plays a significant role in determining how individuals can accomplish tasks, it does not indicate if they can perform. Different people can succeed in different ways, but they nonetheless will succeed. By selecting for certain personality types, you may be inhibiting your company’s growth. Moreover, if you limit the acceptable personality types your organization hires, you are likely limiting your thought diversity and all of the benefits that come with it.
As with any source of data you use in your hiring decision, it needs to be one part among many. You cannot truly judge a person by the results of one assessment; indeed, with training, exposure to others, and even time, the way they answer the questions on any of the above assessments will change.
Should You Use a Personality Test in Corporate Hiring?
There’s no one answer to this. Corporate hiring is often an individualized process, both for the company doing the hiring and for the roles they need to fill. The tests that give you the information you can use will vary, and how you use that information can vary.
If you choose to use a personality test as part of your hiring process, make sure to balance it for any possible adverse impact. In particular, some forms of personality assessment can identify individuals with anxiety or depression, but weeding out those individuals can be considered illegal under the Americans with Disabilities act.
Personality tests can be an effective way to get a glimpse into the type of person you’re dealing with, but that glimpse should be more for informational purposes and not as a deciding factor in hiring.
Do you or your company have any questions about personality tests, or if you should use them in your hiring process? If so, please do not hesitate to leave a comment down below, and we’ll get a conversation started on the topic! We’d love to answer any of your potential questions and assist you however possible!
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.